If you’ve had to take a break from exercise, these tips will make it easy to start again.
Sometimes life happens and we can get a little off track. Family commitments pop up, sickness kicks in, or you get stuck with overtime at work. Then all of a sudden your exercise routine goes from regular to non-existent. I know what it’s like to have a really good routine and then something unexpected happens. You miss a few workouts and then all of a sudden you’re in a rut. So the question is—how do you get back into routine? If you have found yourself a little off track and needing a motivation boost, here are some of my tips on how to restart your exercise habit and get back into a healthy routine.
1. Just start with something easy.
If you are really struggling to get back into exercising and feeling totally overwhelmed by it all, sometimes it can be useful to just start with something easy. If going to do a big weights session at the gym is too much, then get outside and go for a brisk walk or a light jog, just to get moving. As soon as you start with something small and feel good from that, you’ll want to continue on and get back into your healthy habits.
2. Commit to five minutes.
If a long workout feels like too much, then just commit to working out for five minutes. A commitment of five minutes is a lot less daunting than a full workout. Once you are up and moving, you will more than likely keep going. So start with five minutes and see where you end up.
3. Remember how good it makes you feel.
Sometimes we focus too much on the effort of it, rather than the outcome. The thing with a workout is while it can be hard in the moment, you will always feel absolutely amazing afterwards. So, if you need something to help you refocus and motivate you, just remember that post-workout high. Aside from some sore muscles, you will never regret a workout.
Related: How To Maintain Long-Term Fitness Results
4. Schedule it in your diary.
If you are looking for an excuse to not workout, then you will find find an opportunity for a distraction to deter you. That’s why it’s important to clear your schedule and make time specifically for your daily exercise. Make sure it’s scheduled for a time that you won’t get easily distracted. If you know that you get caught up at work in the evenings, then schedule your workout in the mornings. If mornings are too busy, then schedule your workout in the evenings. If you know it’s going to be a crazy busy day, then just commit to a quick fifteen-minute HIIT session, as doing something is always better than doing nothing.
5. Prepare your gym bag.
What if exercising in the morning used to be your thing, but now you struggle to get up early? Prepare your gym bag the night before and lay it next to your bed. Put your alarm on the other side of the room so when it goes off, you will have to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you are out of bed and your gym bag is already packed, you may as well get up and go. If you go to the gym after work, place your gym bag next to your desk. This will act as a good reminder of what you have committed to and you will be less likely to back out.
6. Take a one month challenge.
If you want to start making exercise a habit again, then try taking on a short one-month challenge to kick-start your routine. Lots of gyms, yoga studios and boot camps offer one-month challenges. By having it broken down into a smaller time frame, it won’t feel so over whelming. That’s why I’ve designed my programs in four-week blocks. Then once the challenge is finished, you will feel great and be back into good exercise habits.
Related: Fuel Your Body Right With These Snacks
7. Get an exercise buddy.
It’s very easy to pull out of your workout if it’s just yourself you have to answer to. Having a friend, work colleague or family member to workout with is a great way to boost motivation, hold each other accountable and stick to your workout routine. It also adds a social aspect, which brings a little more fun back into working out.
8. Don’t just think gym.
Being fit and healthy isn’t just about going to the gym every day. Find ways to mix up your workouts and incorporate other exercises that you enjoy into your routine. Picking up social sports, going for a jog on the beach, or simply walking the dog are all great ways to stay fit and healthy.
9. Do it for yourself, not anyone else.
I always say, “Don’t work-out for anyone else but you.” Being fit and healthy should be about making yourself feel great, having confidence and aiming to be your best. Remember to do this for you, not for anyone else or for how they think you should look. Each time you exercise, know that you have done something good for yourself and celebrate that.
Remember habits are created by the consistent daily activities we chose to put our time towards. So the more consistent you are with your exercise routine, the easier it is to form healthy habits. Once it’s a habit, you just go on autopilot and exercising is part of your daily life.
Find out more about Emily’s fitness tips at emilyskye.com.
- How to Get Back to Working Out When You Took a Break from the Gym
- The Backstory: Becoming “Too Healthy”
- More Signs Of Overtraining
- The Solution…
- Getting Back into Working Out Again After a Long Break
- You Can’t Just Start Where You Left Off
- Know your weaknesses and dedicate more time to working on them
- You Need More Time to Warm Up
- Keep Your Workouts Simple and Short
- Keep it to Around Three Times a Week
- Kick Your Ego to the Curb
- Pay Attention to Your Body
- Be Patient
- Why it’s best to start slow and build gradually
- How stretching improves your performance
- Build muscle memory, too
- What Is The Best Workout To Get Back In Shape?
- BodyFit Plus
- What comes with BodyFit Plus?
- Blog Post
- Get Back to the Gym After Taking a Long Break With These Tips
- Workout with Jefit
- Lower The Volume More Than You Think Necessary
- Keep To Submaximal Training
- Gauge Your Training With a Simple Scale
- Recover Like It’s Your Job
- Increase General Strength and Fitness Qualities First
- Learn How To Easily Come Back From A Week Off of Training
- Remember You’re In This For the Long Haul, Again
- 7 Tips to Get Back Into Exercise After a Break
How to Get Back to Working Out When You Took a Break from the Gym
Getting back into a workout routine when you’ve taken time off is intimidating, so I’ve outlined a guide to help you ease in without losing motivation or risking injury. Just remember: It’s all about baby steps!
Keep in mind, your level of progression is largely based upon your total time off, the reason for the break (surgery, work, children), and your level of fitness prior to it. (You’ll totally relate to The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Taking a Workout Hiatus.) I advise returning to a workout program in a progressive manner. If you start off by placing too large of a demand on your body, you run the risk of injury and a quick regression backward. Being so sore the next day that you are hobbling down the stairs does not indicate a quality workout.
