Getting back to the gym safely

PUBLISHED: 12:09 20 July 2020

Personal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury Park

Personal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury Park


Islington Personal Trainer Pennie spells out the dos and don’ts of returning to your workouts post lockdown

Personal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury ParkPersonal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury Park

Pennie Varvarides is a personal trainer and certified nutritionist based at the Puregym in Finsbury Park.

With lockdown rules relaxed to allow gyms to reopen this week (July 25) she explains how workouts are set to be “a little different to what you remember”.

Expect a one-in, one-out system once the gym hits maximum capacity, which will be considerably less than before. There’ll also be training areas drawn out on the ground for you to stay within, and potentially time-limits on training.

Personal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury ParkPersonal trainer Pennie Varvarides at Pure Gym Finsbury Park

I’m sure you’re excited about getting back to it after four months of home workouts and lounging about on the sofa with nowhere to go. But before you get carried away, here are some helpful tips for getting back into the swing of things.

Safety first:

Be sure to wash your hands on entry and use the anti-bac gel provided before touching anything. Wipe down all equipment before and after use.

Volume control matters

Don’t rush into testing your maxes or doing 100s of reps of each muscle group; you need to ease yourself back in slowly - especially if you’ve not been training much at home. Focus on your basic shapes (knee-bend, hinge, push, pull, carry) and make sure your technique is decent before you start loading anything up heavy. You need to give yourself a chance to get use to the new stimulus. The gym will still be there tomorrow.

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Going too hard too soon will just result is epic DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness), which could result in you not being able to train - or walk - for a few days. DOMs are more of an indicator of novelty than muscle gain, so you don’t need to chase the pain to make progress. The pain is just more intense when you do something for the first time - so be nice to yourselves for the first couple of weeks.

Train smarter

With space restrictions, you may need to grab what you want to use and claim your square for the entire session. Gyms will be marking out lined areas for people to train within, as a way for everyone to social distance.

Ideally, you don’t want to have to keep moving around the gym touching loads of different pieces of equipment. Plan what you want to do and see if you can do everything with what you’ve got.

If you manage to nab a squat rack, you can do a whole session in it. Squats, presses, pull ups, floor press etc.

If you just have a couple of dumbbells, you can still do a whole session with them: squats, floor press, RDLs, rows etc. Be creative. You’re going to need to think outside the box a little if the machines are taken or out of action. Remember you’re not going to be able to jump in while people are resting anymore or get someone to spot you going heavy.

Be respectful

Try to stay out of other people’s space. Wear a mask, if you can. Remember we’re not out of the woods just yet.

Contact Pennie on or follow her on Instagram on @superpennie

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