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Josh Bergeron: Pandemic-induced lesson in being healthy

For at least one person in Salisbury, the loosening of state mandates that allowed gyms to reopen came with a painful lesson in moderation.

That one person is me.

On Sept. 4, after months of being officially not allowed to open to the general public, state mandates loosened to allow gyms to welcome all patrons back into their facilities starting at 5 p.m. I, like others, could have opted to return to the gym early, as some had reopened under an exception. That exception allowed gyms to reopen for people who had a doctor’s recommendation.

And, as many gym owners and patrons reasoned, all doctors recommend regular exercise. So, it wasn’t hard to find instances where doctors notes were provided. But needing to protect against COVID-19 spread and instill confidence in customers, all gyms have been forced to adopt new cleaning, mask-wearing and distancing rules.

Years ago, I signed up for Planet Fitness because of its low cost and 24-hour operating schedule, which seems made for newspaper journalists. After wrapping up the newspaper late at night, a gym session is easier when you know that you don’t have to finish up before closing. More than once, editing a story or page has occurred on an exercise bike or elliptical.

Far from the picture of health, I tried during the pandemic-induced closure to stay semi-active via long walks or hikes, with some of the best local options being a trail adjacent to Dan Nicholas Park, the ecological preserve next to Catawba College’s campus and Lake Norman State Park. Kannapolis is another good option. It has created a program called Loop the Loop, which has routes up to 3 miles.

But walking long distances leaves a lot out compared to the gym. And I could come up with an endless list of excuses for why I didn’t buy a mat and exercise indoors.

When I finally returned to the gym last week, it was an entirely different experience than pre-pandemic. Machines are spaced further apart and patrons are usually asked via signs at the door to wear masks. I’m still not exactly sure what the mask-wearing protocol is supposed to be inside of the gym, but I’ve decided it’s best to wear it whenever I’m not actively exercising. Planet Fitness has always asked its patrons to clean machines after they use them, but that seems like an even wiser request now.

My mistake in returning to the gym was thinking that I could still do a similar amount of weight and repetitions as pre-pandemic. Not so. For all those out there contemplating a return to their gym of choice, take it slow to start. A light weight-lifting workout is better than none at all, and it’s much better than being too sore to straighten your arms for several days.

For a while anyway, it was harder than usual to pick things up. I couldn’t bend my elbows much more than 90 degrees or so. It was both frustrating and painful. My workout was Sunday and on Thursday, I finally felt about normal.

With gyms back open, maybe I’m one of many who hopes to put workouts together with pandemic-created cooking skills, eat less fast food, finally follow commonsense advice about being healthy.

It’s important to be stay healthy by avoiding contracting COVID-19, but it’s even more critical to stay healthy by eating well, exercising regularly and ensuring that being overweight isn’t a factor that heightens chances for a severe case of the virus or another illness. That’s advice that lots of folks know already, but it’s more relevant than ever now.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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