1. Start with Flexibility Workouts
Your first progressive step forward should be to integrate a couple days of flexibility workouts in order to increase blood flow and circulation while assisting in range of motion and joint mobility. Flexibility is one of the most overlooked protocols of fitness routines, and establishing these protocols early on will allow your body to properly readjust to the new demands that will be placed on it. If you have access to health club or fitness professional, I recommend signing up for a flexibility or beginner yoga class. (Or do it without leaving the house: try this beginner yoga flow video to increase flexibility.) Select 10 to 15 stretches, performing each flexibility movement for up to 1 minute.
2. Add Easy Cardio
Next, depending on your schedule and time commitment, try incorporating light cardiorespiratory workouts after a couple stretching or yoga sessions. If weather permits, a brisk 20-minute outdoor walk will help invigorate your mind and get your body moving again. (Other options: try this low-impact HIIT workout for beginners or walking workout for gentle indoor cardio.) The treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike are great indoor alternatives. If you had a well-established fitness base prior to a month-long break, your first week may include light jogging as opposed to walking.
3. Start Strength Training
After the first week of flexibility and light cardio, start to incorporate strength workouts into your routine. (Try this gentle strength training workout for getting back into the gym.) Your time away from fitness probably involved a lot of sitting, which causes weakness in your posterior chain. These muscles are important for basic everyday movement, as well as keeping your spine erect when at your desk. That is why is at this point one must look to incorporate exercises that improve posture, develop core strength, and activate muscles throughout your gluteus and hamstring regions.
Exercises like squats, lunges, bridges, TRX hamstring curls, stability ball mobility, and core work will help to activate these areas. TRX workouts and bodyweight workouts are ideal for working these muscles and create a safe transition back into your fitness regimen because you can work within your own fitness level. Try these:
- Total-Body TRX Workout
- TRX Workout: 7 Moves to Build Muscle
- The 9-Minute Power Plank Workout
- The Easy Way to Amazing Abs
Note from Krista: This post is by our awesome 12MA team member, Kersten. I hope you find her story as interesting and relatable as I did. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!
In today’s post, I’d like to share with you my recent experience with not being able to work out for a long time due to some health reasons, and how I started training again after I felt better again.
After being active for most of my life, I wasn’t allowed to work out for six months starting at the end of last year. I’ll tell you all about my story and why in the post, and while you may not have experienced the same thing I was struggling with, if you’ve been sidelined from working out for a while due to injury or illness, I believe this post will help you to get started again safely.
The Backstory: Becoming “Too Healthy”
I’ve been pretty active most of my life. However, when I started college, I got busy with school and gained almost 30 pounds in about a year, despite still working out moderately. I felt horrible about myself, so I decided that the weight had to go. I joined Weight Watchers, started eating a very low-fat and low-calorie diet, and began running a lot to lose that weight.
And I did indeed lose weight—in five months, it dropped from 163 pounds to 132 pounds. But during that time I also lost my period.
If you’re a woman, you may think, what a relief! If you’re a guy, you may think, so what? Well, I get both of your perspectives. But it was still odd. I saw a few doctors about it, but no one said that not having a period was particularly bad for me. It may be more difficult to have babies one day, but you’re only 21, so there’s time—that’s what they told me.
Some of them wanted me to take the birth control pill (which, by the way, does not give you a period but a bleed that is caused by synthetical hormones. This is not the solution because your body isn’t still working!).
I had no idea that running 6 days a week for at least an hour and eating a low calorie diet was what caused me to lose my cycle—a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Because I enjoyed movement and no medical professionals told me it was a problem, I kept doing it. Little did I know that because of all that, one day I’d be forced to take almost six months off from training!
I used to run this way at least six days a week for nearly seven years until a few years ago when I found HIIT and strength training and reduced my running quite a bit. Although my eating had normalized and I was no longer religious about not eating “bad foods”, I still made sure to eat as healthy as I could.
More Signs Of Overtraining
It wasn’t until December of last year when I started seeing an acupuncturist for an unrelated issue that we started talking about my general health. I told him that I’m okay otherwise, although I haven’t had my period for 10 years… and I was also actually starting to feel very tired in my workouts. It was getting harder to motivate myself to go and get them done, and I sometimes had to stop my workouts because I had no energy. I wasn’t sleeping well and I was often feeling depressed.
As I later learned through a ton of research, these symptoms, plus the loss of your period, are all common signs of a severe hormonal imbalance for women. Also, when women don’t have a natural period for over a year, their bones start to lose density, they are at higher risk of getting osteoporosis, heart disease, as well as cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
My acupuncturist told me that I may have lost my period as a result of training a lot (at the time I discussed it with him in last December, I did mostly high intensity weight training, some HIIT and one run a week, for a total of six days a week). I had gained a lot of weight back since my extreme weight loss, sitting then at 152 pounds, but it was mostly lean muscle. The fact that I had once lost about 30 pounds quite quickly may have caused my hypothalamic amenorrhea as well.
After discussing my symptoms, my acupuncturist told me I needed to stop working out, or at least significantly reduce my exercise.
I didn’t want to believe him… but as I went home and started doing my own research, it became clear that the recipe to restoring my hormonal health was really to stop training and start eating more to heal my body that had once been through severe calorie restriction and extreme daily running.
I had no idea how long this workout ban was going to last, but I was committed to getting healthy. For the next almost six months, I walked daily and did yoga twice a week. I started eating much more. I gained about 15 pounds. Unsurprisingly, this was tough on me both physically and mentally… but one day, about five months after stopping exercise, my cycle came back. About a month later, I started working out again.
