Maybe you spent time on the out for an injury, or perhaps you experienced a hectic time that knocked you out of your workout groove. Either way—you haven’t hit the gym for a while.
How can you ease back into your routine without reinjuring yourself? Don’t worry. While you can’t store fitness, your nervous system will remember how to perform many moves. It might take your body time to catch up, but a slow approach will get you back up and running in no time.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
If you took time off from working out because of an injury, you should wait until you get the doctor’s OK to resume your previous activity level. However, don’t go into your appointment with an adversarial mindset. Remember: your goal is long-term fitness—returning to activity too early can make temporary injuries permanent.
If you have heart disease, diabetes or kidney problems, you should talk to a doctor before beginning any vigorous exercise program. However, even if you can’t workout hard just yet, don’t forget walking and stretching are some of the easiest forms of exercise.
2. Start Slow
If you think you have to hit it hard to get results, cancel that idea. You should start slow after a fitness break to prevent reinjury. You might want to begin with a short walk-run, even if you previously ran five miles without breaking a sweat.
If you are getting back into working out with the goal of losing weight, know that you might temporarily gain, but don’t toss in the towel so quickly. This effect occurs because exercise causes microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, which spurs inflammation. Your body retains a small amount of fluid—which can add a few pounds to the scale—to aid healing.
Later in your fitness regimen, it’s normal to hit a second weight-loss plateau when your body begins to replace fat with lean muscle tissue. Stay the course and stick with your program. You’ll eventually shed the unwanted weight, and your clothes will fit you better.
3. Understand the Steps of Behavioral Change
Guess what? You’re not lazy if you continuously think about working out but remain on the couch. You go through five distinct phases when you make a significant life change. You think about wanting to get fit during the contemplation stage, even if you don’t take any action yet.
For any behavioral change to become permanent, you have to allow time for results. Once you begin to see small payoffs, you’ll find the dedication to stick to the program even when you experience temporary setbacks. Although it may take six months, eventually, your fitness routine nearly runs on autopilot—it becomes a habit you won’t want to break.
4. Hire a Trainer
Muscle memory is a thing, but science continues to learn more about fitness daily. Personal trainers undergo rigorous, continuing education requirements to keep them up to date with the latest techniques. If you haven’t hit the gym in a few months, book a session or two with a certified professional. They may lend you insights that help you elevate your routine and see results.
5. Try Something New
Sometimes, it’s not injury or life circumstances that keep you from your workout—it’s boredom. If you can’t stand the thought of another elliptical session, why not try something different?
If you enjoy nothing more than a night of dancing, try an energizing Zumba class. If you prefer not to sweat too heavily when you work out, enroll in an aquacise class. You can do yoga on a paddleboard if you have superior balance, and if you like reaching new heights, join a rock-climbing gym.
6. Phone a Friend
Researchers at Stony Brook University found that the exercise habits of your family and friends influence your behavior. If you hang out with fit folks, you’ll probably adopt the practice, too. It’s hard to say, “I prefer a hot date with Netflix tonight,” when you know your partner awaits you at the gym.
7. Download an App
It’s less stress-inducing to deal with the weight fluctuations of returning to fitness if you have a written record of your progress. If you have the means, download a fitness tracker app—opt for the annual subscription to eliminate monthly fees. Your phone tracks your progress, and you get a sense of satisfaction every time you review your stats.
You Can Ease Back into Your Workout Routine
If you fell out of the fitness groove due to injury or circumstance, easing back into your routine can seem daunting. However, by following a few simple steps, you’ll get yourself back up to speed before you know it.