Coming Back to Fitness After a Break
If you have had an injury that has kept you from exercising, or even if you just took a short break that ended up being a much longer break, it can be difficult and to try to get back into a fitness routine that works for you. You want to be just as fit as you were before, but the frustration of having to “start over” can make you not want to start at all, or overdo it when you do finally get back out there.
First of all, you’re not really starting over. Even though your fitness level will have gone down a lot during any significant break from exercise, it hasn’t gone away completely. It will be much easier for your body to regain your endurance than it would be for someone who is just starting down the road to fitness for the first time. You might be discouraged with the results on your first day back, maybe feeling like you’ve lost your groove, but don’t give up — it will get easier, and you will get back into your old routine sooner than you think.
Especially in the first couple of weeks, extra time to warm up is important. If you haven’t been in the daily habit of strenuous activity for a while, it can be a shock to your system if you don’t ease into it. Skimping on things like stretching can make exercise less efficient, less comfortable, and make you more prone to injury. It may seem like a hassle to take that extra ten minutes every single day to make sure you’re thoroughly stretched and warmed up, but when it improves your performance and enjoyment of working out, it’s more than worth it.
If you are coming back from an injury, it is important to take that into account. Unless your doctor has advised you that you will never feel any weakness in that area after healing, be careful about pushing it too hard, and don’t start until you’ve gotten the all-clear from your doctor. The last thing you want is to injure yourself again. Even if you think you’re completely fine, test yourself at about half your normal exertion first, just to get a feel for how well you can handle movement and pressure. If all goes well, gradually ramp up the intensity, but don’t take it too fast. If at any point you feel any twinges of pain where your injury was, stop and consult your doctor before continuing. You may not be quite ready for a regular exercise plan yet. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and ignoring those signals can lead to re-injury.
If there is no injury or any other legitimate reason to keep from exercising, often the greatest hurdle of fitness is getting off the sofa. Inertia is a powerful force. You may be talking yourself out of exercising, convincing yourself that there’s no point because it would take “forever” to get back to the way you were before. The reality is that it should only take a few months at most for you to get your fitness back, but even if it took a year, that’s no reason not to start. Think of it this way: that year will pass whether you exercise or not. So a year from now, would you rather be fit, or would you rather still be sitting on the sofa moaning about how it’s going to take too long to get fit?
Slow and steady wins the race, so if you’re coming back to exercise after a break, don’t push yourself to get right back up to your old fitness level too soon. “Little and often” is a good way to start; getting out for moderate exercise twenty minutes everyday is better than mammoth sessions with many days between, and daily exercise can help with the psychological aspects of forming a good habit. If you’ve been putting off starting, there’s no time like the present! The sooner you get moving, the easier it will be.