Here’s What It’s Really Like Going Back To The Gym After The Pandemic

Jane Asher
Here’s What It’s Really Like Going Back To The Gym After The Pandemic
Photo: Adobe. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

When COVID-19 first shut the world down, there was one place I knew I would miss more than any other: the gym. Up until last week, a full six months had passed since I last stepped foot in an Equinox, and now that it’s finally reopened, I can confirm that going back to the gym after the pandemic was not at all what I expected.

Back in March, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in in my entire life. I was making healthy food choices, hitting the gym at least five days a week, and TBH, looking pretty hot. But when we were all confined to our homes and given strict social-distancing guidelines, I knew a change was coming. My new healthy lifestyle was largely dependent on my ability to get to Equinox, and with gyms forced to close, I was nervous about staying in shape.

I tried to keep up my fitness routine in my apartment as best as I could. I went for runs on empty New York City sidewalks and did intense at-home workouts from Megan Roup until my downstairs neighbor (very politely!) asked if I could not jump so much, it was shaking her entire apartment. Needless to say, the vibe was definitely different than my typical Equinox gym sesh.

Eventually, I fled the city and went to my parents’ house in the suburbs, where there was ample space to continue my more intense workouts—which I did—but there was also the temptation of snacks galore. Side note—this is how I learned the hard way that if you want to lose weight, it’s just as much about the diet as it is the workout. Still, I decided not to feel guilty about eating my feelings. We were living in uncertain times, but I was certain that s’mores by the fireplace would lift my spirits. And for a while, they did.

STYLECASTER | returning to the gym after the pandemic experience


Summer arrived, and between going down the shore and spending time in both the suburbs and my apartment, my at-home workouts became more and more infrequent. Plus, my fiancé and I brought home a new puppy, and I was happier spending my mornings on walks than working out in front of my computer.

I blamed the pandemic for my change in lifestyle, and gave my fitness habits less and less thought until fall came around and gyms were allowed to re-open. Suddenly, I was back in my tiny apartment for good, feeling more stir-crazy than ever. That’s when I knew I needed to start hitting the gym again—plus, I’m getting married in a little less than a year, and I wanted to start sweating for the wedding.

Right now, Equinox has gym-goers book their solo workout sessions in the Equinox app, so that they can monitor and regulate how many people are in the space at once, which made me feel even better about my choice to return. Because my self-motivation was at an all-time low, I hit up the personal trainer I had been working with pre-pandemic for a session, and her excitement to have me in again gave me a boost of energy as well.

After a contact-less check-in, a pump of hand-sanitizer and a temperature check in the lobby, I was ready to go. For 8:00 AM on a weekday, Equinox was the least crowded I had ever seen it. Most of the machines were empty and everyone was wearing a mask over their mouths *and* noses (hooray!). Even the locker rooms had stickers designating where to stand and which lockers to use, in order to maintain proper social distancing. My trainer and I waved an excited hello to each other, stayed six feet apart, and got to work.

STYLECASTER | returning to the gym after the pandemic experience


I’m not going to lie. Working out with a mask on is tough. Doing a minute of jump squats without being able to take a full breath of fresh air wasn’t easy, and being a little out of shape didn’t help, either. I definitely had to work harder than normal in the mask, and unlike going for a run outside, I couldn’t just find an empty area of the sidewalk for a quick, safe mask-off breathing break.

Still, that’s not to say it isn’t doable. It was an hour of my day, and made me feel great. Not only did it kick up some endorphins and start my morning off on a high note, it made me feel like my life got back some sense of normalcy. Adding the gym back into my routine felt familiar, and reminded me that although life won’t be the same as it was before the pandemic, a new normal can still feel normal after a while.

I’m excited to get back into the habit of working out every morning, even if actually going to the gym only happens a few times a week. I can still work out in my home (as long as there’s no jumping involved, because I’m a good neighbor), I can go on runs, and getting back into shape no longer feels as daunting as it did a month ago.

Now, I just can’t wait for group classes to resume—as long as they’re safe, of course.

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