Breaks are fun and sometimes important, but they carry an inherent problem. When you are going going going, you have momentum moving you towards a goal. You have a solid exercise habit established. When you take a break, that momentum stops. This is very true when it comes to fitness. So how do you get back to exercising again?
Much like an engine that had an oil change with molasses, it can be hard to get moving again. Your sore muscles and tired body will relish the time you spent on the couch and demand more of it from you.
Not only that, but your body often never feels better than when taking a break from a grueling exercise routine. Doing nothing gives your muscles the satisfaction of experiencing relief. That’s often why you feel like you just took a hit of morphine when you just finished a hard workout. Not only that, but on a break your body looks tight and healthy and sexy and you just want to enjoy it by going to the beach or something.
Inevitably, this all ends, and the time comes to get back to it. Many of us find our motivation gone or lacking when it comes to exercising again. Restarting an exercise habit is hard, so I want to give you some tips on getting your butt moving again after it’s been planted for a good while.
When You Start Exercising Again, Don’t Rush it!
A lot of people love to jump back into exercise like it’s a swimming pool full of marmite. This is a great way to burn out.
Just like beginners to exercise shouldn’t start by trying to run 30 miles every day, someone who wants to start exercising again should not try go crazy. This is especially true if you’re finding your motivation lacking or if you can barely remember having an exercise habit.
Don’t immediately try to get right back into doing 300 pull ups, 500 kettlebell swings, and then go swim 10 laps. Start at around half of what your most intense workout load was when you were training.
The idea is to just get moving. Any amount of intensity you were putting into your training will gradually come back if you just start moving around. The idea is not to stay at this lower intensity for long, but to build momentum to get you back up and running again.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Can’t squat as much as you used to be able to, run as far as you once could, or lift as many chicks in the air with one arm?
This is normal. When you take a break and come back after a while, expect some performance decline. Your body has been resting. Muscles begin to atrophy within a week of disuse. But thankfully there is more to muscle than just meat.
Neurons connect to muscle at points call motor units. The more you use a muscle, the more motor units are established. These will also degrade with disuse, but if you haven’t taken too long of a break, you can expect that these connections will still be in place when you get back at it.
This means that when you start exercising again you can regain your strength or speed much more quickly than the first time. If you don’t use it you lose it, but it is a gradual process.
It also get’s back to my last point about not rushing it. A lot of people beat themselves up for losing a little bit of progress and then try to kill themselves with an insane workout. This leads to having to take more time off to recover, exacerbating the problem.
So, please, go easy on yourself when you start exercising once again. Again, make it a gradual incline in intensity.
Re-establish the Habit
I’m the habits guy, remember? If habits were a line of Big Macs on a table then you could call me Fat Albert. When you start exercising, you’re establishing a habit. Your brain gets used to it. Having an exercise habit becomes part of your daily routine.
When you fall out of working out or take a break, that habit is still there, but it isn’t as strong as it used to be. Much like we just talked about with muscles, it will be easier to re-establish the habit of exercising again than it was the first time.
Focus on rebuilding the habit first. This, again, is especially true if you feel like you have no motivation to workout. Start by picking a time and show up. Even if you do five minutes of flailing your arms around like one of those inflatable tube men outside of shady car dealerships, at least show up.
Once you establish a consistent pattern, your body will get in the groove and your mind will get on board. It will become easier and easier and before you know it you’ll be back into your regular exercise habit.
But What if it’s Been Like… A REALLY LONG Time?
Ok, I get it. You haven’t worked out since the 1st grade or something, right? Or maybe it’s just been several years. You used to be active back in your college days and then life kicked you in the balls or ovaries and you just didn’t have time.
Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Set a specific time to workout each day. It should be a time that is easy for you to set aside for this purpose.
- Decide what type of exercise you’ll do. If you need help, check out my previous post on how to choose a type of exercise that might be right for you based on your body type.
- Consider hiring some help. A little guidance isn’t a bad thing. I’m all about promoting how simple fitness is and how it can be a life-long habit, but occasionally you need a little help to get going.
- Do exercise that you get some enjoyment out of doing. For some people, this can be hard. But I have a theory that anyone can find at least SOME kind of exercise they enjoy. If you’re forcing yourself to do things you hate, you’ll give up real fast.
- Clean up your diet. Exercise habits are hard to maintain when you’re not fueling yourself properly. Cut out the junk as much as you can and aim for simple, whole foods.
- It’s good to take breaks every now and then, but when you want to start exercising again you may find yourself beating your head against a wall.
- Don’t rush back into going full out. Generally shocking your system doesn’t work as well as gradually returning to activity.
- If you find yourself in not as good of shape as when you last worked out, this is totally normal. Don’t whine or bitch about it, just get after it and you’ll be back to where you were in no time.
- Take a psychological approach restarting your exercise habit and getting back to exercising again. Start by showing up and the rest will fall into place.
- If it’s been a while, make sure to be specific about what you want to do, get some professional help if you need it, and eat better.