Getting Back into Working Out Again After a Long Break
It’s been five months since I’ve been recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea and been able to do little bit more than just yoga and walking. But I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, and sometimes I feel like I’m starting my entire fitness journey over again.
If you’ve had to take a break from training any significant amount of time, whether it was due to an injury, stressful times at home or at work, or if you’ve been through something similar to what I went through, maybe you can learn from my experience. Here are the things you should pay attention to when you start working out again after a long break:
You Can’t Just Start Where You Left Off
Just before I got sidelined from working out, I had started working more on heavy barbell squats. When I came back six months later, I knew that of course I couldn’t jump right in and do the same weight that I had used half a year ago, but I didn’t quite understand how much less weight I should put on my barbell.
As a result of overestimating my strength, I injured my knees after about three weeks. That meant another one-month break from squats.
When you’re getting back into training after a break, you need to ease into it slowly. Start with lighter weights and easier movements to prepare your body and joints for more intense training later on.
Know your weaknesses and dedicate more time to working on them
We’ve all heard that full body, compound movements are the best way to go if you want to build a strong body and get more work done at once.
Well, after a long workout break, things may look little different for you. My knees and back have traditionally been the weaker areas of my body, so they had naturally weakened even further during my break. I hurt my knees when I started squatting again because the knee stabilizing muscles (the ones on the inner and outer thigh and especially glute muscles) had lost a lot of strength, so I now had to pay special attention to strengthening those special muscle groups.
I also have special core exercises that I need to do 3-4 times a week to relieve some back pain I’ve experienced. The good news is that being consistent pays off, and these days I have rarely any more knee pain and I can squat again. My back still needs work though.
And this is important to keep in mind: if you’re recovering from injury, please do the exercises your physical therapist is prescribing you!
They may seem silly and ineffective if you’re used to doing bigger movements, but as a personal trainer I see many people who never did their rehab after an injury they got 10 years ago. As a result, they often have some serious muscle imbalances now. They’re much harder to fix later.
You Need More Time to Warm Up
I used to be that person who would jump out of the bed in the morning, walk into the gym or to the nearby park, do 10 squats and 10 push ups as my warm-up, and then jump right into my workout. I just didn’t seem to need a longer warm up.
Well, this has changed. I now take a lot of time to warm myself up, because I find that when I don’t I may get injured. I do some yoga moves, my knee rehab work and core-specific exercises, a lot of dynamic stretches, and then work out. My warm up is as long, or sometimes even longer, than my actual workout.
Keep Your Workouts Simple and Short
Don’t overcomplicate your workouts if you’re just getting back to them. The actual workout part doesn’t have to be an hour long, and there’s no need to do 20 different exercises during one session. Take plenty of breaks between the exercises, until you really feel that you’re recovered.
Some days, my knee rehab and core exercises are my entire workout. Other times, I pick three or four exercises and do two or three rounds of them. Think things like squats (you can do them with just your own bodyweight or using weights if you’re feeling okay), push ups, lunges, and plank holds, for example. Keep the weight moderate at first, and if you do plyometrics, make sure to ease into those as well.
Keep it to Around Three Times a Week
In addition to keeping your workouts very simple, you also need to make sure you keep your schedule reasonable and give your body extra time to recover.
It doesn’t matter if your break was caused by physiological/physical issues like hormonal imbalance or injury, or you were just too unmotivated to work out for a long time—there’s no need to do more than three workouts a week, at least at first. If you push it, you may stress out your body and mind again, and you’ll set yourself back even further.
Take it easy, and be kind to your body!
Kick Your Ego to the Curb
You may feel devastated when you find yourself not being able to do the things you used to do before. It was hard for me to accept at first that I can do barely one wonky pull up now. But then I looked at it realistically: I didn’t work out for six months to restore my health. I had put on 15 pounds to restore my health. It wasn’t actually that surprising that I couldn’t do pull ups anymore!
It doesn’t make any sense to compare yourself to that person who you were in totally different conditions. You needed that break for a reason. Just do your best to strengthen your body again, and take one day at a time.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Never push yourself through physical pain, especially when you’re coming back after an injury. Getting hurt is not worth starting the whole recovery process over again. Know your body and your limits.
In my case, I’ve come to learn exactly when I’ve done too much—I lose my sleep! This is the first sign that tells me that it’s time to cut back on exercise if I don’t want to mess my hormonal balance up again. And believe me, I don’t. Know what your signs are (extreme exhaustion? lack of motivation? nagging pain? constant soreness?) and take a break before your body forces you to.
As much as taking a long break from exercise sucks, it can also teach you something—patience. When I was still recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea, I had no idea when I would be able to work out again. Some days, I didn’t even know if not exercising and eating tons more food really was the key to restoring my health.
But I believed in it and stayed patient. It worked.
I’ve had to be extremely patient in slowly easing back to working out, which hasn’t been easy. But I’ve come to understand that no success happens overnight. When it comes to starting working out again after a long break, slow and steady really wins the race.
Kersten Kimura is a NASM PT, bootcamp instructor and personal trainer located on the East Bay, California. Check out her website here to learn about her take on womens’ health and hormones, balanced and obsession-free living and get her ebook, 9 Ways How Not Having a Period Is Dangerous For Your Health.
If you’re like many people, you may once have been active. Then perhaps a new job, a child, or a busy routine got you away from your active lifestyle.
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It’s easy to fall out of your exercise routine, but when you’re ready to start up again, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure your best shot at success.
The first step is to get the all-clear from a physician, says athletic trainer Jason Cruickshank, ATC, CSCS.
