No doubt you’ve all been there before. You’ve finally established a nice exercise routine that’s effective and enjoyable! Those exercise endorphins are your new chocolate. You’re feeling good about yourself and people are complimenting you on how healthy you look.
This is finally it! You’re never going to stop progressing this new fitter you!
Then, you stop. Maybe your trainer has moved on or the boot camp you love has shut down, and now you can’t find a replacement that you like. Maybe a busy work schedules to blame, or you started Christmas festivities just a little too early. Next thing you know you’re back in that old habit of making excuses and all your best shirts are “shrinking in the wash” again.
But don’t despair! Starting back (or just starting for that matter) can be one of the hardest and most daunting tasks in your whole fitness journey! But luckily I’ve worked my way back from “Taco Tuesdays” to “gym fit” many times, so I have a few tips to make it easier…
Leave your ego at home:
Here’s a common scenario (especially if your male). You walk into the gym telling yourself you’re going to take it easy, and then some clown rocks up next to you wearing his baseball cap (indoors, at 6 am). His headphones are cranked to a comfortable volume 11. He’s slamming his weights around like he owns the place before using the squat rack for his Instagram selfies.
You KNOW you can lift more than him, and damn it you WILL lift more than him! Next thing you know, thanks to your ego, you can barely walk the next day!
This issue has caused me injuries and disappointment many times. Going back into the gym environment after a hiatus and trying to start out where you left off, is a surefire way to set you back both physically and mentally. You might be surprised just how quick your fitness can seem to decline with inactivity.
It can be disappointing to know that you were stronger or faster before inhaling pavlova, and binging on reruns of Seinfeld for a lazy couple of months. But your best to swallow your pride and ease back into fitness like an old man into a hot bath.
The good news is your fitness will come back a lot quicker than it took to gain in the first place. And going so hard that you can’t sit on the toilet the next day isn’t going to help!
Don’t overdo it
This is similar to the last tip, but less about ego and more about over-enthusiasm.
It’s great that you’ve decided to get back into fitness. It will improve your quality of life and set you up to be a good role model for your friends and family. But if you go from not training for 6 months to training morning, lunch breaks, evening and weekends (don’t laugh, I’ve seen people do this!), you’re going to burn out fast!
Not to mention the frustration you feel when your physically and mentally broken, you feel weaker AND the scales are going up!
A sensible, well-planned return to your fitness plan is the smartest way to achieve your goals and to work out safely. Consistent, humble progression. Just think what small weekly gains can add up to in a year from now!
Remember, it takes days to melt metal in a forge, so don’t expect to carve out those glutes of steel overnight
Go to bed!
If you’ve been living it up with a sedentary lifestyle for a while where you’re idea of a cardio workout is doing your own grocery shopping, then your body will most likely require very little rest. You might’ve been staying up watching Netflix every night and bragging about how you only need 6 hours of sleep to feel refreshed the next morning. In reality, this is due to the fact that this kind of lifestyle means your body is doing far less than it’s designed to do (trouble getting to sleep anyone?).
Well those days are over! You must sacrifice some things if you want to get fitter, and less Netflix never hurt anyone. When you train your body will require more sleep to repair itself. If you start back at training and continue to stay up late, your fitness will suffer, as will your daily alertness and energy levels (and possibly hinder that potential job promotion).
Muscle and cardiovascular fitness are built when you’re resting. You need adequate rest time to let your muscles recover between workouts. If you don’t find some serious rest time, you’re simply going to stop due to injury or the simple fact that you can’t lift your arms enough to put a shirt on.
Aim to get 7.5 to 8.5 hours of quality sleep a night. This may require some weekend or day before prep (making lunches on the weekend for example).
A good rule of thumb is to aim to be in bed 9 hours before you have to get up with screens off, preferably reading from a non backlit device like a kindle or even a real life book.
Probably the most important point of all.
You don’t need the perfect plan, the perfect workout clothes or shoes, or an expensive gym membership. Just start today with something, go for a walk or jog this afternoon, or a bike ride. It doesn’t need to take hours, start with 10 or 20 minutes.
If you’re time poor but looking for a class, a HIIT class like Metafit only lasts around 20 minutes and burns a heap of calories.
No time tonight? Set your alarm for half an hour earlier tomorrow (and see tip 3). Set out your workout clothes, and get up and get out of the house before you have a chance to think twice about it.
These small changes don’t seem like much, but they will steamroll into healthier daily routines and diet choices.
Get a training partner.
Going to the gym or a fitness class can be intimidating, it’s full of seemingly super fit people who spent their Christmas break doing box jumps and bicep curls while us regular humans were lazing by the pool. Not to mention if it’s a new gym, or your new to training in general, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
A training partner can ease the stress of having to face this alone, plus they add a level of accountability that will help you stick to your training plan when you have an off day (or week). Even if you plan on training outside of a structured fitness environment (running, doing at home workouts etc.), having someone else there will help you to push yourself a lot harder.
Just make sure your training partner has the same goals as you, if your partner likes to stuff around and tell jokes the whole time then your probably better off without them!
Get a Personal Trainer:
Another option if you want to accelerate your progress, is a Personal Trainer.
Especially if you are going to a new gym and you don’t know the equipment or any people. Whilst they may seem expensive, you don’t need to have them forever.
I recommend making an initial commitment to a trainer for at least 6 weeks (this is around the time needed to create lasting habits), up to around 3 months. At this stage you can reassess your goals.
Tell the trainer up front what your goals are (get back into fitness, learn the gym environment and exercises to do alone etc.), and the time you plan on committing to. This helps the trainer create the most effective training plan, and avoids any awkwardness on your part when it comes time to end the contract.
If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share below!