Get Back On That Horse!

I’m sure you’ve all heard the sage old advice that if you fall off a horse, you must get right back on – both for your own confidence and to show the horse who’s boss. Well same goes for getting back into the gym after a prolonged illness.


It’s cold and flu season and many of us, myself included, have succumbed to the creepy-cruds of never ending phlegm, constant coughing, and sapped energy rendering us weak as a newborn. While in the clutches of these annual viruses and their aftermath, it’s hard to image ever having enough energy and strength to get back to the workouts. This is when the line between those truly committed and the quitters is drawn.

Every January the gyms are crowded with new members and their fresh intentions to get into shape. Every March the gyms are back to 60% occupancy as those new members lose their motivation, often because of a winter illness that interrupts their new routines and dulls their mind set back into the complacency of being sedentary and eating out of boredom or emotional response.


For those of us who have embraced the priority of exercise, it’s still difficult to get back into the swing of things after being sick, but we usually manage it within a few weeks. But those of you who were reluctant to exercise to begin with, it’s really hard to get the “mojo” back and push yourself again.

For those of you who can relate to this, I offer up a few tips to renewing your motivation and getting your butt back into exercise:

Start Slow.


Sounds like obvious advice but it’s very common that after an illness many individuals try to resume exercise with the same energy intensity (or speed) that they had prior to being sick. The disappointment at finding that your energy is just not there, or worse yet, that you have a set back, is so discouraging to many, that they simply stop trying again.

You’ve got to be patient, but know this, your stamina and muscle memory will return faster than you think, especially if you take the first week at half your usual intensity. Stretching is also very important as your muscles have been relatively inactive during your illness. Even I have to follow this. My brain says get back in their and do your normal routine. But I know from experience that I will get half way through and be weak and tired. I do half the amount of sets as I’m used to and work with lighter weights. But by week 2 or 3 I’m back to full speed again, and I’ve suffered no set backs.

Nutrition & Hydration.


Head colds and flus often leave us with dulled tastebuds and a lack of appetite. Antibiotics dry us out, and phlegm (mucus) is thicker when you are dehydrated. Coughing burns more calories than you can even imagine. Therefore, it is crucial that when resuming a workout, you make certain to have ingested enough calories, and in particular clean and complex carbs (yes carbs) to get you through even an half-speed workout. Water will flush the toxins, plump back up the muscles and get the blood moving to said muscles. All of this is essential to getting your stamina back up to full.

Stay Stable.


When resuming exercise after an illness, your equilibrium and core strength may be taxed. Therefore, alter your exercises to be seated or use machines vs. free weights, just for the first week or two until you know that any residual light headedness or muscle weaknesses are overcome. No one needs to fall down in the gym on their first week back, right?

Refresh your Motivation.


Remind yourself why you are working out – is there a clothing goal, a vacation goal, a reduction of high-blood pressure medicine need, etc? With your motivation firmly renewed your brain will help push you past those small moments of perceived exhaustion when you think about quitting.

* * * * *

If you have any tricks you follow that you’d like to share with me and my readers, please do. Good luck, and persevere!


  1. Julie Zimmer

    I’ve been doing regular exercise for many years and the benefits have been excellent, so yes, during a set back, I look back to what exercise has given me all these years and it is by looking back that I can get back (gradually) into it. The push to keep it up is psychological and the benefits of exercise are holistic!

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