With gym closures, colder weather, and the rise in COVID-19 cases, it may be more challenging to motivate yourself to exercise.

There are many people who welcome the gym closures, thinking they will pick up where they left off once local businesses are allowed to resume normal operations. These individuals are forgetting that muscle shrinks after four days of not using it. So if you’ve taken a four-week — or for some of us — a four-month break, we shouldn’t expect to have the same strength we worked for before the pandemic shutdowns.

“One of my greatest fears is people will return to the gym and think they can lift the same amount of weight or run at the same pace. This train of thought will lead to injury, either acute or chronic,” said Sweat PNW owner, Ashlee Francis

The best way to prevent risk of injury is to maintain or even improve your current level of activity. Several individuals and families have already done this, creating home gyms and finding online workouts to follow. This is a great first step, but without a professional monitoring, there is still a huge potential for injury due to poor form, or trying to lift too much, too soon.

It’s also more difficult for many people to self-motivate.

Local gyms offer more than just fitness equipment; there is a sense of accountability and community built at the gym.

“Practicing together from home during these uncertain times not only helps to keep our minds and bodies healthy, grounded, and calm — but also allows us to stay connected as a community. Our students are still able to say hello to their friends, check in on each other, and stay in relationship with their teachers and their practices regardless of where they are. This last year has been filled with so much heartbreak and isolation, so being able to continue to move and breathe together as a community has been the greatest gift,” said Kari Anton, owner of Life.Love.Yoga.

For many people, the gym is their home away from home. They rely on their workouts for a sense of self-worth and for the connection they build with other gym goers, helping them feel like part of a team.

Ryan Hudson, owner of Level 5 CrossFit, said, “Taking people’s gyms away has literally taken away their lifeline to staying sane in this crazy world we now live in, so people must workout now more than ever, even if they can’t access an indoor gym. It will help fight depression and mental illness as well as the current pandemic and the far-more deadly obesity epidemic. You can’t get fit and healthy by doing just one workout but you can fix your mental state with just one.”

Exercise is an important tool for fighting depression, loneliness and weight gain. It produces energy, improves sleep and increases immunity.

“An exercised body lends to a resilient mind and spirit in times of turmoil. It’s hard to work out, it’s not easy but doing so one can appreciate their own accomplishment, and carry their attitude into other avenues,” said Andrew Loscutoff, trainer at Sisters Athletic Club.

Each day is a new opportunity to engage in physical activity like a brisk walk, strength training, yoga and bodyweight calisthenics. Exercise leads to short- and long-term benefits for mood, sleep, and overall health. The options are limitless when it comes to home workouts, but maintaining a community of like-minded individuals, being held accountable by a trainer and creating the motivation to start and, more importantly, complete a workout may prove to be more challenging.