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Resuming workout after time off

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Have you ever wondered if you’ll ever get in shape again? Setbacks happen, whether it’s an injury, crunch time at work, or a hectic time with your family. Whatever it was, you’ve fallen off the exercise wagon. This happens to just about everyone.

If getting active and staying healthy were easy, everyone would do it. We come home after a long day of sitting in a chair to de-stress by sitting in another chair, unable to summon the energy to take a walk or hit the gym. Sure, everyone says to “make time for what’s important to you,” but oversimplification doesn’t make the struggle easier. If you’re struggling with a sedentary lifestyle, you’re not alone. Very few people spring out of bed one day and say, “I’m going to change my behaviour for the better for the rest of my life,” do it, and never look back. In the real world, things are different.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, we’re often our own biggest hurdle. People are simply too hard & expect too much from themselves; they think it has to be much harder than it has to be and when they don’t live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves, it all begins to fall apart.

Don’t get caught up in the “all or nothing” mindset. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Don’t let optimal be the enemy of good enough. Sure, you could be doing more or could be doing better, but if in the long run that gets in the way of you doing anything at all, then it’s no use to you. Do what you can do, and do consistently, then worry about optimizing later as you gain traction. Remember, getting started is everything.

Most people fail in fitness because they never enter a self-sustaining positive feedback loop. In fact, most people don’t even start. In order to be successful at fitness, it needs to be in the same category of the brain as sleeping, eating, and sex. If exercise worked the way it does in the movies, where a montage plays and after every workout you look better and see results instantly, more people would stick to it. The key is to find a routine replacement that works for you, and that gets results for the energy you put into building it into your habits.

One discouraging thing you’ve probably thought (or heard) before is that you’re just lazy and will give up eventually, so why bother. To say that people don’t exercise because they are lazy is actually backwards. Often times, people are actually lazy because they’re out of shape and don’t exercise! It’s easy for someone in-shape to tell someone who’s having a tough time that they’re just lazy, but the truth is, running a mile for a couch potato is far more difficult and requires more physical and mental will than it does for someone who does five every day. Recognize that especially when you start down the slippery slope of comparing yourself and your habits to others.

A lot of people will tell you to just get up and do it, which is easy when that person, a: isn’t you, and b: is sitting behind a keyboard. Don’t listen to them: minimizing and oversimplifying the challenge doesn’t help, and while hearing what worked for others can help you figure out things to try, it’s almost never going to be exactly what works for you. Look for your own combination of tools, tips, techniques, and advice that will support you and your health and fitness goals. Accept advice, sure, but remember you’re in this for you, no one else, and you’re the only one who’ll know what really works.

Now how exactly should you get back on track after some time off? People’s situations vary, so here are a few different options to see exactly what you should do when it’s been a couple of days, or even months, since your last sweat session, so that you re-enter the scene safely.

If you haven’t worked out for a few days
It’s all about simply getting your foot out the door and reminding your body how good exercising feels. Try going for an easy run around your neighbourhood. The key is to tell yourself that you’re going to go for a short run, because what usually ends up happening is that you get out there, and after just a few minutes, your body gets into a groove and you think, ‘Ohhh yeah, this feels great, I’m loving this…’ and you end up going for a lot longer. Just be sure to warm up before and stretch after so you don’t pull any muscles.

If you haven’t worked out for a week
Since it’s been a bit longer than a couple of days, you may have to do more than play a mental trick on yourself to get motivated, a.k.a. it’s time to bring in the troops. Make a fitness date with a friend, whether it’s taking a class together, or meeting up in the park at a specific time to go running. The fact that someone else is holding you accountable will be the added kick in the butt you need to get going. As far as the kind of workout you two do, it’s up to you. You haven’t been out of the game for that long, so your body can still take an intense session as long as you stretch and re-fuel properly.

If you haven’t worked out for a month or more
You’ve got two great options to wake your body back up again. The first: If you can afford it, buy one session with a personal trainer at your gym. Since your body isn’t used to strain right now, you’re at risk of overdoing it big time the first time you go back. A personal trainer will pay super close attention to you to make sure you don’t do that. Also, the fact that you’ve been out of the game for a month could mean that you’re a bit of a yo-yo exerciser, and a personal trainer will help you set up a more consistent schedule that works for you.

If you can’t afford a trainer, though, no worries, you can enlist a friend to go with you to the gym to get you motivated. The reason the gym is better than a class or a run in this situation is that a class may be too intense and you might be worried about holding your friend back by running slowly, this way you can go at separate paces. Your plan: Do about 20 minutes of light cardio (the treadmill or the elliptical), and then one full-body strength training circuit, doing about 10 reps for each move.

Remember, fitness isn’t just about exercise. It’s about your total health, so remember to watch what you’re eating, that’s where the journey is completed. Set yourself up for success…good luck!


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