Updated: Oct 29, 2020
It's never too late (really).
If you've been hibernating all lockdown (and who could blame you?), the thought of getting back into a regular fitness routine can seem a bit daunting. And while there's no way around it—when you're not in the habit of working out, you lose progress—don't be deterred from sweating it out. Challenges can be a good thing!
There are some things to think about when you're easing back into a workout routine whether you've been taking a break for the past couple of weeks, months, or even years.
When it comes to getting adjusted and avoiding injury, here are 11 things to keep in mind as you kick-start that fitness grind.
1. Don't overdo it right away.
"Doing too much too soon can overwhelm you mentally,"
"And a rigorous routine may eventually feel like too much to deal with, which in return make you feel defeated." Understand that you're probably not going to be as fit as you were, and that's OK. You can start with just 25 minutes a day, the goal is just to get moving more. People have a tendency to overdo it initially, and they end up [with injuries] because the body is not prepared for the extra activity, Low-intensity workouts are a good way to reintroduce the body to activity, frequency, and duration. After a week or two, you can bump up the intensity, as long as you're not losing form.
2. Don't overdo it right away.
Do you only feel comfortable committing to one day a week initially? Great! Mark it on your calendar and stick with it. Don't feel like you have to immediately start logging five to six gym workouts per week. "You can't get to three to four days a week without mastering day one, so just start," says Pratik Katti. As you get comfortable, try to work your way up to four days a week. "The body responds to consistency over time, so your results will come much faster if you can keep a regular pattern and frequency," says Pratik.
3. Make sure your workouts include five key components.
"When you're getting back into fitness, your exercise plan should include components of Cardiovascular Endurance, Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Flexibility, & body composition" says Pratik.
"Combined, all five components will give you the most longevity with your goals," he says. And always remember to go at your own pace and listen to your body.
Here's what a perfect week of working outlooks like.
4. Don't forget to take those rest days!
Another reason not to jump into a six-days-a-week workout routine: Recovery is part of being active. "When you take a day off, your body isn't. It's actually working very hard to repair and replenish itself after all the work you put it through," says Pratik. "Rest days are key to long-term wellness. This is a lifestyle you're creating now, so be realistic about your frequency," he adds.
5. Start your workout with a good warm-up and end with a good cool-down.
A good warm - uppreps your body for the increase in activity and a cool-down allows your heart rate to return to a normal resting rate, says Pratik. Don't cut corners here: "Muscles that have not been accustomed to strenuous activity for sometime will experience some form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which basically means you are going to be tight and achy for 24-72 hours after your workout," says Pratik. (You may also experience this is you work out regularly but up your intensity.) "A proper cool-down session can reduce some of this soreness."
6. Start your workout with a good warm-up and end with a good cool-down.
Speaking of tightness, stretching is especially important when you're getting back into a fitness routine. A good warm-up includes dynamic stretches. And when you are done working out, finish with some more stretches.
7. Take it slow and focus on your form.
Quality trumps quantity, especially when you're just getting back into fitness. "Slow down," stresses Pratik. "Be deliberate and conscious of your movements. Take the time to focus on your form, on your breathing, on your control." This is extra important because proper technique and form are crucial for avoiding injury, adds Caitanya.
8. And don't forget to listen to your body.
Chances are, your body is going to let you know that it's working hard, but learn the difference between hurts-so-good and hurts-not-so-good. "If something feels weird or gives you pain, stop doing whatever that is," says Pratik. "There's actually a not-so-fine line between muscle discomfort from a good workout, and pain lets you know something’s not right."
9. Don't skimp on sleep.
"Working out is 'work'—it takes more time and energy, so you might feel fatigued initially because you are burning more calories and the body is trying to adapt to the increased stresses in the tissues," says Chaitanya. "If I'm so exhausted that I'm walking around like a zombie, I might opt for some more sleep on a particular day," he adds. So it's OK to tuck in a little early and hit snooze on some days...your body will thank you.
10. Find a friend who keeps you motivated.
Workout buddies unite! "Find a friend who is already working out and has a routine. That person can be a key motivator," says Pratik. If you'd rather share the starting line, find a friend who is also looking to get back into a regular routine. "Together, you can keep each other motivated and accountable,".
11. And, finally, set goals to keep you focused.
Chaitanya recommends setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal–specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. "What is your goal...to run a 5K? To feel stronger?" asks Chaitanya. Start there, then create a plan.