The Long Road Back: How To Ease Into Training Again
“Before the lockdown, I was working out regularly and my strength was the highest it’s ever been. Once my gym closed down, I lost all motivation to work out. I feel ready to get back into it, but want to make sure I don’t injure myself in the process. What are some ways I can safely get back into training without popping a hamstring on the first day?”
— Tim in NY
Answer By SJ McShane, CPT
Your question comes at a perfect time, as many people are in the same boat as you are. The good news is, with the proper training tips, you will be back at it before you know it. First…
The first workout after taking time off can cause serious discouragement – If you’re not mentally prepared, that is. This is where managing your expectations can fight off negative feelings that can come with returning to working out, and prevent you from giving up.
During your first workout, you may feel weaker, winded, and more depleted than you remember when you used to do the same things, and that’s ok. It’s actually good; it means you’re back to conditioning your body to become stronger and healthier; don’t let your mind tell you otherwise, and don’t give up.
Just know that at first, you won’t be lifting as heavy as you once did, your lungs won’t have the power they once did; but soon they will.
Mentally preparing yourself that you may not feel like Superman on the first day is the goal, and know if you stick to it, you will be where you want to be; one workout at a time, and sooner than you think!
After spending an extended period away from training, it’s tempting to want to jump right back into your old routine. But at first, your goals need to consist of shorter workouts, lighter weights, and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your training sessions. In doing this, you will be steering clear of possible injuries, while slowly conditioning your body to operate at its best.
An example of this would be:
Cutting your normal workout time, dumbbell weight, and intensity level in half. Probably not the news you want to hear, but a fantastic way to ease back into training while warding off any setback’s injuries can bring.
As time goes on and your strength grows, slowly increase the load and workout intensity as you did in the past.
TAKE MORE REST (AT FIRST)
They say rest days are just as important as training days and it’s true, but when starting any exercise program, allowing for an extra rest day (or two) per week will allow your newly-worked muscles to recover better. Proper recovery equals faster gains and more results.
Let’s say you start on a Monday, take Tuesday off, listen to your body, and if you feel well, return to training on Wednesday. Or, you can work out 3 times per week (max) OR add in more training days, but make them recovery/stretching/mobility/foam roller Days.
EMPHASIZE WARM-UPS AND COOL-DOWNS
Warm-ups and cool-downs are the most neglected part of a workout but are imperative for exercise safety, especially if you are returning to the game after a long time off.
Regardless of what condition you’re in your warm-up should be at least 5 minutes. According to ACE Fitness, a solid warm-up should be 5 to 10 minutes.
Performing light cardiovascular exercises to get your heart rate up slightly while warming your major muscle is key. This will allow your muscles to have the proper blood flow they need to work accordingly and fight off injuries.
Now that you’re armed with all you need to successfully get back to training safely – be proud of yourself for taking the next step in getting back into your fitness journey!
SJ McShane is a trainer, nutritionist, and Senior Writer for Robert Irvine Magazine. Follow her on TWITTER and visit her WEBSITE.