When you’ve been neglecting your regular fitness routine, sometimes the idea of that first workout is worse than the workout itself. Here’s how to motivate and ease yourself back in, and why you might have fallen off in the first place.
If you’ve been recovering from baby’s birth, away on a long vacation, or even injured for a while, you might be wondering how to get yourself started again. In fact, you might be spending lots more time wondering than you are actually exercising. Thinking, worrying, and feeling bad about your time off doesn’t get you anywhere. Beating yourself up just delays you from taking action.
It helps your brain out of its funk to begin putting your plans into writing, and to start using positive self-talk about your new routine. After all, we only fall off the wagon if it isn’t working for us. The problem is the wagon, therefore. Not you!
Leave the past behind and make today your new Day 1. Here are some strategies we always recommend to Belly Bootcamp clients after a hiatus.
ESTABLISH A GOAL.
When you’ve been inactive, it can be difficult to get the momentum up to return to regular exercise and you may find yourself unmotivated because it’s harder, you’re more tired than usual and you feel less confident than you would had you been consistently exercising all along. You might be amazed how motivated you can instantly become by committing to a goal! Check out the Canada Running Series to find an upcoming 5K or 10K walk or run, or have a fitness assessment done by a personal trainer and schedule a monthly follow-up. Your personal trainer should help you set healthy, realistic goals based on the results of your original assessment. Remember, not all goals should be weight based! Choose a performance goal and your muscles and confidence will soar.
GET TO THE HEART OF THINGS.
Muscular strength is mostly retained (up to several months) after you become inactive; however, cardiovascular capacity begins to deteriorate virtually with the first missed workout. That’s why you can still lift your toddler overhead but the stairs to the subway seem to be a mile long after a couple of weeks off. Strict bed rest, postpartum recovery, and severe illness or injury will cause greater levels of “detraining” than merely falling off the wagon, taking a lazy vacation or catching cold for a week or two. Three cardiovascular workouts per week are required just to maintain cardiovascular capacity; you should take it up to 4-5 cardiovascular workouts of at least 20-30 minutes in the first couple of weeks back. Remember, cardio can be as simple as walking — whether outdoors or on the treadmill — or a combination of bodyweight interval training at home! The more muscles you’re moving, the more your cardiovascular system is working.
START A NEW PROGRAM.
There’s nothing more discouraging than returning to your regular workouts to realize just how out of shape you’ve become. Instead, begin a new program. We expect to struggle a bit with new exercises or routines and to have sore muscles and fatigue in the day or two after a new workout. You’ll be more interested in mastering a new routine than you would be in “retraining” yourself to get back to the same level you were at before your break. Aim for 2-3 full-body strength training workouts per week, and remember that you don’t need an hour in the gym to get an effective workout. Consistency is key, even if all you’ve got is 10 or 20 minutes.
STRETCH IT OUT.
It’s going to hurt. Laying in bed, laying on the couch, or laying on a beach chair in the tropics, you’re probably not working your muscles strenuously or with a variety of movements. Lift tea, drink tea, lift tea, drink tea does not a workout make. Be sure to stretch your chest, back, legs and hips after your workouts. Have a comfortable, hot bath or shower (or a sauna, if you have access to one) for 10-15 minutes after your workouts or in the evenings. And resist the urge to sit around during your non-workout time. Walk, do housework, and stand when you can to help your muscles align and reduce the strain of inactivity. Even better, use those benefits and schedule a massage with a Registered Massage Therapist for some hands-on relief & advice.
Lastly, before you beat yourself up, remember that fitness is not a race. You’re not in competition with anyone else. Most importantly, sometimes other priorities (Hello, newborn baby!) have to take precedence. Getting started again can be a great way to take care of yourself. A break from exercise can be a great opportunity to revitalize your program and reset your goals.
But if you find yourself getting on and off “the wagon” on a regular basis, maybe it’s time to be more reasonable about your schedule. Try these top at-home workouts, all around 10-20 minutes, to get you kick-started! Aim for 10-30 minute workouts most days of the week, and try scheduling an exercise date or signing up for a class to get you out of your comfort zone at least once per week and accelerate your results.
After all, the best fitness program is the one you will stick with. If you haven’t found it yet, keep exploring!