Whether it’s from injury, life getting in the way, or something else, taking a break from the gym can result in muscle loss and decreased motivation to go back. In fact, it can take as few as three weeks to start losing muscle if you’re not working out regularly, according to Healthline.
But going back to the gym after a long break doesn’t have to be a walk of shame through the front doors. First of all, give yourself a big pat on the back if you’re headed back to your workouts after time off. You’re doing something great for yourself by making a commitment to getting healthier and fitter. Hold your head high, buy yourself some new workout clothes, and get back at it with these tips.
Go Back to the Gym with Humility
If you’ve been away for a while and not working out, you’ve lost some degree of strength. You’re likely not going to be lifting as heavy, running as fast, or stretching as far as you once did. That’s okay. Once you acknowledge where you are, you have a starting point for this leg in your fitness journey. You’ll need to check your ego at the door and remember that, essentially, you’re new again.
Humility, when you go back to the gym, isn’t a bad thing. It’s accepting where you are and making plans to get back to where you once were – or even better. It will be hard. It will require a lot of work. And some days, it’s just plain going to suck. But remember that it’s all about mindset; you did this once, and you can do it again.
Set Reasonable Goals
Again, you’re figuring out how to get back to the gym after a long break. When you first started working out, what was your goal? For a lot of people, it was to lose weight. As they progressed in their fitness journeys, it might have been to get stronger, or to master a muscle-up, or run a marathon.
You might want to set your goals to get back to where you once were. For example, you might discover that you can’t hit your old lifting maxes. That’s okay; talk to your coach or a personal trainer, or start working on your existing strength training program. This is how you get back to the gym and start looking forward to what you can do in the future.
Focus on Your Journey
This is particularly important if you work out in a group setting like CrossFit: when you go back to the gym, focus on you. I can’t put enough emphasis on this. What you experienced during your break is different than what anyone else has. You could have been injured and unable to work out. Or you had to balance caregiving with a full-time job, and that didn’t leave you much time to work out or to keep on top of your nutrition. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, not even your old gym buddies.
When you first came into the gym, your workout was about you. When you go back to the gym, it should still be about you. There is nothing wrong with scaling and modifying WODs as you get back into your gym routine. Do what is best for you; injuring yourself is counter-intuitive to good health.
Pay Attention to Recovery When You Get Back to the Gym
When you go back, you’re going to be sore. Pay special attention to recovery when you go back, including active recovery like easy bike rides on an off day. Take time to stretch and do restorative yoga. Foam roll like you mean it, and get into some Epsom salt baths.
But remember how it felt after you were in a gym routine? The soreness wasn’t so unbearable. Eventually, you felt a little sore after a particularly hard workout, but for the most part, you went in, did the work, and felt incredibly awesome. This will happen again, I promise.
Enjoy the Journey
I can’t say this enough, either. When you get back to the gym, just enjoy the journey! Enjoy your routine, and celebrate the fact that you can move your body. I mean, not every workout is going to be fun, and some days, it’s just going to be work (wall balls and rowing, I’m looking at you).
But getting back to the gym in itself is a reason to celebrate. It means that you’re taking control of your health, and you’re setting goals to smash later. You’ll feel better physically and mentally. Remember what Elle Woods said? “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” And it’s true! Getting back on track, even if it’s not where you had hoped to be right now, can be the mental boost you need to move forward. You might not hit your old goal, and that’s okay. Come in humble, and be willing to revise your goals to meet your current reality.