“We always recommend checking with either your primary care physician, or a physician who’s monitoring you, to make sure that your cardiovascular levels are okay; blood panels are okay, and once you’re certified as healthy, we can start into some training,” Mr. Cruickshank says.
Why it’s best to start slow and build gradually
Anyone who is getting back into exercising after taking time off — whether they were an athlete before or not — needs to take it slow, he says.
Trying to lift too much weight, or forcing your body into a stretch or into a range of motion that it’s not ready for yet can result in micro trauma to the muscles, Mr Cruickshank says.
This can make you very uncomfortable in the days after the workout or open the door to a muscular injury. It is best to start at a low level to build endurance and to retrain your muscles.
How stretching improves your performance
It’s also important to practice proper stretching, Mr. Cruickshank says.
One way to start is with static stretching, which involves holding a pose in place, and then working up to more dynamic stretching like lunges or side steps to get the blood moving.
Dynamic stretching is the best way to increase performance and also decrease injury risk with sport activity and weight training, Mr. Cruickshank says.
Build muscle memory, too
But before starting any intense exercising, it’s important to remember that doing too much too soon also can slow down your progress in the long run.
“You don’t want to just rush in to the gym and say, ‘OK, I’m going to go over to the bench press now and I’m going to do a set of three reps at as high a weight as I can lift,’” Mr. Cruickshank says. “You’re not going to recruit the muscles that you want and you’re not going to have the neurological changes that you need to make that exercise more beneficial down the road.”
The same rules apply for an athlete who is trying a new sport for the first time, Mr. Cruickshank says.
“If an athlete excels in one sport, it doesn’t mean his or her muscle memory will carry over to different activities, so it takes time to develop that performance level in a different sport,” he says.
Few feelings are as frustrating as making progress when you get back to the gym, only to see it all slip away.
You work your ass off, for a while. You reap the rewards, for a while. And then things go downhill in the “back to the gym” department.
You invest time and effort to get better. But the improvements can be temporary. This applies to business, relationships, and especially to physical training.
Most people are already busy with career and family. Sure, they were fit in the past. But they fell off the “get back in shape” wagon because something got in the way: life.
Months, or in some cases years later, they want to get back at it.
Maybe it’s the urge to build lean muscle and look good on the beach. Maybe it’s the desire to have more energy. Or be a role model to your kids.
But good intentions are not enough. There’s a problem. Getting back into shape is ten times harder than it was before.
An old college classmate Jeff and I were talking about this the other day.
Gone are the “good old days” when you’re nineteen and everything you try in the gym seems to work. Hell, you can’t even have a cocktail or glass of wine without feeling like someone hit you with a truck and sucked all the moisture out of your body.
That program that worked well in high school and college? It was a great program at the time, but it’s not ideal for you now. The unfortunate truth is as your body changes, your training must change, especially if you’ve had a long hiatus from the gym.
I asked Jeff (who’s now married with a one-year-old son):
“How long have you kept your workouts the same?”
“It’s been about four months since I re-started training. I’ve been using the same exercises, eating the same, as I did when I was younger. But I haven’t seen any results.”
Although I’ve never taken a long layoff from training, I’ve been in a similar situation. At one point I kept following the same overused programs ad-nauseum. Pissed and annoyed with “wasting my time,” I stopped a workout mid-set before one of my first coaches, Phil Morgan, asked what I was doing.
He instantly quoted Albert Einstein:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
No matter who “perfect” a plan appears to be, if you train long enough you’ll hit a plateau. What has worked in the past won’t work forever.
And while I spew Facebook posts and articles on how important “consistency” is, the one thing separating successful transformations from yo-yo-dietings is the ability to change gradually over time.
Don’t look for a magic pill at the end of another 30-day challenge. You won’t find a miracle solution because frankly, it doesn’t exist.
Here are there major mistakes lifters make when they try to get back in the swing of things.
Fix these to regain your mojo in the iron dojo.
1. Don’t Lift Heavy Right Away
Strength is important, but rarely do you need to train like a 5’5” stocky powerlifter to accomplish your goals. Especially after a layoff, most lifters need to accumulate training volume before jumping directly into heavy lifting. By doing so, you will make progress and prevent injury.
It takes longer for joints, tendons, and ligaments to recover from heavy lifting than it does your muscles. After all, there’s a good chance you’re working a high-stress job with a busy family life. You probably aren’t getting all the sleep you need and eating as well as you could.
Sure, you may have crushed 500 lb deadlifts in college. You may have also drunk a gallon of milk a day (along with other stuff.) But you also didn’t miss training days, you had the hormonal profile of a raging bull, and you didn’t have a hectic job and family life.
Strength is still important, but take your time. Perform a 4-6 week accumulation phase where you’re focused on increasing training volume and getting back in the groove of training. This will provide a nice increase in lean body mass, improve your conditioning, and prepare your body for more intense work going forward. Gradually add in low volume strength work.
Sample Exercise: Squats
Week One: 2×10, rest 90 seconds
Week two: 3×10, rest 90 seconds
Week Three: 4×10, rest 60 seconds
Week Four: 3×8, rest 90 seconds
Week Five: 4×8, rest 60 seconds
Then, gradually add in lower volume strength work with an intensification phase. You’re still staying “light” (which I realize is a relative term) to gradually build up your tolerance to heavyweights.
Sample Exercise: Squats
Week One: 3×6, rest 120 seconds
Week two: 4×5, rest 120 seconds
Week Three: 4×4, rest 120 seconds
Week Four: 4×3, rest 120 seconds
Week Five: 5×5,4,3,2 rest 120 seconds
Don’t get me wrong: strength is still important. But after a layoff, you’re better off playing it conservative and giving your body time to adapt instead of doing what you used to do.
