If you’ve been away from your exercise routine for a long time and want to return to form, you might be tempted to pick up where you left off. But you could end up hurting yourself or getting so sore that you vow to never step foot in the gym again. Here’s how you can be smart about your triumphant return.
Image by W_Minshull.
We have written before about how taking some planned time off from the gym can actually help your progress, but a sudden onset of the motivational blues, an injury, or just life in general is a whole other pickle. Any of these things can sideline you for weeks (or maybe even months), but when you finally get back to your workout routine, you might be unsure about your starting (restarting?) point or maybe even feel a little nervous.
Hey, that’s totally normal, and it will take some time to get things going again. You will have to lower your expectations because there’ll be a little “rustiness,” no doubt. By not having such high self-imposed demands of yourself, you may be less inclined to feel frustrated and just give up, too. So be ready to have patience!
In your first few weeks back, Lyle McDonald of BodyRecomposition suggests:
…it never hurts to start more slowly and build back up gradually unless you are under some weird time pressure to get back into shape fast.
This gives the body time to re-adapt to training; connective tissues need to restrengthen, work capacity [the ability to perform work] needs to be rebuilt, etc.
Furthermore, he offers a few sage points for returning after a workout “layoff” (whether your break was for injury or non-injury reasons):
- Train like you would as a beginner, although rest assured that your progress will be much faster.
- Keep intensity low (like 50-60% of your perceived ability). You can gradually move up as long as you’re not getting overly sore. Don’t go heavy so fast.
- Don’t do too much, especially in the first week. Pick a few exercises (ideally, complex movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses) and do a single set per exercise in the first workout.
- If returning from an injury, Lyle recommends doing only one set of a single exercise that (painlessly) recruits the rehabilitating muscle. For example, if your shoulder was hurt, you do only one set of bench press, for example. The next time try a shoulder press for one set and assess how you feel. This way you know which exercise (and how much of it) may or may not aggravate the injury.
Head on over to Lyle’s post below for further details on his recommendations, and remember: even regaining fitness is a marathon, not a sprint!
Returning to Training After a Layoff[BodyRecomposition]
Lifehacker’s Vitals column offers health and fitness advice based on solid research and real-world experience.