Restart your workout: Returning to exercise after a break

Activities like hiking and trail running depend on staying fit. – Photo by GORE-TEX on Flickr

Returning to exercise can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you get back on track.

Staying fit hasn’t been easy lately. Holiday parties are in full swing, I got sick, and I’ve been stuck at my desk most of the month. When I noticed a little “muffin-top” showing above my pants, I knew I’d better get back on track or I would feel awful the next time I hit the trail, slopes, or river. Most of my pastimes depend on strength and endurance. The extra lump at my waist was just an indication that I’d laid-off long enough and need to return to exercising.

It’s never easy to get back into a fitness routine after time off. Here are seven tips to help:

Don’t feel guilty – Staying fit isn’t about being perfect, it’s about working through challenges. When life gets crazy, don’t beat yourself up, make a plan to get back on track instead.

Schedule and Plan – Pick a day to return to working out. Then block time on your schedule and treat it like any other appointment. If you don’t make time for your body, it will do it for you. Trust me; getting fit is easier than getting well. Have your workout gear ready by the door the night before. In my case, I exercise at home, so I have my equipment set out in the room where I exercise. If your plan requires you to get up early, begin by rising at the earlier time a few days ahead so it’s not such a shock to the system.

Engage your mind – Grab a few fitness magazines and/or peruse some health websites looking for fresh ideas and motivation. Healthy food is my favorite part of fitness, so I grabbed an issue of Clean Eating and started looking for scrumptious post-workout recipes to try. I also like Oxygen for women’s fitness. Just reading motivated me for my first day returning to exercise.

Take it easy – It’s tempting to try to make up for lost time by working out extra hard. Don’t do it. Instead, take it easy for your first several workouts until you have a feel for your new level of fitness. Then gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. If it has been a very long time since you’ve worked out, consider hiring a trainer to assist you in setting up a safe fitness plan.

Stretch – I was shocked at how tight my muscles were when I returned to my old routine after just a month. After warming up, stretch your muscles before continuing your workout. Then at the end of your workout, stretch again. Do NOT stretch before a warm up and then only stretch to a comfortable point. It shouldn’t hurt. Want more info? Here is a good article by the Mayo Clinic, Stretching: Focus on Flexibility.

I use yoga and Pilates to stay strong and agile. – Photo by Tomas Sobek

Reward healthy habits – Habit formation is an import part of long-term fitness and I’m a big proponent of rewarding a job well done. The idea is to get you through the first month, helping set a habit. Even if something happens, and you cut a workout short, still keep the appointment. Reward yourself for keeping all of your workout appointments for the first week. Next, repeat the same goal for the next three weeks. The rewards are up to you, but make them worth the pain and aggravation of those first tough weeks. Confession, my rewards are either outdoor gear or lingerie (yes, I’m a little odd, but you already know that.)

Ask for encouragement – Everyone is different when it comes to encouragement. For some, building strength and endurance is enough. But for others it really helps to have a friend cheer them on. Which are you? Don’t be afraid to share your goals with a friend and ask them to check in on your progress. I have an accountability partner for my writing. It really helps!

Wish me luck reestablishing my fitness habit over the holidays. I hope following along will make it a little easier for any of you who are in the same predicament.

The suggestions I’ve made here are also helpful if you’re starting a routine for the first time. However, I’d suggest working with a trainer to learn proper exercise form and stretching technique or you could risk injury.

Comments 2

  1. I love these tips! Ever since my last trip, I’ve definitely let winter weather get the best of me. I’m doing better this week, but it’s so much tougher when it’s raining outside!

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