2. Living by the Body Part Split
Body part splits are great…for the 10% of advanced lifters who base their life around training and never miss a workout. If you can make the body part split work for you and never miss workouts, then, by all means, continue doing them.
But this isn’t right busy people like you who have a family and a career. In most cases, you’re better off adopting a training split that requires you train major muscle groups multiple times throughout the week.
This has two benefits:
(1) Better technique, faster. The more you perform a given exercise, the better your technique. As the great Vince Lombardi said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” By working through major movement patterns more after you’ll regain your technique faster than training a muscle/movement once per week.
(2) Improved training balance. Training balance is essential for avoiding the dreaded “chicken legs” look as well as preventing injury. Total body, push, pull, lower, or upper-lower training splits allow a more balanced approach to building a well-rounded physique.
Consistency and progressive overload are the most important factors for rebuilding your fitness and building your best body. Focus on ensuring those factors first.
Related: Four Training Splits to Build an Athletic Body
3. Be Patient
It’s a lifelong pursuit.
But after a layoff, you need to be patient. Focus on the process and persevere.
Ask yourself how long it took you to fall out of shape. It will take at least as long get back in shape.
Sure, hiring a coach or joining a supportive community helps, but you still must own the process day in, day out.
It’s natural to want the shortcut to success. In reality, the only shortcut is persistence, consistency, and discipline.
At the end of the day, you need to buckle down and put in work.
The best program for you isn’t the four-week challenge in your favorite fitness magazine; rather, it’s a program that makes fitness a part of your life but does not consume it.
Once you regain your focus and remake training into a habit it’s amazing how quickly “crappy genetics,” improve and how you suddenly have enough time to train.
Sure, you might not be able to do all the “beastmode” lifts you used to do in the gym, but that’s part of the game. Going forward, it’s time to find a sustainable approach: an approach which allows you to stay consistent and make progress even when you’re busy.
This is the key to transforming your body now and building the habits to build your best body over time.
Train hard. Train Smart. Stay Patient. And Stay Persistent.
How To Get Back to The Gym And Transform Your Body
Want to take your workouts to the next level? And build a strong, lean, and muscular body without living in the gym?
Then you’ll love your No.B.S. Guide To Intermittent Fasting. You’ll learn how to cut through the B.S. in the fitness industry and start lookin’ great naked this week.
What Is The Best Workout To Get Back In Shape?
Exercise can be truly addicting. Once you start, it’s a hard habit to break. People dedicate years of their life to strict dieting, hardcore training, and the entire fitness and bodybuilding lifestyle.
But just as often, the habit gets broken. Injury or health problems, hectic schedules, a necessary change in life, work or family problems, loss of motivation, and stress can all send your fitness lifestyle off the rails. It’s nobody’s fault. It just happens.
When it does, it’s your choice whether or not you want to get back in the game. Your muscles aren’t going to like it at first. They clearly aren’t going to be the same as they once were. They need a solid routine to help trigger muscle memory.
This workout from one of our Bodybuilding.com BodySpace members, BurningHeart, is great for getting back in shape!
How Do I Get Back in Shape?
If you have any history of lifting weights, I’ve got good news: You have a long backlog of muscle memory to pull from!
Simply put, muscle memory is your body’s ability to activate muscle fibers quickly and efficiently due to having done it so many times in the past. It may take a few sessions to “feel” your squat and bench press like you used to, but you’re at a great advantage over someone starting from scratch.
There’s another great aspect to muscle memory, too. If you once had a significant amount of muscle mass, your muscles actually hold onto the extra fibers, even when you fall out of shape.
That means it’s easier for you to add muscular weight back on! This benefit can be felt months, even years, after the peak of your fitness.
What’s the Best Comeback Routine?
This basic routine is designed to help someone who used to be fairly serious about lifting get back in the game. It consists of three stages, each four weeks long.
The first stage is all about getting your body back into shape. It includes easier exercises at high reps in order to increase muscle size by taking advantage of muscle memory.
The second stage includes harder exercises at moderate reps. You’ll be doing plenty of compound exercises, such as pull-ups and dips, in order to increase muscle strength and prepare your body for heavy loaded exercises.
Finally, the third stage consists of more advanced exercises, such as weighted pull-ups and dips. They are done at low reps in order to be able to use high weight, which is perfect for strength gains.
- While on this routine, use the maximum weight possible for the rep ranges called for. If it says 12-15 reps, you should be able to do 12 clean reps, but 15 should be a real struggle. It’s OK if it takes a few workouts to find the sweet spot.
- Rest between sets should be about 90 seconds. Rest between exercises should be about 3 minutes. This way, a day’s workout shouldn’t last longer than an hour.
- Each exercise should be done with proper form coming before added weight.
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Day 2: Triceps, Legs 1 3 sets, 12-15 reps + 5 more exercises
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Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.
- How-to Images
View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.
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Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.
How Long Will It Take to Build Back My Muscle?
The time it takes to build back the muscle you once had depends on a number of factors, including how much muscle mass was achieved in the past, how you’re eating, and, of course, how you’re training.
If someone only worked out for a month and achieved little added muscle mass, they would only have muscle memory spanning to that previous point. However, if they worked out for two years or more before stopping, their muscle memory would span a greater time, and their potential would be that much greater.
Whatever the amount of time you may have worked out in the past, it will help you get back to that level faster than the average person. This alone gives you an excellent reason to get back into weightlifting. Now go do it!
