How to Get Back into Working Out After a Long Break
by Evelyn Valdez·
There are many reasons why people might take a long break from the gym. It could be due to an injury, pregnancy, long vacation, or just too much going on. Life happens, and it may be a long shot, but pandemics that cause the gym to close happen - something we learned last year!
The point is, life isn't perfect and sometimes it gets in the way of our workout routines, and that's okay, as long as you set a plan to get back on track! Luckily, if you've been able to maintain a healthy diet and some physical activity then it shouldn't be too difficult to jump back in! If you completely let loose for months (or maybe years) then things might be a little tougher... Either way, we have 6 tips that will help make getting back into working out easier, safer, and even set you up for long-term success! So let's get to it, the gains are waiting...
HOW DO I GET BACK IN SHAPE?
It depends on the amount of time taken off and your fitness level. If you took a few weeks or months off and have a history of strength training then you have the advantage of muscle memory. Muscle memory is your body's ability to activate muscle fibers quickly and efficiently due to having done it consistently in the past. Another great thing about muscle memory is that if you had a significant amount of muscle mass, then it'll be easier for you to add muscular weight back on! It'll still take time, but you'll have an advantage over others who are starting from scratch.  For those who took an extremely long hiatus or are starting to ease back into getting in shape by adding weightlifting then things are going to be tougher. It's basically starting from scratch, but it's better to start than never trying again!
Aside from getting back into working out, the key to getting back in shape is rebuilding healthy habits. There is no quick fix, it's a slow process that will take time, but along the way, you'll rebuild (or start building) better exercise habits and eating habits that will help you stay consistent with your routine.
So, whether you are an experienced lifter who's getting back into the gym workout routine or a beginner, we have six tips that are great for anyone that wants to start working out again! These tips will look like baby steps, but that's the best way to make sure you maintain the motivation to work out, rebuild healthy habits, and minimize the risk of injury.
1. Have a plan
You've been out of the gym for a long time so don't jump back in with your eyes closed, before you start exercising, set a plan! We suggest planning out several weeks ahead instead of taking it day by day. And we're not just talking about your actual workout plan, we're talking about your plan for getting back into the gym!
Plan out how many days a week you want to work out, think about the habits you want to create and what you'll do to build them, establish your goals, etc. Once you set your plan and you know what you have to do you can plan your actual exercise routine! We suggest always planning a week in advance. Plan what you'll be working out and when, make a list of exercises with the number of reps and sets or minutes. Then schedule your sessions in your calendar after your done planning to avoid skipping your workout due to something popping up and taking away your attention!
2. Set SMART goals
Having a plan is the first step to getting back into your routine, a crucial part of that is setting your goals. If you want to set new fitness goals for long-term success then make them SMART! SMART stands for – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This is a better way to set fitness goals because they are set up in a way that increases your chances of success.
Here's how to set SMART Goals:
- Be specific - Common goals are "get healthy" or "get fit", but these are too general. You need to choose a specific goal that will get you to your overall goal. Examples of specific goals are achieving a certain body fat percentage, being able to deadlift heavy weights, etc. The key is to be specific!
- Make it measurable - Once you identify your specific goal, add a number to it so you're able to measure your progress. For example, if your goal is weight loss then set the amount you want to lose and a timeline you want to finish that goal in. Track your progress by weighing yourself, or having body composition measurements taken, or taking pictures every 1-2 weeks.
- Make it attainable - Setting goals that you can't attain can discourage you along the way and make you fall off your workout routine again. So when you make your goal measurable make sure you choose a number that isn't too difficult to achieve, but not too easy either since it's not very motivating.
- Make it relevant - Make your goals consistent with your interests. A lot of people think that losing weight means just doing endless amounts of cardio. But if you hate running then running 2-5 miles every day is going to burn you out quick. Try other forms of cardio that are great for fat loss like HIIT, hiking, cycling, even lifting weights with minimal cardio can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
- Make it time-bound - Decide when you hope to achieve your goal by and then fill in your timeline with milestones you need to hit to keep you on track and to make the goal seem more attainable. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds in two months, consider extending the timeline to 6 months. Break it down even further and aim to lose 5 pounds in an x amount of weeks.
Once you have your SMART goals laid out, you can start developing a workout plan that is based on your goals, therefore, helping you achieve them.
3. Start slow
This is probably the most important tip we'll continue emphasizing... Don't overdo it, it's all about taking it slow in order to build sustainable good workout habits. Begin with what works for you at the moment. Maybe you were able to squat 150 lbs before or run 5 miles in 30 minutes, but chances are your stamina has decreased. And that's okay! It's better to take it slow in order to avoid overwhelming yourself.
