Returning to training after lock-down: How to deal with strength loss

When the gym’s closed in March people were given an ultimatum; continue training at home and make the most of what you’ve got, or have a break from training all together. Even though me and my clients took option 1, I do not judge anyone for taking a break from training, as these few months have been difficult and everyone’s circumstances are different. However, now the gym’s have reopened and things are getting back to normal, now is the time that people are realising how hard it is to get back into a normal training regime. In this mini blog series I will be providing help and advice on the main struggles people may be experiencing post lock-down, in respect to returning to training.

The gyms have reopened and you are really excited and ready to get back to some serious training after 4 months off. You turn up for your first session feeling pumped, but after the first exercise you feel like you’ve ran a marathon: This scenario will be all too common.

Many peoples reaction to the gym reopening.

If you were a regular gym goer before March, you do not have to start from scratch when going back to the gym. However you have to go to the gym with a plan which is designed to ease you back into training, and will allow for strength and fitness losses. For example, if you were focusing on achieving a new personal best on deadlifts before March, but since then you have either not trained at all or only been using light weights, you would not go straight back into deadlifting heavy in your first programme. Instead why not take the time to enjoy a different deadlift variation (e.g. a rack pull), so instead of feeling deflated because you can’t do your PB, you feel motivated and energised by a new exercise which will in turn build your deadlift strength back up.

If you do want to include the 3 big lifts in your first programme but you have not performed them since March that is fine! However, be prepared to build the weight back up gradually. If a female that was squatting 80kg before lock-down, but since then has been only squatting their body-weight, it shouldn’t be expected that she can lift 80kg in her first few sessions. If she puts squats in her returning to gym programme then she should expect to regain the 80kg squat after a period of slowly building the weight back up from a manageable start point.

If you are someone that cannot deal with feeling weak on exercises that you used to be really strong at, then I wouldn’t advise doing those exercises until you feel comfortable and happy in the gym again. It may feel like going backwards, as you have had all this time off training so why not dive in head first. But practice self restraint and understand that it may be good for your mental health to avoid placing pressure on yourself to be as strong as you were before. By trying new exercises that you haven’t done before may help you to re-find your love for training and feel strong whilst your doing so, which in turn will boost motivation and general adherence.

My main advice for how to deal with strength loss post lock-down is just to try not to put yourself into situations where you feel pressure to do a certain exercise or lift a certain weight. If you feel like you want to go full throttle in the gym straight away, and you can handle it then go for it! But on the other hand there is nothing wrong with doing an ‘easier’ programme or opting for lighter weights until you feel confident enough to go back to your old style of training.

I would love to know how everyone is getting on with training now that the gyms have reopened! Let me know how you are, by dropping me a message on Instagram @aliciaburkecoaching or email

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