Updated: Feb 21
If you've had an extended break from the gym, the thought of figuring out how to start working out again can seem a bit daunting. And while there's no way around it—when you're not in the habit of working out, you lose progress—don't be deterred from sweating it out. Challenges can be a good thing!
There are some things to think about when you're easing back into a workout routine whether you've been taking a break for the past couple of weeks, months, or even years. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you kick-start that fitness grind.
One of the first steps before you actually dive back into a workout routine is to plan out what you want your routine to look like, and how you want to get there. If it’s been a while since you last worked out, you’ll definitely want to start small. Doing too much too soon can overwhelm you mentally and physically, which in turn could make you feel defeated. Understand that you're probably not going to be as fit as you were, and that's OK. Start small and don't go all out; the goal is just to get moving more. As you plan out how to start working out again, think about your habits, goals, and schedule and go from there. It can also help to think of ways to motivate yourself. Connecting with a workout buddy, hiring a coach, or joining in on group fitness classes are all great ways to stay consistent and be motivated. Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals
As you ease back into your workout routine, don’t forget to set goals to keep you focused. Make sure you set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. What is your goal...to run a 5K? To feel stronger? To decrease body fat? Start there, then create a plan.
Need help making a plan? If you are an OEVFITNESS member book a FREE Goal Review Session HERE
If you are not a member book a FREE No-Sweat Intro HERE - The primary purpose of your No Sweat Intro is to determine how we can best help you. We have a lot of different paths to get you to your goals. Together we’ll find the best one for you!
When it comes to figuring out a workout routine, begin with what works for you. Do you only feel comfortable committing to one day a week initially? Great! Mark it on your calendar and stick with it. Don't feel like you have to immediately start logging five to six gym workouts per week. You can't get to three to four days a week without mastering day one, so just start! As you get comfortable, try to work your way up to 3-4 days a week. The body responds to consistency over time, so your results will come much faster if you can keep a regular pattern and frequency.
Rest Days Another reason not to jump into a six-day-a-week workout routine: Recovery is part of being active. When you take a day off, your body isn't. It's actually working hard to repair and replenish itself after all the work you put it through. Rest days are key to long-term wellness. This is a lifestyle you're creating now, so be realistic about your frequency. Be sure to schedule rest days into your routine. You can choose between active rest days—when you’re still doing some sort of active movement, like a leisurely walk, some light stretching, or a fun bike ride—or a passive rest day, like when you don’t leave your couch and set your Netflix account to binge mode. Both are entirely acceptable (and needed!)
Active rest days help your body recover by increasing blood flow and aiding in muscle repair, and can also help you work on things that are great for your body, like flexibility.
Passive rest days, on the other hand, are important for when you truly need your body to rest. Just be sure to keep active rest days to low to moderate intensity (experts advise keeping your activity to about 60% to 70% of your maximum effort), and listen to your body when deciding what type of rest day is right for you.
Don't skip your rest days! Find our list of 10 benefits of taking a rest day HERE!
Develop Complimentary Healthy Habits
Other healthy habits besides exercise are important to incorporate as part of your new routine. Things like eating healthy, fueling foods; working on reducing stress; focusing on mental health; and getting enough sleep should all be priorities as you incorporate exercise into your life. Working out is 'work'—it takes more time and energy, so you might feel fatigued initially because you are burning more calories and the body is trying to adapt to the increased stresses in the tissues. If you are feeling exhausted, you might opt for some more sleep on a particular day. It's OK to tuck in a little early and hit snooze on some days...your body will thank you.
Find our list of the 5 benefits of developing healthy habits HERE!
Proper warm-ups and cooldowns are super important for your workout. This is especially true when it comes to injury prevention, and can also help with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
A good warm-up preps your body for the increase in activity and a cool-down allows your heart rate to return to a normal resting rate. Don't cut corners here: Muscles that have not been accustomed to strenuous activity for some time will experience some form of DOMS, which basically means you are going to be tight and achy for 24-72 hours after your workout (You may also experience this if you work out regularly but up your intensity.)
A proper cool-down session can reduce some of this soreness so can taking a branched-chain amino acid supplement.
Another safety tip to keep in mind is form. It’s important that you take it slow and focus on how you’re performing movements. Quality trumps quantity, especially when you're just getting back into fitness. Slow down, be deliberate, and conscious of your movements. Take the time to focus on your form, on your breathing, on your control. This is extra important because proper technique and form are crucial for avoiding injury.
Mistakes to Avoid
The biggest thing to keep in mind is to take it slow. People have a tendency to overdo it initially, and they end up with injuries because the body is not prepared for the extra activity. Lower-intensity workouts are a good way to reintroduce the body to activity, frequency, and duration. After a week or two, you can bump up the intensity, as long as you're not losing form.
These tips will hopefully help you as you restart your workout journey. No matter what, remember that it's OK to feel overwhelmed at times. Don't get discouraged—you got this!