Going back to the gym - How to have a successful return
Figuring out how to ease back into the gym after a long break can be challenging, especially if you haven’t been able to keep up your regular routine. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed at the thought of it, and it can be daunting to get yourself back into the headspace of working out with so much uncertainty and lack of ability to schedule ahead.
To make the transition a little easier, we have outlined some simple strategies and easy workout routines that you can use to help you get back into the gym, and doing so safely:
Set realistic goals:
- It’s perfectly normal to have lost some strength, endurance, and muscle mass throughout a period of rest. Your muscles, while being pushed through body or resistance, will not experience the same tension as the weights you use in the gym. Having a few months or even weeks off doesn't mean your hard-earned results are completely lost though. Muscle memory, like riding a bike, means your brain structure and function allow you to remember the skills you’ve previously performed multiple times, reaching the same level of mass quicker than if you were a complete beginner. This doesn’t mean you can immediately lift or push the same weights/distance, so start off easy and set higher targets over the coming weeks.
Revise the basics:
- As well as going easy on yourself with the amount you’re doing on your first few trips back to the gym, you’ll also want to think about the type of workout you will be doing. A priority when stepping back is to revisit the basic movements as if you were a beginner. You’ll want to establish a strong foundation and build sustainable momentum, which is where incorporating easy workout routines is the best way to go, such as:
- Compound movements (e.g squats, deadlifts)
- Light cardio
Whole-body, compound movements that recruit the most muscle groups will get them all working again and reduce the risk of over stressing particular muscle groups and causing injury. While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to get a lot done in a short amount of time, beginning with some easier cardio may be wiser after a long break to prevent a quick burnout.
Make it work for you:
- While getting into a daily/weekly gym routine may be what works best for some, for others it isn’t something that is manageable or desirable to do all the time. Many people have taken up exercises at home or outdoors, with even some gym equipment of their own. So some people may find mixing between the two is better for their routine, such as running or cycling home after the gym, splitting weighted workouts with home resistance ones or doing yoga classes over video!
- When doing any type of workout, having the right and quality kit to perform it in is essential, you don’t want to worry about anything other than the challenge you are setting yourself ahead. Making sure you have fitted, lightweight and airy clothing will ensure you are performing at your best and move without restriction. Besides the physical benefits of wearing gymwear, wearing clothing that makes you feel and look your best will motivate you even more to actually do it!
Beyond the exercise itself, there are other ways you need to prepare to ensure you’re at your best for a successful return to the gym:
- Get enough sleep - We all know regular and good quality sleep is essential not only before but after the gym so that your body can build and grow stronger. Make sure you get between at least 8 hours a night, especially when getting back into the gym.
- Keep a healthy diet - Food, the building blocks of getting in shape. What you eat is just as important as going to the gym, they fuel you throughout and allow you to progress week after week. To make healthy eating easier, try to meal prep or incorporate more whole foods into your diet.
- Reduce stress - While understandably stress levels may be higher than usual, it’s always a good idea to try and manage stress levels as best you can for a healthier body and mind. If you’ve never tried it before, yoga and mediation are great aids for managing this.
While for some the process of going back to the gym may be an easy and exciting one, for others it can be overwhelming, so finding a balance and preparing yourself in advance will make this a little easier to manage. The key thing to remember is to go at your own pace and take your first step back through the doors slowly, doing things that are easy and enjoyable for you.