Guest Author - Terri Johansen
Are you ready to begin exercising again after a break? No matter how much you want to jump right back in you will be glad if you ease back slowly. The longer the break the harder it will to get back into your exercise routine. So if you are ready to start here are some tips to help you get started, slow and safe.
•Yes you fell off the exercise wagon but it’s time to face up to it and get moving again. Take a good hard look and recognize why you stopped exercising. Was it gradual, was it due to circumstances outside of your control, or did you just get tired?
•Stop beating yourself up and don’t let guilt keep you thinking negative thoughts. Determine how you are going to make exercise a priority and find a secure place for it within your life.
•Identify your goals for returning to the gym. Maybe you want to lose weight, have more energy, or are concerned about your long-term health. These are all motivational and can be used to your advantage. In order for motivation to help you must make the goal reasonable and attainable. Don’t expect to be able to run a marathon within a week.
•Your goal needs to be something that will keep you going even when it feels like you’re never going to get back into shape (which isn’t true). So consider it carefully and then find ways to inspire yourself into meeting the goal.
Make Your Plan
•Set a schedule for your workouts and put it on your calendar. You don’t want anything to interfere with your new resolve. By preparing a schedule you will be aware of upcoming events that may interrupt your workouts. If this is the case you can make alterations such as:
o Make your workout shorter.
o Break up the workout, doing some in the morning, throughout the day,
and in the evening.
o Change the workout. Be flexible, if cardio will work better today then
rearrange your schedule for this week.
o If all else fails take the day off, don’t feel guilty, and exercise
the next day.
•Gather your materials.
o Try keeping a workout journal. You can buy one, or make one using a
notebook or 3 ring binder.
o Evaluate your equipment. Are your walking/running shoes in good
shape? Do you need some equipment that will make it convenient for you
to work out at home?
o Bring together all ideas you have for exercise routines. You can use
these when it is time to develop your new workouts.
Why You Have To Ease Back Slowly
•Do not attempt to start exercising where you left off. You have lost approximately 50% of your cardio fitness if you haven’t worked out for 2-3 months. Your muscle strength has declined substantially, which began within 72 hours after you stopped.
•Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments have not been used for exercising in some time. Your muscles may have atrophied, your joints are stiff, and your range of motion is sticky. Pushing too hard too soon will cause muscle soreness after your workouts and you will also be setting yourself up for injury.
•If you start experiencing pain right from the start because of pushing yourself too hard then it is only a matter of time before you stop exercising. You will not look forward to working out if you are in pain.
•Pay special attention to your heart rate, energy level, muscle weakness, dehydration, and any remaining warning signs from a previous injury or sickness.
A Simple Training Plan
Here is the good news, your body will begin to acclimate itself within the first two to four weeks. You’ve done all your prep work and are ready to actually begin working out. Here are the guidelines to follow when you are easing back into exercising:
•The cardio portion of your routine should begin with sessions at a lower intensity than when you stopped. It’s best to start at a beginner’s pace to determine your baseline. It’s also good to increase the duration of your warm ups and cool downs.
•Once you have a guideline work with it gradually to increase the amount of time for each workout. Begin by adding 2 minutes to each session as you are able, until you reach your pre-break level.
•Another popular technique to recover cardio health is to mix up the workout by doing parts of it at a slow pace and adding in parts at a faster pace. For example walk for 5 minutes then jog for 5 minutes. Go back and forth, gradually increasing the jogging segments until your body adapts and you can return entirely to jogging or running.
•In the beginning of your strength training program you will not want to lift as much weight and do as many repetitions (reps) and sets as before. This is where the chance of injury is high so keep it simple. The following is recommended for the first 2-4 weeks of re-entry exercise.
•Start your program by lifting a light weight for 10-12 reps and one set to establish your baseline. Try doing this workout for a couple of sessions to see how your body reacts before you begin to pump it up.
•Using your baseline as a guide, begin to add weight, reps, and sets gradually. For instance, increase the weight you are lifting by approximately 20% and do 10-12 reps for 1- 2 sets. Rest for 30 seconds between sets. Once this becomes easy increase to 15 reps for 2 sets. Next you can increase the weight but lower the reps back down to 10-12 for 2 sets.
•Use this principle to continue increasing your weight, reps, and sets until you are back to your pre-break strength. This should occur at around 6 weeks.
Odds & Ends
•Try adding some complimentary exercises during your transition, such as yoga or Pilates.
•Schedule recovery days. I know you’re in a hurry and don’t want to take time off but it is vital for your health and safety.
•Always listen to your body. Your body is your best indicator if something is wrong. If you feel pain then back off or stop; if it doesn’t feel good don’t do it.
Good luck as you ease back slowly into your exercise routine. Remember patience is a virtue. Be happy, be healthy.
Always check with a medical professional before beginning or changing any exercise.
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