Ready to start working out again after an extended break? It’s a familiar scene to many of you reading this—you may have been injured, on vacation, or had a busy work schedule—life happens, it’s understandable.
You take a few days off and suddenly it’s been several weeks. You’re not working out or eating healthy and your pants are starting to remind you that they can only stretch so far.
If you are set to jump back into a routine, don’t rush back into the gym full throttle because it’s been a while. Of course, you may be the person on the opposite end of the spectrum who is intimidated by the thought of getting outdoors for that hour long run. Either way, make a plan of action, take your time easing back into your routine. Check out these health benefits of exercising and tips to help get you back into a consistent workout routine.
Benefits of Working Out
Working out is good for everyone. Credit: Skeeze, Pixabay
Individuals engaging in regular workouts, at least three to four days each week, reap improvements that can be seen and felt. Endurance type workouts, such as running or swimming, benefit your body by increasing muscle fiber size, blood supply, strength, and number of mitochondria. You will experience a positive change in your cardiovascular and respiratory systems that allow your skeletal muscles to receive more oxygen and nutrients. Strength-building workouts enlarge your muscles, also known as hypertrophy. Overall flexibility increases over time as you engage in regular stretching. Finally, the following benefits are also obtained from regular exercise:
You will have more energy.
You will sleep better at night.
You will be less prone to injury.
Exercise helps to control your weight.
Working out combats health diseases, like cardiovascular diseases.
It strengthens your immune system.
It improves your mood and mental clarity.
If you were in great physical shape before falling off the wagon, then it won’t take long to trigger your muscle memory that will help you to recover your svelte physique in less time than it originally did. What’s muscle memory? One type refers to a series of movements the body does automatically without having to be retrained, such as riding a bike or playing an instrument.
The type we’re referring to is your muscles’ ability to tone and increase in size at half the effort it took you the first time. When a person loses muscle mass as a result of a lack of physical activity for several months or longer it is a type of muscular atrophy called disuse atrophy. However, if you start working out several times a week and stick with it, you’ll find that you will begin to see results in a few weeks—even after months of inactivity and especially if you incorporate the correct nutrition.
A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. Credit: Keith Weller, Wikimedia Commons
Speaking of nutrition, more than likely your diet went downhill with your workout program. You’re going to need to get back on the health train if you expect to see results after you start working out again. Getting back into shape is about 80 percent diet. Incorporating fresh vegetables and fruits, along with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and small portions of healthy fats will ensure you get a healthy serving of nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
If you’re frequently on the go, consider preparing your meals and batches of juice at the beginning of the week. Juicing is a convenient method of consuming your vegetables and fruits that also provides variety when you get bored with your regular diet. It lacks most insoluble fiber, but still benefits your health with essential vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. If you can, eat your fruit and juice mainly veggies and greens. Also, prior to purchasing a juicer, always check out the reviews, and consider choosing a slow (masticating) juicer. It allows you to store the juice longer, which is convenient for individuals with hectic schedules.
Smoothies are another beneficial alternative for those of you who have to run out the door in the morning. Toss everything in a small blender, mix it up, and pour it into a cup with a lid. It’s healthy and easy to take with you. The only downside is that you cannot prepare it a few days in advance.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Listen to your body and stop when it’s too much. If you’ve been training for years, then you know when it becomes too much for your body. If you have to take a break, do it. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t complete your old routine. It’s better to take it slow and build up to a higher intensity level than to injure something. If you experience pain during your workout, stop immediately. While it is normal to feel slightly sore the day after getting back into working out due to the microscopic tears in your muscles as you adjust to your workout routine, it is never normal to feel pain during your workout.
First and foremost, always consult with your doctor or physical therapist. In fact, you may want to consider working out under the supervision of a physical therapist. If you’re returning to the gym after surgery or a simple injury—cautiously train at a low-intensity level and work your way up. If you recently removed a cast from your leg, then the muscle will have shrunk due to neurogenic atrophy, similar to disuse, but is a result of injury or disease instead of sole inactivity.
Find a workout partner to whom you will be accountable and vice versa. It’s really easy to cancel your workout when it’s just you heading to the gym. It’s more difficult when someone is depending on you to be there.
Eat a small snack, like fruit or an energy bar, about 30 minutes before working out. If you don’t eat anything before working out, then you’re likely to feel less energetic or lightheaded during the workout. You might even faint. You can also eat about two hours before starting, but if you eat too much then you could end up with a stomachache. Drink at least ten ounces of water one to two hours before your workout.
Take advantage of dynamic stretching. Unlike static stretching, a motionless stretch held for 10 seconds or more, dynamic stretches allow you to warm up the muscles by raising the temperature of your muscles while loosening them up with movements that do not extend beyond your normal range of motion. Lunges, kicks, and side bends are examples of dynamic stretches. The basic moves in yoga can be used before a workout because you move slowly through the poses, effectively warming and loosening up.
Start with an easy workout. For example, if you normally run for 30 minutes, only jog 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t kill your routine before you begin by running the full 30 minutes. Ideally, you want to aim for light to medium cardio and stretching for about a week before you start hitting the weights. However, if you feel you are ready for weight-training, test the waters. If you’re having trouble with variety, there are plenty of workout challenges at local gyms and online that the participants can tailor to their level.
Don’t forget to cool down. Have you ever suddenly stopped running on a treadmill, only to feel slightly dizzy? Cooling down helps prevent that. It gradually lowers your heart rate after working out. Take about 10 minutes, or more if you have time, to properly cool your muscles down. This is when you can utilize slow static stretching. Stretching alleviates some of the soreness you may feel in the next couple of days. Plus, stretching helps your muscles recover after you start exercising again. Never underestimate the value of a proper cool-down and stretching.
Also, upon finishing, eat a meal that combines a protein with healthy carbs. You need protein to build muscles. Not only that, but it replenishes your energy. Make it a healthy meal—not a burger, fries, and a large soda!
Don’t expect to reach your goals overnight. For example, if you were running more than 10 miles when you stopped, you’re most likely not going to be able to do that right away. It depends on how long it’s been since you were on a regular training routine. Be consistent and keep moving forward. Think about it this way, you found the motivation to start working out again and that means you’re way ahead of the guy or gal still parked on the couch. That, my friend, is a victory in itself.
Since 2009, she has been a freelance content marketing specialist, contributing to several online publications and crafting content for clients. She has covered a plethora of topics, such as traveling, animals, health-related issues, fitness—pretty much anything under the sun. She holds a Bachelor's in Psychology, but also has taken many business-related and early education courses.
She loves learning and sometimes has a hard time breaking away from research. It's almost akin to going down a rabbit hole that branches into a thousand tunnels that need to be searched lest there be a rare treasure left undiscovered.
Traveling, photography, yoga, running, reading, and eating are some of her guilty pleasures, as are people-watching, hiking in the mountains, and watching marathons of her favorite shows.