It’s easy to stop going to the gym but so much harder to get back into it if you’ve had a long break. Maybe you’re on your way to recovering from an injury, maybe you’ve just come back from a holiday (lucky you!), or maybe you lost your way for some time there. Whatever it is, here are some pointers on how to get back to the gym after taking a long break and what to expect.
Get Back to the Gym After Taking a Long Break With These Tips
1. Don’t expect to be at the same level you were before
Unfortunately, regardless of whether you are a runner, weightlifter, or crossfitter, taking time off from exercise means that you will lose some of your abilities. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never be on the same level or surpass it. It just means that you may start at a lower weight or longer running time than before your break. This is completely normal.
Let’s take someone who lifts weights as an example. After 1-2 weeks, you may not really see or feel much of a difference. 2-3 weeks without the gym may see you lose some lean muscle mass. You might start losing actual muscle around the 4-week mark and more.
The good news is that you’ll also regain your strength quicker than it took for you to reach that weight in the first place thanks to a little something called muscle memory. Which leads us to our next point.
2. Be patient
We understand that it can be difficult knowing that you’re not lifting as heavy, or running as fast or long as you could but you need to be patient. Work with the strength or energy you have now, and trust that as long as you are consistent and continue to workout, you will return to normal within a few weeks.
Don’t try to push yourself from the get-go as this will only increase your risk of injury. And if you get injured, then you’ll find yourself spending more time out of the gym.
3. Don’t do too much
Don’t try to do all the exercises at once. Stick to a few to ease yourself back into it and give your body time to adjust to the change.
Then you can gradually go back to your normal routine over time.
4. Remember you’ll probably be sore
Contrary to popular belief, feeling sore isn’t a good indicator of whether you’ve had a good workout or not. If you’re feeling sore, it’s probably because you’re doing a new exercise or you haven’t trained in a while. So if you’re getting back to the gym after a long break, you’ll most likely be feeling it the next day.
The good news? The soreness won’t last forever. Once you get back into a routine, you will find yourself being able to workout without feeling the burn afterwards.
To help recover faster, make sure that you properly warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards. Stretch in every session and employ other tools to help such as foam rolling.
5. Get a trainer/instructor
If you want the extra help, then enlisting in a workout app or personal trainer can really do the trick. If you just need a little push to get back into training, then a workout app like Jefit is a cost-effective method. You can choose the body parts you want to train, as well as some great exercises to do so. You can even connect with other Jefit members so you can share tips on how to get back to the gym.
A personal trainer at your local gym is also really helpful. He or she can create a workout plan for you based on your goals, and show you how the machines work around the facility. Unfortunately, personal training can be on the pricey side at times, but sometimes there may be great offers like group fitness training. This is where you can share the cost and session with a couple of friends!
If you are recovering from an injury though, we recommend that you do enlist the help of a trainer or coach. This is so that modifications can be made for your rehab process. This is vital so that you don’t undo all the progress you’ve made in recovery and make it worse.
Workout with Jefit
Looking to get back to the gym after taking a long break? Want to connect with like-minded people to keep you motivated? Download Jefit to track your workouts and join our members-only Facebook group. You can record your training, set a schedule, and talk to fellow Jefit members. Basically, everything you need to get back into the swing of things!
What do you do to get back to the gym after taking a long break? What tips work best for you? Let us know in the comments, we would love to know!
If you’ve been hibernating all winter (and who could blame you?), the thought of getting back into a regular fitness routine 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. Miami-based Barry’s Bootcamp trainer Kellie Sikorskiand physical therapist Karena Wu, DPT, MS, CSCS, know what’s up when it comes to getting adjusted and avoiding injury. Here are 11 things to keep in mind as you kick-start that fitness grind.
1. Don’t overdo it right away. RyanJLane / Getty Images
“Doing too much too soon can overwhelm you mentally,” says Sikorski. “And a rigorous routine may eventually feel like too much to deal with, which in return make you feel defeated.” Understand that you’re probably not going to be as fit as you were, and that’s OK. You can start with just 10 minutes a day, the goal is just to get moving more. “People have a tendency to overdo it initially, and they end up because the body is not prepared for the extra activity,” says Wu. “Low-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, she says, as long as you’re not losing form.
2. And 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,” says Sikorski. As you get comfortable, try to work your way up to four 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,” says Sikorski.
3. Make sure your workouts include three key components.
When you’re getting back into fitness, your exercise plan should include components of cardiovascular endurance, resistance training, and flexibility, says Sikorski. “Combined, all three components will give you the most longevity with your goals,” she says. And always remember to go at your own pace and listen to your body. Here’s what a perfect week of working out looks like.
4. Don’t forget to take those rest days!
Another reason not to jump into a six-days-a-week workout routine: Recovery is part of being active. “When you take a day off, your body isn’t. It’s actually working very hard to repair and replenish itself after all the work you put it through,” says Sikorski. “Rest days are key to long-term wellness. This is a lifestyle you’re creating now, so be realistic about your frequency,” she adds.
5. Start your workout with a good warm-up and end with a good cool-down. Matt Dutile / Getty Images
February 11, 2016
Written by Jesse Irizarry
Almost all of us have gone through it. Training is going great and we’re the strongest and in the best shape we’ve ever been. Then life happens. Professional or personal obligations begin to take precedence over training. Without realizing, it’s been months since we’ve trained hard and consistently. Suddenly a training session that was routine a few months earlier kicks our ass. .
