Your Ultimate Guide to Returning to the Gym: Part 1

  • 18th November 2022
  • Exercises, Stretching, Tips

At this time of year, when the nights are darker and the days colder, lots of people are returning to the gym. Strengthening has been well established, both in the literature and anecdotally, as an aid to performance regardless of the goal. No matter your age, sex, sport, or desired outcome – appropriate strengthening will help you along towards your goal.

Whether it is strengthening to get stronger, or strengthening after an injury, there are a few things to consider……

  • Your biomechanics (how you are moving)
  • Ego
  • Overload

In Part 1 we will explore Biomechanics and Ego.


Movement abnormalities are hard to spot, sometimes even when you have the right training for it. Your body can give you some clues though.

If you feel ‘stuck’ whilst trying to do an exercise, it may be because you are moving the wrong way or a joint may be restricting you. It is not uncommon to have areas of stiffness after a period away from the gym, as your body may not be used to moving this way. It may be worth spending more time warming up to begin with and stretching after your workout. If the stiffness does not go away it is worth getting a Physiotherapist to assess you.

If you feel a pain that doesn’t shift and doesn’t feel like normal muscle soreness from a workout, this may suggest you are moving abnormally. For example, if you are working the gluteal (buttock) muscles, and they are achy after a workout, this is ok as it means your muscles have been working hard. If the achiness is in your back, it is not ok, as it means you are straining and using bits of the body that are not meant to take the strain. The body works best and remains injury free when the joints and muscles are loaded the correct way. It is better to get these kind of niggles checked out as they can be precursors to injury. These issues are best addressed by someone with the right knowledge and experience – i.e Physiotherapists. Often people wait until they can’t continue on their strength and fitness journey before seeking this input – try not to be one of those people. Physios love seeing you when it’s still only just a ‘niggle’. Often niggles are reasonably easy fixes which can be addressed without you having to take any significant time away from the gym.

When coming to the end stages of their injury rehab I tend to suggest to my patients that they seek the input of a personal trainer – not necessarily weekly as this can become very spendy very quickly – but at regular 6-8 weekly intervals. Partly to assess progress, but also to make sure that bad habits are avoided as they get stronger and the weight starts increasing.


Your ‘competitive nature’ or leaving your ego at the door, can be a bit trickier to work through. This competitiveness doesn’t have to be with another person at the gym, it is just as dangerous when it is with your pre-injury self. If for example your pre-injury self could bench press 100kg for reps and sets, but your post-injury self can only do 50kg for ones and twos. Often the ego struggles to accept these changes, and we can get ourselves into some dangerous situations. Speaking from personal experience, if I go for a time out of the gym or not lifting as much or as often for whatever reason, I still have to wrestle with myself to start light and build based on FEEL while ignoring the actual numbers on the bar.

Competitiveness with others isn’t to be disregarded either. Picking training mates who have your best interests at heart, and who respect the rehab process is invaluable. Pick people who know the difference between encouragement, and egging on. Try to avoid people who focus on your ‘setbacks’ and instead seek people out who help you celebrate your progress from those ‘setbacks’.