From time to time most of us fall off our exercise routine. Whether its been an injury, being busy, stressed, on holiday or suffering from burnout, even the most dedicated fitness junkie has a dip in their physical activity. Trouble can be, most of us struggle to gain traction once we’re ready to return to our exercise routine.
So, what are some steps to make your transition back into fitness more manageable? Here are six expert-backed tips:
1. Start slowly
Start with three full-body strength sessions per week, taking at least one day to recover in between. Each workout should include exercises that focus on main movement patterns, go for: squats, hinge (hip raises from the floor or kettlebell swings), lunge, vertical press (e.g, shoulder press), horizontal push (e.g, press up), upper body pull (e.g, pullup) and a core stabilizing exercise (e.g, plank). Focusing on these exercises, you’ll improve your base strength and correct movement patterns.
So as long as you’re feeling recovered from your training, you can progress the exercises every two weeks by either increasing repetitions, weight or reducing your recovery time between sets.
2. Use a SMART goal
Get clear on what your fitness goal is and give yourself a time period in achieving that. Setting a goal will increase the odds of success. You can use a SMART goal to give yourself a clear plan.
See if 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 main goal. For example, training for a 10K and to complete it within ‘x’ time period.
- 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, if your goal is to run 10K, monitor your progress by hitting certain benchmarks throughout your training regime. Trying to lose weight? Track progress by weighing yourself periodically and/or having body composition measurements taken.
- Attainable: Some people tend to set over-ambitious or unrealistic goals and then get discouraged when they can’t attain it, and then fall off again. 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 10K 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
3. Enjoy it
Another reason people give up exercise in the first place is boredom. When choosing an activity to ease back into shape, choose one you enjoy and even look forward to. Varying your routine and alternating activities can also keep your workout session fresh and exciting.
4. Focus on You
Don’t get down on yourself if your friend can bang out more push ups than you. Or your personal trainer has the six-pack of your dreams. “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. You’ll get to where you want to be through hard work and consistency.
5. Stay active in between training days
Muscle soreness is normal, even expected – especially at the beginning. But while you may be tempted to use post-workout stiffness as an excuse to sit in front of the TV, you’ll be more likely to tackle your next workout if you do a little stretching or going for a long walk on your days off. It doesn’t have to be intense, just some basic movements or ‘loosening up’ will speed up your recovery. By not being sedentary will maintain a consistent exercise habit. Take the dog for a walk, take the stairs instead of the lift or take a yoga class, just keep your body used to moving consistently.
6. Keep yourself accountable
Often, we need to be accountable to someone (or something) other than ourselves to showing up regularly for that intense workout. Increase your odds of success by enlisting help. No one ever said that fitness had to be a solo journey.
Hire a trainer, join a group session, or set a weekly run date with a friend or colleague. Sometimes, you don’t even need another person to hold you accountable, or at first, start logging your workouts and tracking your food intake, that alone can be enough to keep someone motivated.