The biggest challenge when going to the gym is starting out or resuming workouts after a few weeks of inactivity. Motivation can generally be at an all time low, and the body can feel heavy after a lack of action. It is important then to start small and follow a good plan to get back to the gym. The plan should allow you to return to training at the top with a guarantee of success and without risk of injury.
We have had things in life that prevent us from being active for periods of time like holidays, rest due to injury and a lack of time for work. No matter how much you may want to, you cannot join the gym with the same intensity as before the “break”. To give you an idea, trainers and experts consider that your body will need at least 4 weeks to regain its usual training rhythm.
When you decide to commit and go back to the gym, it will be important to have a plan in place to allow your body to adapt to the change. It should be a routine in which the effort increases progressively, which is essential to make your return go smoothly and avoid any injuries or dips in motivation. Read more to learn some of the things that this plan should consider.
What to take into account when planning to get back to the gym?
Your return to the gym plan should start from the physical condition you are in at the time you decide to return. It should also bear in mind the goal you are pursuing: lose weight, gain strength and endurance. This main goal will help you keep you focused and motivated during your initial struggles of adapting to the gym.
Plan your weekly training knowing that you must have some patience and a lot of perseverance, so as not to demand more from your body than it can give. The keys that should serve as a basis for developing an effective routine that allows you to get back to the gym are:
1. Reduce the number of weekly sessions
After a while without exercising, don’t expect to train at the same pace. Start by going to the gym twice a week and, depending on how you see yourself, go to 3. Making sure that you start correctly is crucial to ensuring you injured within your first weeks back. In your first month back, three weekly sessions is more than enough for your body to adapt again to a routine that will progressively gain in intensity.
Many people have made the mistake of going hard instantly when returning to the gym after a year, let alone a few months. Thinking that training five days in a row will save you time when it comes to gaining fitness is a mistake. Your muscles need periods of rest after exercising that promote their recovery and allow you to continue training.
2. Progressive effort
A good getting back to the gym workout should be progressed over time to slowly build on improvements. During the first weeks, do not extend the training session more than 30 – 45 minutes. Trying to push yourself any further may give you negative results as the body cannot handle the extended load times without adapting first. It may feel like you are going to slowly to notice anything straight away, but your body will appreciate this adjustment.
Perform the different exercises with moderate intensity when you return to the gym. If you train with weight, remember that you should start working with half the load (or less) of what you used before taking the ‘break’ in your workouts. You can also build up to using something like a barbell for exercises by using other equipment like dumbbells while getting your rhythm back. A great example would be starting with low weight in dumbbell bench presses before progressing to the barbell version of the exercise
3. Special attention to warm-up and post-training period
The minutes you spend warming up your muscles, preparing them for the effort that lies ahead, are always important. This is almost the most important aspect to focus on if you are are returning from a lengthy period of inactivity. A lot of pressure and strain will be placed upon your muscles when you are getting back into the swing of things, so make sure that you treat them with care.
If you haven’t been doing anything for a while, warm up properly to give yourself the best movement possible during exercise. After training, do the necessary stretches again to avoid excessive stiffness or worse (stiffness, muscle contracture, pain). This includes stretching muscles like your abs, as you would be surprised the amount of people that neglect to do this.
4. Vary your workouts
The routine to get back to the gym must be as varied as possible regardless of your goals. This will help you to ensure that your return to training is not too hard, while keeping the program fresh and engaging. It is about getting, in those first weeks, a general foundation in place to build upon and improve as you get better.
Don’t focus on working specific muscles during your first weeks of returning. You want to ensure that all muscles are being worked so that all muscle groups will have time to adapt to the change. Circuit training, full body routines to train the whole body (at moderate intensity) or a good combination of strength sessions and aerobic activities (running, swimming, cycling, spinning) are preferable.
5. Watch your diet
It is very likely that in the period without much physical activity you have also given yourself some slack in regards to eating healthy . The return to the gym can also be a good time to regain more balanced and healthy diets. It is extremely important to give your body the resources and energy required to perform and recover from workouts.
A lot of people can ignore the influence that a good diet can have on your performance. Many exercises that are performed in general requires energy that is gained from many of the foods that you eat. If you do not give the body the best fuel it needs, it will not perform the action at its fullest capacity. Discuss all your doubts with your doctor or nutritionist. They can help you make a diet plan for it but stay committed to following it.
Exercises to include when you get back to the gym
You must establish your routine according to the ‘signals’ that your body gives you to determine the degree of intensity. Your own body is the best judge of what it can and cannot handle at a particular time, so it is important to listen to it. But as a general rule, in the first workouts back to the gym, there are some exercises that are great to start using. Among them are:
- Aerobic workouts, which makes you gain physical shape by improving your cardio-pulmonary capacity: treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike.
- Multi-joint exercises , in which the large muscle groups intervene, strengthening the core, for example: squats, lunges, push-ups, abdominals, arm and leg extensions, hip elevation, plank.
- Strength workouts , which increases resistance and muscular power with exercises such as: chin-ups, bench press, deadlift, military press, dumbbell birds.
Remember not to exceed the time you dedicate to each exercise or the intensity of the training. Do not do exercises with repetitions of maximum force, or resistance with so many repetitions as to overload the muscle. Make sure you get back to the gym the right way, so you can reach your goals as quick as possible!