How to Start Working Out Again - 7 Tips
There's going to be a point in our lives that we have to stop exercising like we used to. Whether it's life beating us down, busy, or injured, everyone has to take a break.
The hardest part is getting back into the routine and gaining the traction we once had.
Related - Find the Best Workout for Your Goals
When we fall out of the habit of exercise, it can feel stressful and overwhelming.
If you've taken a step away from exercise and you are ready to get back to it, here are seven expert-backed tips that will get you back exercising.
It's Time to Start Exercising Again
1.) Set a SMART Goal
A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
You may have heard about this technique in school or somewhere online. Using this method for creating a goal — fitness or otherwise related — ensures a greater success rate.
Saying you "want to lose weight" doesn't cut it. You need to set a specific goal such as "lose 20 pounds" or "run a 7-minute mile."
Now that you have that goal written down, make sure you are able to measure your progress. There is a saying "if you're not assessing, you're guessing" and it hits home for me.
If your goal is to run a marathon, you should gauge your progress by hitting benchmarks while training.
If you are trying to lose weight, you should be able to get body composition measurements taken and weigh yourself periodically.
I've always been a proponent of dreaming big and reaching for the stars. I invite you to reach for the stars, but be at least 90-100% confident you can achieve it.
If you have lofty fitness goals and you know with enough time and work you can achieve them, plan to break it down into smaller chunks. If your goals are too lofty within the time constraints you set, breaking the goal down to a smaller chunk can help with motivation and progress.
If you would like to lose 20 pounds in 4 weeks, try setting your goal to 10 pounds in 4 weeks.
Set life-changing goals for yourself, but break them down so you can slowly eat the elephant.
When choosing a goal, it needs to be consistent with your abilities, needs, and interests. If you can't stand running, why would you want to train for a marathon?
If your goal includes parts that don't align with you, creating other goals may eventually help you align with them.
For instance, I wouldn't want to run a marathon at the weight I am — but if it didn't hurt to run and I weighed a reasonable amount, I think I would like to try one. So I would set my intention to get healthy and more active, setting a specific weight to reassess how I feel about running.
Losing weight and getting fit are so vague with no end dates, no wonder we don't achieve them.
A goal without a set end date is just a dream. Don't fall into that trap.
It doesn't matter if your goal is to lose one pound per week or lose 100 in 12 weeks, putting an end date on it immediately boosts motivation.
2.) Only Worry About Yourself
If you have a friend that you used to workout with, but you had to stop. Don't feel bad when they are able to do more than you.
We all have a different fitness journey, so learn to love it. Everyone is built differently, come from different backgrounds, and has unique aspects about them. Don't let someone else's success affect your focus on your goals and abilities.
Think about it, if you stay focused on your goals, you'll be that person people are envious of.
When we are exercising, we are forcing biological adaptations in our bodies. This takes time.
Consistent steps taken towards your goals allows you to enjoy the journey and learn about yourself along the way.
3.) Have Some Activity on Your Days Off
We are sore after we lift — and that's normal. Something I'm guilty of is using that post-workout soreness as a reason to refuse to move.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but moving around when your muscles are sore will help them. Doing basic movements and getting your heart to pump speeds up your recovery.
If you are able to maintain some physical activity on your off-days, you will find it easier to maintain your exercise habits.
Simply taking a stroll around the neighborhood or playing with your kids can make a huge difference.
4.) Start Back Slowly
I'm sure you had a routine you liked to perform in the gym before you stopped. Jumping back into that same routine can be pretty disheartening when you see how much weaker and out of shape you are compared to then.
But that's okay.
Focus on your main movement patterns like your squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Keep the weight light and get back into the flow of things. You'll be able to consistently progress much faster when you start out slow.
This also applies to your cardio workouts. Don't stress when your conditioning isn't as great as it used to be, either.
Developing physical fitness comes through time and consistency. Speeding through this just will lead to injuries and pain.
5.) Be Held Accountable
Something I feel many people would benefit from is having someone hold you accountable. It's easy to rationalize why you had to eat that whole bag of chips or skip that workout.
But having someone to hold you accountable increases our odds of success. Hiring a trainer either online or in person, joining an online fitness challenge, or enlisting a friend are all great ways to find a way to be held accountable.
No one ever said fitness had to be a solo journey.
6.) Have a Plan B
Once you start getting into the habit of exercising, there's going to be a time where you simply can't go exercise. For those days that the workout seems unmanageable or unappealing, look for something else physical to do.
When you are trying to rebuild the habit of exercising, reverting to your "do nothing" attitude won't help. As long as you go to the gym or get up and do something, you're still moving in the right direction.
Go take a long walk and listen to an audiobook, go to the community pool for some laps, or go play hoops with the boys.
7.) Don't Work Yourself into the Ground
Remember the days of pushing yourself past failure with your workout partner?
Those days are still there, but you should work back up to them. Simply lifting to your full potential as you start back will tear you down and make you feel like you will never be able to lift like that again.
I invite you to dedicate one to two months of exercising at a lower capacity than you currently can. Assess each workout and slowly add in more intensity and weight. Leaving a few reps in the tank will keep you feeling fresher and will build motivation to keep seeing progress.