Start by committing to a few training sessions a week and focus on proper form instead of lifting heavy the first few sessions. A good starting point for weight lifting is to start with three total-body strength workouts, with one rest day in between each session. On those days focus on compound exercises that work your entire body, like squats, lunges, shoulder presses, push-ups (or chest presses with dumbbells), bent-over rows, and pull-ups (or assisted pull-ups). Depending on your fitness level and how long your break was, a good starting point would be using light free weights or resistance bands and increase the intensity as you go. Don't jump in training with a barbell right away. You want to consistently work your way up by slowly increasing the resistance or weight, sets, and reps.
If weightlifting is not your thing, the same progression principle applies to any other form of workout like cardio. Start with three sessions a week, and increase the intensity (speed or resistance) by 10% as you make progress.
The key is to be consistent and slowly work your way up. Speeding your way through without proper form will lead to pain, injury, and probably ditching the gym all over again!
4. Practice flexibility exercises
Your joints and muscles might be a little tighter than usual after skipping the weights and cardio for a few weeks or months. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself (and your muscles) by trying to tackle a difficult workout your first day back at the gym. Before diving into your regular fitness routine integrate a few days of flexibility and mobility workouts. This will help increase blood flow and circulation while assisting in range of motion and joint mobility.
Flexibility workouts are often overlooked because they're "too easy", but establishing these protocols early on will help your body properly adjust to the strenuous activity that will be placed on it. In fact, everyone should include these three key components in their workout routine: flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and resistance training. They are important for everyone to practice because these types of exercises will improve your mobility which will help you jump higher, run faster, and lift heavier with little to no pain. Also, flexible muscles increase the ability of your joints to move through their full range of motion without pain or stiffness, which is a huge plus when it comes to weight lifting.
You can practice flexibility exercises by doing warm-up exercises you're familiar with like static and dynamic stretches. Another great way to practice flexibility is to do beginner yoga classes before hitting your first few training sessions.
5. Recruit a workout buddy
Having a friend or family member join you on your fitness journey is one of the best ways to get back into working out! Having a workout buddy will help you stay accountable, stay motivated, and even make your workout more enjoyable. Will they be with you at every single session and be your workout buddy forever? Probably not, but it's good to have a support system at least at the start of your journey and once you rebuild your good exercise habits you'll be able to hit the gym by yourself!
6. Listen to your body
Muscle soreness is expected when restarting a fitness routine. It happens because your muscles are no longer accustomed to strenuous activity, so they get tight and achy for a few days. It's normal, but you should pay careful attention and listen to your body.
There is a difference between that good sore feeling to pain that doesn't feel too good, and it's important to distinguish between the two. A little muscle discomfort and soreness is normal. What's not normal is feeling actual pain while doing a certain movement or even feeling sharp pains after your workout. If that happens, stop immediately! Listen to your body, stop doing the exercise that is causing the pain, and schedule a rest day for the following day. Working out is important, but post-workout recovery is even more important because that's when the muscle-building actually happens! So, let your body recover from the intense workouts you're restarting. Don't push through anything that feels painful, but if you want to stay active during your rest then do less strenuous activities. Practice flexibility exercises, go on a walk around your neighborhood, do something that will keep your body moving, but not add any more stress to your joints and muscles.
A tip to reduce soreness: Properly warm up your muscles and cool down after! Most people warm-up, but forget to cool down. Skipping those stretches after your workout will make those muscles that were working hard tighten up again. Cooling down prevents that from happening and helps regulate blood flow throughout the body thus minimizing some soreness.
7. Get enough sleep
This one goes hand-in-hand with listening to your body, and you've probably heard it a million times, but... Prioritize sleep! Working out is hard work, it takes a lot of your energy, literally. Your burning more calories and your body is trying to adapt to the increased stresses in the muscle tissues. And if you don't already know, your muscles need proper rest in order to recover and grow!
To get the quality sleep that your body needs to heal and refuel, stick to a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to your bedtime, and put all your devices in silent mode or sleep mode. Your body will thank you and so will your future self. Getting burnt out is common in the fitness world and one of the ways it happens is when people go full force when starting or restarting their fitness journey, and they ignore the signs that their body is trying to tell them. So when you feel tired, take a step back, rest, and make sure you're getting enough quality sleep.
Getting back in shape is a process, it takes time to get into the swing of things. So, remember to follow our tips, prioritize post-workout recovery, and be kind to yourself! And if you need some fitness gear to help you get started with your gym or home workout routine again then check out our UPPPER Collection! There's something for everyone - Resistance Bands, Long Bands, Lifting Belts, Barbell Pads, Lifting Straps, and Wrist Wraps. All designed to support your training and maximize your results!
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