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10 Tips for Working Out at the Y During COVID-19

Aug 10, 2020, 13:30 PM by Andra Coberly

2020 is the worst. 

Now, that's probably not the most motivational way to start a motivational blog. However, it's a fact, and we must embrace all the facts about our current situation. 2020 is an inferno, a horror movie, a colossal wood chipper that has turned our hopes and dreams and feelings of safety and normalcy into a giant pile of rubbish.

Our fitness routines, goals and motivation are no exception.

white woman with head in hands looking stressed

But it doesn't have to be so. Yes, this is about to get motivational. 

Let's not allow the giant wood chipper to demolish all the amazing wellness work you have done and the work you still want to do. Do not let the scary headlines and the constant stream of bad news dull the passion you once had for an adrenaline-boosting, sweat-through-your-shirt workout. 

At the Y, we are here to help you rekindle your wellness work, foster some fitness motivation and make gym visits easier, and we've compiled some tips and tricks for working out at the Y in the time of COVID.

And there are plenty of reasons to make this effort. Regular exercise, which we all know boosts the immune system, has now been shown to prevent the most serious effects of COVID-19, according to one study. On top of that, exercise can give you a much-needed mood boost.

We know you probably have some feelings about getting back into the gym. Confusion about rules or reservation systems. Annoyance about mask mandates or capacity limits. Maybe even fear. 

We understand all those emotions. To ease those concerns, we’ve asked our on-staff fitness experts to help you make the best of your time at the Y. Remember, this is an opportunity to step outside your normal, rethink your goals and figure out what inspires you to move.

It’s an opportunity to focus on you.

1. Lower Your Expectations

white male wearing mask while on the bench press

You were ready to jump right into your intense pre-COVID workouts. However, working out at home or working out with a mask on or working out in the sun and heat will likely make your workouts less productive than they used to be. 

That’s OK. 

"Don’t compare workouts today to your workouts in February. Set new benchmarks and celebrate each workout," says Melissa Breault, program director for health and wellness at the Johnstown Community YMCA. "Because a workout with a mask on is better than no workout at all."

Once you get going, you create a foundation and build on it.

"You will make quicker gains, reduce your risk of injury and increase the likelihood you are going to stick with it if you plan to start slow and build up," says Peggy Merrill, Sr. Health and Wellness Director. 

2. Peruse the Schedule

Things look a little different at the Ys. OK, they look really different. We've changed a lot — to help keep you as safe as possible. 

Use our schedules page or app to check what’s going on and where. See what’s outdoors. See what’s indoors. See what’s in person and what’s virtual. See what’s at your local Y and check out what’s happening at a not-too-distant Y. 

You may just find something that excites you. 

We have a variety of classes that are held outdoors, in the open air and with plenty of space. Condition Together under the pavilion at the Longmont Y? Outdoor cycling at the brand-new Johnstown Community YMCA? Water fitness at the outdoor Arapahoe Y pool? Yoga in the backyard at the Mapleton Y? 

Different indeed.

3. Take Lots of Breaks

Working out with a mask on is tough, so don’t push yourself too hard. Drink lots of water, and take pauses in your workout to catch your breath.

Remember, the state COVID-19 website says that individuals can remove their mask to catch their breath, but "wear a mask as much as feasible." If you need a quick mask break, stay distanced from others while you are doing so. 

And remember, a masked workout is still safe and still benefits you.

"Our body has an amazing ability to meet oxygen demands even while we are wearing masks," Merrill says. "However, our bodies do have to work harder to bring oxygen in. In light of that, pace yourself. Your output may look like it is less based on the numbers you are seeing on your favorite piece of cardio, but you may still be working just as hard but in a different way."

4.  Be Adventurous 

black woman in water exercise class

Mary Baughman, program director for health and wellness at the Longmont YMCA, encourages members to try new activities or classes. 

"If you normally take land classes, try an aqua class," she says. "At Longmont, we have had many members who normally only take land classes try our aqua classes, they love it and keep coming back!"

Many members have turned to water exercise because it's a chance to enjoy a large open area and the sanitization qualities of a pool.  

5. Use Outdoor Spaces

The Y's outdoor spaces are not just saved for fitness classes. As a member, you can also utilize these spots for your workouts.

"For example, pack a picnic to enjoy in our backyard area at the Mapleton Y or use the turf field to go through a personal workout routine at the Arapahoe Y," says Peggy Merrill, Sr. Health and Wellness Director. "I think members don't realize all of the outdoor space we have to offer and that they are free to use as they please — as long as other classes or youth programming isn't being held."

6. Be Empowered By Safety Practices

workout shoes, cell phone, headphones and mask

While our staff and administrators are working to make our facilities safe, lowering risk is largely in your hands.

There are so many things you can do to stay safe at the Y. Wash your hands before and after exercise. Clean equipment before and after use. Bring your own mat, accessories and props. Wear your mask indoors and maintain 6 feet of distance from other members. Stay outside as much as possible.

Now, you can consider all these as limitations — rules or practices that are limiting your freedom or your ability to workout. That's totally an option. But because COVID-19 is here for a while longer, it behooves everyone to consider these practices as tools to help you stay safe, stay active and stay healthy. It's a change in mindset that will help you thrive during a miserable time.

7. Get a Trainer

If you need some accountability but you are not yet comfortable joining a socially distanced group of members for a class, it's time to consider a personal trainer. A trainer can personalize a workout for your current needs, mood and challenges. They can give you exactly the kind of workout that's going to challenge you and help you grow.

When social distancing outdoors, you won't need to wear a mask while working out with a trainer.

8. Try a New Time

Like the idea of an outdoor workout but worried about the heat? Exercising as the sun rises or the sun sets is the secret to enjoying the best moments of a Colorado summer day.

"This practice can also help with sleep rhythms, boost your mood and make your day more productive," Merrill says. 

Ready to give it a try? Remember to bring water, sunglasses/hat and sunscreen.

Inconvenient? We have overcome bigger things for less benefit so far in 2020. We’ve got this!

9. Make Masks Easier

woman using a kettlebell at a gym wearing a mask

Wearing a mask can be uncomfortable at first. There are a few things you can do to get used to it over time.

• Bring extra masks — so if one gets damp, you have a comfortable spare.

• Experiment with different types of masks to determine which one is most comfortable.

• Do some research. More and more mask manufacturers are developing masks specifically for working out. Here's a list from Rolling Stone of The Best Face Masks for Running, Cycling and Working Out.

• BONUS! The more you exercise with a mask on, the more your body adjusts to the reduced flow of oxygen. Once masks are no longer a necessity, you'll be a beast in the gym.

10. Just Take a Peek

Come take a look. As you look around the Ys, notice the check-in system, spaced out the equipment, added sanitation stations, staff and members wearing masks. We have added ventilation and added staff to help with cleaning. There are many systems in place to increase safety. Read our Reopening Guide to see all over our protocols and limitations.

Remember, we are here to help you! 

This is also a great time to do your Smart Start. During Smart Start meetings, we will happily look at your goals with you again and reintroduce you to some equipment, match you with a fitness class or connect you with a trainer.

Now, making it to the gym regularly may not be easy at first. We know there are so many important things that are taking up your time and energy right now. You will need to harness some serious will power and fortitude to wrangle up some time just for you.

But your body, your mind and your spirit will thank you when you do.

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