Getting back into the swing of things after falling out of—or taking a break from—your usual workout routine isn’t always easy.
Like anything else, building a new habit, even if it’s a habit you’ve subscribed to in the past, takes commitment and intent but can be even more of a challenge when it comes to physical fitness—especially if you’re not able to push it as hard as you could when you had already established your routine.
Whether you have taken off a couple of weeks or a couple of months from workout out regularly (hey, it happens!), getting back on the wagon can seem unnecessarily taxing—but it doesn’t have to be.
“One of the most important tips to remember is to start back slowly,” explains ACE certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Professional Amber Toole. “ Don’t return to working out at the same level you left! Start small!.”
Toole suggests always beginning with a warm-up to get your muscles ready for action. Then, spend about 15 minutes doing a light workout. End with a cool-down and some gentle stretches.
“The goal of your first couple of workouts should be to just get your body moving,” she explains. “Keep the intensity low!”
Set realistic goals
Sarah Pelc Graca, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer suggests setting an attainable goal, and making it a goal that is not comparable to the past when you were exercising regularly.
“Make it a specific and measurable goal so that you have a way to measure progress and to help keep you motivated,” she explains. “People are much more likely to stay motivated if the goal is specific versus an overarching ‘I want to be fit’ or ‘I want to get in shape.’”
Don’t compare yourself to your old self
While you may be used to running 5K or getting through an entire HIIT workout without taking a break, you’ll likely have to build up to the level you were at before your hiatus.
“Don’t compare yourself to your old self,” says Pelc Graca, “It’s so easy to do this but you have to stay focused on you right now. Getting caught in this comparison cycle can negatively impact your motivation and momentum!”
“Try to stay active even on your rest days,” suggests Pelc Graca. “Even on your days off focus on things that will help your body recover and feel good.”
Stretch while you’re in front of the TV, go out for a low impact walk—something to keep the blood moving and continue to transition the body back into feeling accustomed to movement.
Don’t shy away from an accountability buddy
“Don’t be afraid to be accountable to someone else,” says Pelc Graca. “Pick an accountability buddy that works for you and your lifestyle (i.e. a friend you go on walks with or a trainer/coach).”
Reason being, when you’re getting back into exercise after a break, accountability is a huge motivator. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help if you need it.
Don’t forget to fuel your body
“My biggest piece of advice is to fuel up more than you might have before your hiatus,” explains Certified Fitness Professional Brian Kiselstein. “Your body is going to be working overtime and you’ll need lots of fuel to keep you energized.”
Kiselstein suggests trying to eat foods that will positively impact you and maybe even taking an energy bar to nibble on during your workout.
“You’re going to feel out of sorts as it is and the last thing you want is to feel drained and lifeless,” he adds.