Okay, I’m no expert. I mean, I don’t have a degree in fitness or nutrition or anything like that, BUT what I do have is years and years and years….AND YEARS of life experience. That has got to count for something, right?
I have been an on-again off-again exerciser my whole entire life. Literally. When I was a kid I would walk the track with my mom, or ride my bike, or walk home from school…sometimes. As a teen, I would work out with Jane Fonda. Hey, don’t knock Jane Fonda…at least when it comes to fitness…babe’s got it goin’ on!
Then, as a young adult, I would work out at the gym for a while. Then stop. Then start a new gym, for a while. Then stop. Then a different gym, then stop, then start, then stop, then start, then stop. You see where this is going.
I will definitely say that in the last 4 or 5 years I have been *more* consistent in my exercise, overall, but I still have stops and starts. This year has been a good example. Very little exercise the first few months of the year. March, April, May, June, and July I worked out A LOT. Almost every day. August, well, not so much. Not so much in September or October, either. November was better. December, yah..not so much. (I know this because I track the days I exercise on my calendar. Every day that I exercise I put a sticker on my calendar. It is motivational AND an easy way to visually track my exercise!)
Here’s the thing, though: I’m getting better! The time between stops and starts is getting shorter. That is progress, in my book, and progress is what life is all about.
So here are a couple of strategies I have come up with for getting started again after an exercise hiatus.
1. Start Small and Easy.
I think a huge mistake people make when getting back to exercise is jumping in with both feet in some misguided effort to make up for lost time. This is a bad idea. The days you didn’t work out are done with, and you can’t make up for it. You just need to start. If you jump in with both feet you are MUCH more likely to be SO sore the next three days that you wont exercise again for at least a week, if not two! It is much better to do something small and easy to get back in the groove.
Take a short walk. Do one of your easier exercise videos. Do some yoga. Hit up the treadmill or bike at the gym for a short 20 or 30 minute workout. Don’t try to go all gung-ho during your first week back to exercise!
2. Pay Attention to Your Body
Even though I do not love exercise, my body does get to a point where it starts to remind me that IT likes to move. Pay attention to those cues. For me, exercise helps manage my anxiety, so if I start to notice that I am feeling more tense, stressed or anxious than normal, and I haven’t been exercising, this is a good push for me to get out there and do something. Something Small and Easy. See #1.
Also, I start to notice little physical changes, like my belly gets more pouchy because I am not working those abdominal muscles. When I see that I know it is time to get back on the band wagon, because in no time at all that little extra pouchy will turn into big extra pouchy and I have worked way too hard for way too long to keep my pouchy a reasonable size to let that happen.
3. Set SMART Goals.
It is unlikely that you will bust out of the gate after an exercise hiatus and work out 6 days a week for 60-90 minutes. Nor should you (See #1). It is much more likley that if you set some short term, achieveable and measureable goals, you will be filled with feelings of success upon reaching those goals, and be ready to set bigger goals the next week.
Here is what I mean: If you haven’t been exercising, set a goal for the week of something small, like 20 minutes of exercise 3 days of the week. If you do more, AWESOME! But, if like me, this can be a struggle when you are just getting back into it, well you will feel pretty darn good when you accomplish it! Keep track with fun stickers on your calendar. The next week set a slightly more ambitious goal, either longer time, like 30 or 40 minutes, or more days, or if you are feeling really good, both. My goals lately have been at least 20 minutes of exercise 5 days of the week, with at least 10 minutes of abdominal focus each of those sessions. This usually means I get 30 minutes because I do a 20 minute video and then another 10 minute ab video. Of course, I haven’t done that in a few weeks…but hey, it’s still my goal!
4. Re-Visit Your Past
When you have gotten out of the habit of regular exercise and want to get back into it, it can be very helpful to look back over your past. Look at pictures of yourself that are both less flattering than you would like, and pictures that you really like! Both will motivate you to get up off the couch.
If you have kept a food or exercise journal (you should be!), look over times of success, especially times when you were exercising A LOT and feeling really good. Re-reading those endorphin high emotions will give you a big boost!
Also, read over some old journals or posts about a time when you weren’t feeling that great, or your reasons for wanting to exercise. These will also give you a boost of motivation and remind you WHY you want to exercise in the first place.
5. Seek Companionship
Virtual or 3D companionship will help tremendously! Many studies show that those who exercise with a friend are much more likely to maintain an exercise routine. Ask a friend to walk with you or meet you at the gym. Ask an online buddy to check in with you. Ask for accountability. Tell people what you are going to do. It is more difficult to blow off your workout if you just told all 200 of your Facebook friends that you are getting up off your duff to go do it.
6. Most Important – Don’t Beat Yourself UP!
Don’t spend time criticizing yourself over the days or week or months you have missed. Don’t beat yourself up over lost levels of fitness or strength. Just don’t do it. Instead, praise yourself for getting back to it! Give yourself some props for re-comitting over and over again. High-five your efforts at never giving up! Positive self-talk is so important.
These are some strategies that I have learned to employ over the years to help my transition back to regular exercise happen more easily, less painfully, and sooner.
Do you have some “getting back to it” strategies?