When we finally return to a consistent training schedule, we very mistakenly believe that we were able to sustain the level of strength and fitness with our sporadic training schedule and quickly get discouraged when we find the opposite is true. But still we plow ahead, banging ourselves up until we get hurt or completely regress. Sometimes returning after training
Even if we pretend like it’ll never happen to us, at some point career or family will distract us completely from our training. But instead of jumping back in it and using the same intensities and volumes we were working with before the break, you need to have a plan on how to build the strength and fitness you lost back. So here are some guidelines to help you evaluate yourself, guidelines to keep you safe, and a plan to build yourself back in a much more effective and practical way from either a long hiatus or from just a week of missed training sessions.
Lower The Volume More Than You Think Necessary
First we’ll tackle how to handle training after an extended period off. After returning from some time off, sometimes you can feel just as strong as before. You may think you can exhibit the same levels of strength with the same volume, and maybe you can. But that doesn’t mean you should. Just because you feel strong doesn’t mean you’re body is prepared to handle the same workloads. Your body, the musculature and connective tissues, are de-conditioned. It’s not used to handling the same stress of those kinds of loads with the same frequency you were just a few months earlier. You need to admit this to yourself.
Anytime, as a college strength coach, I had an individual athlete returning from an injury or personal time off, I’d tell them to do half the volume of work I had planned for the rest of the team.
You haven’t been practicing the skill of lifting weights and you most likely will have less than optimal movement patterns initially, despite your extensive background. The deficiency in technique will put more stress on the working musculature and connective tissue especially as you try to work with the heavier loads that were once routine for you. The more unnecessary fatigue and stress you put yourself through, the great chance of an overuse or acute injury soon after returning to training.
Try this instead: Consider how much total volume you feel you should start with and then cut it in half. Even if you choose to use the same weights you were using before your break, outline a plan on how you’re going to progressively increase volume from this starting point. Write this down before you begin training so you’re not winging it each week. You may think you’re increasing volume by the same amount each week but we’re all very good at lying to ourselves and without this concrete plan in place we’ll probably over or underestimate what we’re actually doing.
Keep To Submaximal Training
Forget about what training style you prefer or what methods you believe are best for training. You’re rebuilding and the safest and most effective way to increase strength potential and prepare yourself to hit maximal weights is through increasing workload with submaximal weights.
Just find an adequate program within those guidelines and do it, there’s definitely enough of them out there. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 method is great to start after a long time away from training. But if you choose to program for yourself, take Wendler’s advice of only using the minimum dose of volume needed to affect change and focus on quality sets and reps with submaximal weights. Too much too soon is what you’re trying to avoid.
Not only is a good idea to plan for your work sets to include lower loads, but basing your percentages and goal weights off of 90% of what you think you’re capable of doing in the main lifts is a sure way not to overestimate yourself. If you’ve lost weight, consider dropping that to 85%.
You may feel like the weights are too light but that’s ok. Just focus on the practice and refinement of the movements. By delaying yourself from hitting your top weights, you can increase work capacity and build greater levels of strength potential that can help push you to new levels of strength once you remove the greater volumes that you’re first working to.
Gauge Your Training With a Simple Scale
Even with a solid plan in place, you may hit some snags in your training. Even with the guideline, you may have planned for more volume than you can recover from with your current fitness.
Rather than pushing through and possibly risking setbacks and injuries that could force more time off, record how you feel after each training session and week. You can use a simple 1-5 rating scale. Record a 1-2 rating if training was easy and you felt as if you could have done more than three extra reps than what was planned on every main lift. Record a 3-4 rating if the work was more challenging but still doable and you felt as if you could have done one to three more reps on every set of every main lift without pissing blood. Finally, record a 5 rating if you felt like you were pushing max weights when you were supposed when you had lower loads prescribed.
At the end of the week, look over your training log and the scores of each day. If you’re hitting 5s on a daily basis you may have overestimated how much strength and fitness you really had starting out and need to adjust your volume and intensity accordingly. But if you’re consistently at a 1-2 rating than you’re in the clear to increase the volume and/or intensity within reason.
Recover Like It’s Your Job
Pretend like it’s the first time you fell in love with lifting during this rebuilding period. Just like you did then, take every measure to eliminate distractions and do all the mundane tasks needed to improve. Eat more frequently and eat better. Focus on picking the quality whole foods you know you need to recover and grow. Do everything you can to get enough sleep. Consistently getting eight hours of sleep will help you build back muscle and strength more than almost anything else.
Take some extra TLC during the first couple of weeks back. Block out some time later in the day after your training session for some SMR and mobility. Your body will get stiff and sore pretty fast and if you haven’t lost much strength you’ll be producing forces with tissues that aren’t very pliable anymore. You need to address this as soon as possible to make sure you don’t injure yourself or throw your mechanics off.
Pick a problem area, some particular area of soft tissue or capsular restriction, and address it every day with some form of SMR. Schedule it into your day like it was your second training session.
Increase General Strength and Fitness Qualities First
Even if you you’re an advanced lifter, any length of time off will reduce the level of specificity you need to become stronger in your preferred group of lifts. You probably don’t need to start with an intensive four time a week squat progression, even if you are a competitive powerlifter. In fact, a specialized training cycle with no room for accessory exercises or general work capacity drills can hurt more than help a lifter returning from time off.
Be safe and smart and instead focus on developing general strength and fitness qualities. Pull sleds and push prowlers. No need to plan anything too complex or intense, just a few sets of Famers walks for twenty yards at the end of training will do fine.
Remember that tissues need to be conditioned for the work load you want to sustain and lower stress activities that not only make you stronger but condition connective tissues, build muscle, and increase aerobic capacity like these do just that. With dedicated time towards these activities, you can improve general fitness specific to your goal of building size and strength so you can support the demands of specialized strength training. You don’t need to run the NYC marathon, just pick up some heavy shit and walk a little before you head to the chinese super buffet.
