How to Return to The Gym After Taking a Break
If you've ever felt intimidated or overwhelmed stepping back into a workout routine after taking a hiatus, then this read is for you.
Maybe you've been sick, maybe you recently recovered from an injury, maybe work obligations knocked you off your feet and shifted your priorities, or a family emergency pulled you away from your routine. This is Life, we can't predict what's going to happen, but we sure can choose to be resilient and bounce back from whatever comes at us.
What better time to talk about resilience, setting a routine and intentions, and reprioritizing ourselves and the gym than as the New Year is upon us. Do you have any fitness New Years resolutions?
Before you head back to the gym... or if you're already second guessing how you're going to get there yourself, then check out these reminders for Returning to the Gym and your fitness....
Don’t judge yourself - keep your expectations low and be compassionate with yourself.
Be realistic - Resist comparing what you did before or in the past to what you do and can do today.
Just show up - that’s half the game. Commit to showing up to the gym or selected workout. Better yet, pencil a set 2 or 3 days a week on your calendar at a set time and then follow through with it. Set an alarm, 'just do it' as Nike says. You don't have to feel 'ready', and don't expect to.
Start slow and steady - warmup with dynamic movements (avoid static stretching to start your workout), select weights that are lighter than what you’ve done in the past on your first set/workout, you can always increase weight as you go.
Start with lower volume - if you used to do 4 to 5 sets in the past, consider starting back with only 2 sets during your first workout, build back up total volume.
Use rests wisely - rest periods allow you to work harder, so if you need them in order to keep form and technique, if you fatigue early or are out of breathe Take Them.
Limit total length of time spent in the gym - spend much more than an hour for a single session and your body's cortisol levels (that stress hormone that hinders fat burning and muscle building) begin to rise and are more difficult to lower through post workout nutrition and recovery. I.E. it’s going to take you longer to recover. So as a general rule of thumb limit your training sessions to 60 min or less which is more reasonable (yes, this includes cardio warmup/cool down). If you do find yourself in a longer - 60-120 minute - training session, be prepared with proper pre-, intra-, and post- workout nutrition including using a preworkout, BCAAs, protein shakes, etc. Apply this tip to your training guidelines in general.
Prioritize recovery - Get ample sleep and rest for recovery. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Establish a nighttime and morning wake up routine and stick to it. Take a nap, especially if you're waking up early or having to stay up late due to obligations, even a 10-15 minute one. Or try mindfulness based stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises or meditation during your day if lying your head down is out of the picture.
Be active - Move it throughout the day on a daily basis outside of your training sessions. Move through all ranges of motion. Movement and active living supports mobility, aids recovery, and keeps the body healthy and well as a whole. The body enjoys, craves and needs movement and activity. This is as simple as stretching, yoga, leisure walking, leisure biking, a favorite hobby, social activity, exploring nature on foot, housework, standing, errands, parking farther from a store entrance, running errands on foot or bicycle, etc.
Enlist the help of a group workout program, personal trainer, or online coach - Having someone to take the guesswork out of programming means you'll have less to think about. One of the most common reasons people don't start a workout program is 'they don't know where to start' or they don't know how to structure a workout and select exercises they should be doing. A qualified, certified personal trainer or certified coach will solve this for you. They have the education and background to develop an effective and safe workout program just for you.
Find a social network - A group workout, online social support group makes working out and staying fit and healthy fun and more enjoyable. You have others who are on a similar journey as you, and they serve as motivation, accountability, and empowerment. Having a connection increases your likelihood that you'll continue to show up according to research.