Returning to Fitness After a Break: How to Get Back Into the Swing of Things
Some of us hop on the fitness train and never get off. Some of us might hop off the train, whether by choice or other circumstances and make a quick (relatively speaking) detour to something else. Whether your personal life got in the way of your workout routine, you suffered an injury or just got plain bored, deciding to get back to it after days, weeks, months or years is remarkable in itself.
That being said, you can’t expect to immediately jump in and set new all-time personal bests. It’s best to start slow, be honest with yourself and try these six tips to help get back into the swing of things.
Acknowledge Things Might Be Different for Fitness
One of the biggest barriers holding you back from getting back to normal or avoiding frustration is your ego. Even if you don’t think you have it, when you get back to the workout and try to run a mile or do a heavy lift, you might feel discouraged that you’re not exactly the same as you were before. Things have changed since the last time you wore your workout clothes for women or men and that’s okay.
Life is full of change and you should be honest with what might have changed since the last time you went on a run or repped out some squats. By being honest with yourself and your current condition, you can more effectively plan a path forward with a program that eases you back to your old self. As anyone who has successfully returned from an extended break will tell you, your gains will come back sooner than you might expect.
Don’t Play the Comparison Game
On that last point, it can be easy to compare yourself to other people in the gym, your virtual fitness class or on social media. You might see someone who started working out around the same time as you and because they never stopped, they’ve made tremendous progress. Don’t let that hold you back and instead celebrate their achievements.
We all have our own fitness journey and while it might be smooth and steady for others, yours took a detour and that’s okay. Stay the course and focus on the reasons you work out in the first place. Eventually, you’ll get to where you want to go with consistent effort.
Set Ambitious But Achievable Short-Term Goals
So, you’ve gotten the mental aspects out of the way and it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: What are your goals? You can have big goals like run a full marathon, deadlift X amount of weight or do 20 pullups in a row, but for the time being, while you’re still getting the hang of the whole exercise thing again, think short term.
It helps to have different goals split up into longer and longer time constraints such as a goal for the next workout, goal for the week, goal for the next 2 weeks, a goal for the next 30 days and beyond. This way, you can start crossing off achievements right off the bat and inspire yourself to keep going even on those hard days.
Here are a few examples for Fitness to try:
- Just show up to the workout three times in one week or however many times fits your schedule.
- Clarify your fitness goals and build around them. Lose weight? Build muscle? Be more active? Try to nail down the why behind your fitness routine.
- Hit a new PR in the first month. If it’s been a long time since you last trained, getting close to your old PR is an achievement in itself.
- Schedule your workouts and consistently attend even on those days where it seems inconvenient.
- Commit to keeping track of your workouts and progress even if you don’t think you’re making progress. You’ll thank yourself later.
Everyone is different, so it’s okay if your short-term goals aren’t remotely close to these examples. It’s mostly important that the goals actually resonate with you, so you’re more inspired to accomplish them.
Pick a Routine You Actually Enjoy
How do you like to exercise? Despite what some mainstream fitness magazines might tell you, there’s isn’t one right or wrong routine for gaining strength, getting in shape or improving athletic performance. As you’re getting back into the swing of things, don’t be afraid to try something new or choose a routine that more closely aligns with your goals, experience and, most importantly, is a blast.
If you were to just run on the treadmill because that’s what you used to do but deep down, hate every second it, building up the workout habit again will be a challenge. There’s a whole world of fitness out there, so don’t be afraid to lace up your cross training shoes and try something new. Whether it’s lifting heavy weights, shooting hoops or a mix of everything, make sure you enjoy the routine you choose. Remember: nothing is set in stone, so you can always try something else in the future.
Make Sure You’re Taking Time to Rest and Recover for your body Fitness
It’s easy to get so excited about your new routine that you jump in head-first with plans to work out every single day of the week with the pedal to the metal. You might think that’s how the professionals do it, but in actuality, many of the fittest people in the world prioritize rest and recovery equally if not higher than training itself. If you’re coming off an injury or it’s been more than a few weeks since you’ve worked out, take it slow and take time to rest and recover.
If you’re still itching to throw on your track pants and move your body, know that rest and recovery don’t need to mean doing nothing at all. Active recovery such as stretching, jumping rope or just going on a long walk can help keep your body moving while helping it recover for the next hard workout. Don’t skip recovery days and aim for consistent progress rather than burning out in the first month.
Find an Accountability Buddy Fitness Either in Person or Virtually
If you know you’re the type of person who needs to be held accountable, at least at the start, find a buddy, either in person or virtually and share your plans with them. Tell them as much as you like about what you hope to accomplish in the first month, what your program includes or even what brand of workout clothes for women or men you’ll be wearing if you want to get that specific. With someone in your corner and supporting you during the initial journey, you’ll have no excuse but to give it your best and stick with your routine until it becomes a habit again.
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