Starting Fresh: 5 Tips to Get Back into Exercise after a Break

I used to joke that I never wanted to stop running because I never wanted to start over.

But life can intervene, even for those with rock-solid habits! So if you are in a place where you are ready to get back to your exercise program after any kind of hiatus, break, illness, or injury, keep reading.

Start Exactly Where You Are NOW

After a break, you must reconcile with your current state of fitness. If you took 3 months off of running and decided that today was the day to resume, you cannot (and should not) go out for your then-typical 7 milers at an 8:30 pace. I mean, you can try, but I’ll lay odds that you’ll run for 3 minutes, be so out of breath and miserable that you’ll turn and go home.

Running isn’t the only activity this applies to; I’m talking to all of you, no matter if you do yoga, are a returning CrossFitter, heading back to OTF, or are in a master’s swim program. Honor your body, where you are physically, and start at a place appropriate for you.

Trainer Tip: Track your progress along the way. Keep track of your run pace, note PRs on the Peloton, and write down how much weight you’re lifting. Progress is slow and hard-earned, and seeing improvements will help keep you motivated.

Set A Goal

I know I’m a broken record, but you need to have a target when starting from scratch. Your goal can be as simple as committing to getting to the gym, boot-camp class, riding your Peloton, or going for a run 3 times each week for the next 90 days. I like a longer time frame for a starting goal because it’s long enough to start to see some results, which will encourage you to continue.

For my runners or triathletes, a race or event might be what you need. If so, give yourself a full 2 to 3 months of conditioning before you begin training. Again, honor your body and where it’s at right now.

Trainer Tip: You don’t need to share your goal with anyone, but at the least, write it down and refer to it when you’re feeling unmotivated or discouraged.

Make a Plan

Great, you have your goal. Now you have to put that plan into action to achieve it. If you are tackling an event, you should create or follow a program that takes you from where you are right now to race day. As noted above, this might be a 6 or 9-month process, so break it up into the build and training phases.

For consistency goals like going to the gym 3 days a week, running 15 miles a week, or doing 10 minutes of yoga a day, keep it simple and put the activity and duration and specific time you’ll do it right into your calendar each week. Scheduling for a month gets tricky because, let’s be honest, stuff comes up, and a 5pm workout one week might work great, but the following week a 7am workout is all you can fit in.

Trainer Tip: Consider your training plan or workout schedule a sacred, non-negotiable time.

Build Slowly

I know you want to be back in shape now. You want to run that 10K today. But slow your roll, my friend; you were out of the game for a minute, so you need to rebuild what fitness gains you lost. Let’s say you want to get back in solid running shape.

  • Month 1 – Consistency. Aim to walk/run 2-30 minutes three times each week. By the end of the month, you should be able to run the full 30 minutes.
  • Month 2 – Duration. Add 5 minutes to each run every two weeks.
  • Month 3 – Bonus Day. Add that 4th day of running into the mix but keep it a 10-20 minute run/walk for the first two weeks.

Trainer Tip: If you’re too ambitious, scale back. If your plan is too easy, feel free to add on. But always remember to cue into how your body is reacting.

Be Patient and Celebrate Every Win

It’s hard work to come back after a break. You might, at times, be frustrated, annoyed, and humbled. You’ll also have high moments when you feel that things are starting to come together. When that happens, please give yourself credit and take the win.

Trainer Tip: I’m in your corner, so if you need anything, let me know.

Now go run!

Keli 🙂

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