No matter how dedicated you are, it can happen: Your sweat sessions get sidelined by an illness, an injury, a vacation, a hectic week at work, or, you know, a worldwide pandemic.
If your fitness goals have been put on pause, you may be wondering how to start working out again.
It depends on how long your exercise hiatus has been, explains Michael Julom, an ACE-certified personal trainer, CrossFit athlete, and founder of This Is Why I’m Fit.
If it’s only been a few weeks off, don’t stress.
“Start where you left off,” Julom says. “You may fatigue a little quicker, perform a little worse, and find yourself getting DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) like a beginner, but you’ll adapt back after a couple of sessions.”
But if you’re counting months instead of weeks since your last workout, you may want to dial back your expectations and start slow, Julom adds.
Following a workout program can help guide you back into the habit of exercising regularly.
Ready to restart?
Here are 9 tips for getting back into working out after a break.
1. Change Your Mindset
Sometimes life gets in the way of your workout routine. This is “a challenge we will face over and over,” says Janelle Sheppard, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Sweat & Sunshine.
“Let’s change the established set of attitudes we hold about starting over,” Sheppard adds. “Beginning again is not a sign of failure; it’s a sign of rebirth, renewed commitment and of possibility.”
2. Focus On Your Why
Whether your goal is to work out regularly, plan healthy meals, or get more sleep, the motivation for any healthy habit is sustained by having clear reasons why you’re doing it.
As you’re getting back into your fitness groove, take a moment to reflect on your reasons for working out, says Colleen Freeman, P.T., D.P.T., a pelvic floor and orthopedic physical therapist and owner of Fit Moms Blog.
“Once you have identified why you want to exercise — whether that’s simply because your body feels good after a workout or you’re battling a health condition — keep that as your focus,” Freeman says.
3. Anticipate and Remove Barriers
Think about what knocked you off track in the first place — and how you can keep it from happening again.
“Schedule your workouts for the week ahead so you can plan accordingly,” Freeman says. “Lay your clothing out the night before so it’s ready the next day. Plan your pre-work fuel in advance so you’ll have the energy you need to complete the workout.”
These small actions can help you remove potential obstacles and set yourself up for exercise success.
4. Start Where You Are
After an extended exercise hiatus, you may find you’ve lost some ground.
Maybe your running pace is a bit slower, or you can barely make it through the first few minutes of a high-intensity workout.
Avoid longing for previous fitness levels or trying to make up for lost time.
“Instead, focus on creating positive experiences that will leave you energized and wanting to come back for more,” Sheppard suggests.
5. Taper In
When you’re getting back into training after a break, it can be tempting to try to pick up right where you left off.
But it’s important to taper in gradually, says David Rosales, an NSCA-certified personal trainer and co-owner of Roman Fitness Systems.
Otherwise, you may end up too sore to tackle your next workout — and that can throw you off schedule all over again.
Instead, ease back in and allow yourself time for recovery so you don’t burn out.
“Adopt the mindset that just showing up is a huge thing,” Rosales says.
6. Try Something New
Give your motivation a reset by trying a brand new workout — “a dance workout, kickboxing, running, an intense jump-rope workout, whatever!” says John Fawkes, NSCA-certified personal trainer.
Trying something outside of your wheelhouse — and seeing yourself improve and get stronger — can help you build confidence, Fawkes adds.
Pro tip: You can find hundreds of different types of workouts on Beachbody On Demand.
7. Treat Yourself
Invest in a great pair of running shoes. Or comfy leggings. Or a fitness tracker. Or a new set of dumbbells.
“The better you feel with your workout clothes or gear, the more you’ll look forward to using them,” Fawkes says. “It’s a great little psychological trick.”
8. Don’t Wait for Motivation
You may be feeling inspired to get back into working out right now, but what happens the next time your motivation lags?
“Motivation is a finite resource,” Julom says. “It will get you fired up for a few weeks, maybe even months, and then it will dwindle. This is where habits will come into play.”
Build your workouts into your schedule now, so you get into the habit of showing up every time — whether motivation strikes or not.