If you find that after a prolonged absence from working out (whether at the gym or your home) you have a really difficult time getting back into the groove of things – you are not alone. Whether because of illness, vacation, or hectic times sometimes we are unable to stay diligent and keep fitness a priority. Then when you’re finally ready to get back to it, your motivation, interest, energy and stamina are simply not there.
I recently had a very nasty cold that kept me from working out for 14 days – a torturous eternity to a fitness buff and trainer! My first day back I felt weak and easily winded. My mind screamed “stop resting Dane, you’re a professional, you can do this.” But then I reminded myself of what I know with certainty about the body and exercise: (1) muscle memory and stamina return faster than you might think; and (2) patience and pacing yourself, especially after an illness, is important to avoid relapse or injury.
So, if you find yourself in this position here are few tips that can help you push past the mound of reasons (both real and self-imposed) that keep you from resuming your fitness regiment, and once again heading towards your fitness goals (or maintaining them so you do not slip backwards).
Take it Slow – But Not Too Slow.
Believe me when I say the first week is the hardest. You’ll need to take it slow, but keep your eye on the goal and don’t let yourself wimp out. Within a week, your muscles will be less sore, and your strength and stamina will rapidly approach the levels they were before you stopped. Listen to your body, but don’t come up with excuses. If you need to do one less set the first few days, that’s ok, as long as you commit to completing all sets by the second week.
Start With A Fresh Routine.
Unless you had just started a new routine within a week of your absence, a new routine will help you refocus and the “freshness” will inspire and challenge you.
Stay Hydrated AND Eat Healthy Carbs.
When the body is recovering from an illness such as respiratory cold, you burn a lot of extra calories with all that nose blowing and coughing. You will also be much drier internally with all the mucus removal. So drink lots of water and I recommend even mixing protein powder in your gym bottle so that there’s a little more oomph to keep you going those first days back. (I actually bring a mix of OJ, water, and sugar-free protein powder to help me power through.) Make certain to eat a few extra healthy carbs (not processed foods) about an hour prior to your workout to keep you fueled up.
Warm Up and Cool Down.
After any extended absence you will likely experience significant muscle soreness in the days that follow your return to exercise. This is caused by inflammation, swelling and tenderness as the muscles heal. Therefore each day you should warm up your body with a bit of low-impact cardio (walking at an incline, biking, elliptical), then start your routine with lighter weights increasing as your sets go. At the end of your workout, spend a few minutes stretching any and all muscles worked.
Rome Was Not Built In a Day.
Lastly, remind yourself that there are no quick fixes, but as I’ve stated herein, you will return to your previous fitness condition very quickly if you follow the advise listed above. Revisit whatever motivation started you on this journey to begin with, i.e., swimsuit season, a wedding, lowering of your blood pressure, reduction of dangerous levels of body fat, etc. Then, as always, be patient and loving with yourself.