The hard truth about getting back into shape

Feeling guilty because your cheat “weekend” off from the gym turned into a month-long hiatus of zero exercise? You’re not alone. Getting and staying in shape is hard work. Even fitness freaks who hang out at the gym 24/7 have their off days. When that happens, it’s all too easy to just say ‘screw it’ and kick back with a huge pepperoni pizza and binge watch sitcoms on Netflix. And that’s where the trouble starts.

If you thought getting into shape was hard, getting back into shape is even harder. But before you start panicking and mourning the loss of your hot, toned body, read on. You just might find your journey back into fitness easier than you think.

Just show up and try (but not too hard)

After being away from the gym for so long, it’s natural that you feel apprehensive or even terrified at the prospect of putting your body and muscles (or lack thereof) into strenuous positions. We get it. That’s why it’s uber important for you to take it easy, for the first few weeks at least. The key is to get your mind and body re-accustomed to working out. Starting with basic exercises such as stretching or yoga is a great way to warmup those muscles before you really put them to work. Plus, if you go straight to doing deadlifts and bench presses, you’re going to hurt yourself, even if you use light weights.

Create an achievable workout plan

The best way to get back on track is to have a routine that helps you get used to working out again, without the risk of injury. That means doing more reps of lower intensity exercises. When you’re ready to hit the weight room again, focus on slowly building your muscular strength. If you typically do 3 sets of squats or lunges with 15-pound weights, cut it down to 8-pound weights but up the number of sets to 4–6 sets of 8–15 reps. Similarly, for conditioning, start with an ‘easy circuit’ you can build on like an 8-second sprint on the bike followed by a 12-second recovery for 6–8 minutes.

Always remember to stretch

After a hard workout, most people just want to hit the showers or grab a nice-cold smoothie. And that usually means rushing through the post-workout stretching or skipping it entirely. Sure, there might be increased soreness and some stiffness, but that’s a small price to pay. While that is true in the short run, not stretching after workouts will lead to injury in the long run. So always remember to stretch after each workout, particularly your pecs, quads, core and hip flexors, and hold each stretch for at least 25–30 seconds before releasing. That smoothie can wait.

Find yourself among the ranks of lapsed gymgoers and finding it hard to kickstart your workouts? Have other tips for getting back into shape?

Share your stories and questions in the comments below!

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