Learn How To Easily Come Back From A Week Off of Training
While all these tips are great to keep in mind, a lifter who’s only taken a week off from training doesn’t need to overhaul their entire program. But many people are even more confused on how to pick up again after missing only a week of training.
I’ve heard some pretty complicated ideas on how to reduce total volume or intensity based on how many days you’ve missed from some strength coaches but I’ve never seen them work for real people. After coaching my share of athletes and lifters, I found that if you tell them to repeat the previous week of training (assuming it’s a fairly linear progression) they can progress through the rest of their training cycle without a hiccup.
So if they complete week three of an eight week training cycle and they missed week four, I would have them repeat week three again before moving through the remaining weeks of training. If they missed two weeks I would send them back two weeks in their training cycle.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t go from sitting in a cubicle for a week at work to squatting five sets of five reps without a day to restore range of motion and function. Spend a day doing some mobility drills before you begin training again.
Remember You’re In This For the Long Haul, Again
Just as when you begin training, training needs to be focused on building general strength safely during the acclimation period after time off. If you ignore this and jump back into highly specific training, you may be able to reach your former working weights sooner but it will probably be at a cost. Even if it takes longer, build the base wider again so that you can build yourself up again higher than before.
7 Tips to Get Back Into Exercise After a Break
Make sure your goal fits the SMART criteria:
- Specific: It’s not enough to say you want to “get fit;” you need to be specific. Choose a specific goal that will get you to your overall goal. For example, training for a half-marathon or triathlon.
- Measurable: Once you identify your specific goal, make sure you’re able to measure your progress. After all, if you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing, Campbell says. If your goal is to run a half-marathon, gauge progress by hitting certain benchmarks throughout your training regimen. Trying to lose weight? Track progress by weighing yourself periodically and/or having body composition measurements taken.
- Attainable: “People set lofty goals but then get discouraged when they can’t attain it, and then they fall off again,” Campbell explains. Whatever your goal, you should feel 90–100% confident you can attain it. If you’re not confident, consider breaking your goal into a smaller goal. For example, instead of aiming to lose 20 pounds in a month, try for eight.
- Relevant: Make sure your goal is consistent with your interests, needs and abilities. If you can’t stand running, for example, training for a marathon may not be the best fit for you.
- Time-bound: Goals like “lose weight” or “get fit” are vague and have no end dates attached to them. Decide when you hope to achieve your goal by and fill in your timeline with milestones you need to hit to keep you on track.
So long as you’re feeling strong and recovered from your training, you can progress every two weeks by increasing sets, reps or weight or decreasing your rest between sets, Campbell says.
This progression principle also applies to cardio workouts. If your treadmill or elliptical session begins to feel easy, bump up the intensity by 10%. You could increase speed or resistance, decrease rest or even add another weekly cardio session.
“Developing physical fitness is in the consistency, and that comes with time,” Campbell says. “People try to speed through, which leads to pain and injury. And then you’re back off the horse.”
WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF
Don’t get down on yourself if your friend can bang out more pushups than you. Or your personal trainer has the six-pack of your dreams. “Their journey is different than yours,” Aguiar says. “When we exercise, we are asking our biology to adapt, and if Darwin taught us anything, it’s that biological adaptations take time.” So, don’t let other people make you feel insecure. Instead, focus on your own goals and abilities. Continue taking consistent steps toward your goals and simply enjoy the journey she adds.
STAY ACTIVE EVEN ON YOUR DAYS OFF
Muscle soreness is normal — even expected — when restarting a fitness routine. But while you may be tempted to use post-workout soreness as an excuse to catch up on Netflix, you’ll be more ready to tackle your next workout if you do a little exercise on your day off. “It doesn’t have to be intense; just doing basic movements will speed up your recovery,” Callaway says. Not to mention, staying active on your recovery days helps maintain consistency with your new exercise habit. Take your pup to the park, do a few yoga flows or stroll around your neighborhood. “Just don’t be sedentary,” Callaway says.
READ MORE > 7 TINY TWEAKS TO CUT CALORIES ALL YEAR LONG
LEAVE A FEW REPS IN THE TANK
When you jump back into your strength-training routine, resist the urge to lift to your full potential. Instead, stop a few reps short — at least, in the beginning. “It generally keeps you feeling fresher,” Callaway says, “that way, you might not be so sore afterwards, and you’ll be able to maintain consistency.” So, if you can typically lift a weight for 12 reps, stop at 9 or 10, and see how you feel the next day. If you’re recovering well and feeling ready for more, bump it up to your usual rep range for your next workout. Just keep in mind that you should always leave one or two reps in the tank, no matter your fitness level.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
You’ll inevitably have days when your planned workout is either unmanageable or unappealing. On these days, you may be tempted to sit on the couch, but it’s always better to do something than nothing — especially when you’re trying to rebuild an exercise habit. “So long as you come in and do something, you’re moving in the right direction,” Campbell says.
Keep a list of possible alternative workouts on your phone so you’ll never be unprepared. You could perform a watered-down version of your planned workout or do something entirely different. Go for a bike ride, swim laps at the community pool or play Ultimate Frisbee with friends.
BE ACCOUNTABLE TO SOMEONE
Often, we need to be accountable to someone (or something) other than ourselves to show up for that dreaded first (or second or third) workout. Increase your odds of success by enlisting help. “No one ever said that fitness had to be a solo journey,” Aguiar says.
Hire a trainer (distance or in-person), book a spot at an expensive boutique studio, join an online fitness challenge or set a weekly run date with a friend. Sometimes, you don’t even need another person to hold you accountable, Campbell says. For some people, logging their workouts and meals in MyFitnessPal is enough to keep them coming back day after day.