Having been locked out of the gym for three months, you may be eager to rush back and jump into your old workout routine after Gov. Tim Walz's order last week to allow health clubs to reopen.

"After some time away, and doing the best you could with your home-based workouts, you're probably eager to rebuild your strength and muscle," said Tom Nikkola, vice president of nutrition and virtual training at Life Time.

But the last thing you want to do is end up missing even more time because you do too much too soon. While exercising your arms, legs and abs, you also need to exercise a little patience.

"When you're able to return to your workouts at the club, ensure you are doing proper warmup at all times, and include stretching and recovery," he recommended.

Getting cardiovascular workouts has been easier since the Easter snowstorm gave way to warmer weather, enabling folks to get outside to run, walk and bicycle. Plus, many health clubs hosted online exercise classes that members (and sometimes even nonmembers) could follow at home.

As a result, some people actually might be in better shape now than they were in March, speculated Jennifer Menk, senior director of health and well-being for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.

People who focus on strength training, however, haven't had access to the free weights or exercise equipment they often use in their routines. As a result, they need to be more cautious in returning to action.

"If you're jumping back into a strength program, ease into it," Nikkola said. "For your first one to four weeks back, aim to work out three times per week, alternating push workouts with pull workouts. After four weeks, you can add in a fourth workout day and alternate lower-body and upper-body workouts across all four days."

Now for the good news: No matter how much you sat around the past three months, all is not lost.

"It's much easier to regain fitness that you've lost than it is to build it in the first place," he promised. "You've already trained your nervous system to perform an exercise correctly. When you get back on the fitness floor, you won't need weeks to relearn movements, just like it doesn't take any time to relearn how to ride a bike the first time you get back on after the winter.

"Second, you don't lose your muscle-making machinery when you lose muscle size and strength. Part of the process of muscle growth involves creating additional nuclei for your muscle cells. When you lose muscle, you lose overall muscle mass, but research shows you do not lose nuclei."

One last thing to do before you resume your workouts: Call your gym.

Anticipating lower attendance and needing time to comply with health rules, not all clubs have reopened. Twin Cities YMCAs, for instance, are staggering their openings over the next few weeks. In addition, many clubs are cutting back on their operating hours.

Most clubs have implemented changes, such as requiring people to bring their own towels and yoga mats and limiting the number of people in classes. And some are delaying the reinstitution of child-care programs.

Also be ready for new procedures, such as having to wear masks, bringing your own water bottle and being required to use cleaning wipes on equipment before and after you use it.

With limits on the number of people allowed in, many clubs are instituting online reservation systems. Some also are requiring a temperature check and/or a verbal health screening when you arrive.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392