Soooo…. It’s been a while since you’ve hit the gym huh? I’ve been there. Recently. You probably feel like you are back at square one. Like you don’t quite know where to start or how to start. But don’t panic! This post is gonna help you out!
It’s that time of year again: the beginning of January. (*shudders*) It’s a dark time marked by thousands upon thousands of people flooding into gyms hoping that this will be the year that they actually stick with it. It is also a time of heartbreak for me, knowing that most will all too soon give up because they went about fitness the completely wrong way. Year after year they make the same mistakes. They go on a diet, cut out food groups, spend hours on the treadmill at the gym, and use a scale as their only measure of success. None of that is fitness. Not even close. You don’t have to turn into a cardio-only, chocolate-hating, salad-crunching extremist to get healthier. True story.
So whether you haven’t worked out since last January or it’s only been a few weeks, here are some tips that you can use to make your comeback in a healthier and more sustainable way. The first five are tips for the physical challenges; the next four are for the mental ones!
1. Take it SLOW
Yeah, you read that right. SLOW. You cannot expect to be a total machine your first day back in the gym. Push yourself, but don’t kill yourself. Once your body starts adjusting you’ll be able to move a little faster and lift a little heavier but that will take some time. Always respect your limits.
2. Strength Train First, Cardio Last
If you strength train, (and I highly recommend that you do, unless told otherwise by your doctor) ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS do that first. If you spend all of your energy on cardio before you get to the weights, you will find yourself exhausted and discouraged because you probably won’t be able to finish your sets and reps.
3. Cut Back
Cut back on everything. Seriously. Just because you could lift such and such a weight and run however many miles a few weeks or months ago, doesn’t mean that you should be able to do the same thing now. Instead of doing 4 sets of an exercise do 2 or 3. Instead of running 3 miles start with one. Instead of working out 6 days a week, start with 3 and work up if you want. And do not be ashamed. No matter how much you need to cut back, know that you will not stay there forever.
4. Try Something New
I dare you to get off of the cardio machines. Do something different! Keep it interesting! If you are bored and uninspired, then how on earth are you going to make fitness a lifetime habit? Try strength training or circuit training. Go on a hike. Join a kickboxing class or a HIIT class, or any group fitness class really! Doing something different will keep your body guessing but it will also keep you motivated!
5. Fuel Well
You know what that means? EAT EVERYTHING. Carbs, fats, and proteins. This is the easiest item on this list, but we make it the most complicated. You don’t have to track calories. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods. Eat what you want, when you want it. It’s this magical thing called “intuitive eating”. And it works! Because your body is smarter than you and your calorie trackers. Find your balance. Everyone knows to eat nutritionally dense foods, and that all foods can be healthy in moderation. I will give this point it’s own post later on. For now just stick with that and remember: You need carbs before a workout and protein after.
6. New Workout Outfit! WOOT! WOOT!
Isn’t that the true reason we are all going to the gym anyway? So we can buy new leggings and look fierce and adorable at the same time? Well, as it turns out there is an actual psychological reason for this tip. It makes you feel more confident when you look legit. Simple as that. So work out like you mean it! Dress the part.
7. Do NOT Compare Yourself to ANYONE
The gym can be scary, especially if it’s been awhile or if it’s your first time. It’s intimidating to see all the people who look like they know what they are doing while you are a little unsure. But you can learn too! They had to start somewhere, so do you. It is also easy to get into the trap of comparing your appearance to someone else’s. There’s a great quote I saw this week that goes along with this: “Just because you train like her, doesn’t mean you’ll look like her”. No matter what you do, you can never look like someone else. Not even if you stick to the exact same workout plan and eat the exact same things at the exact same times as they do. So stop trying, stop comparing. You have your own body, your own goals, and your own journey.
8. Don’t Look Back or Beat yourself up
Yeah, you’ve been out of the gym for a while. So what? While you were gone you were doing other important things. You went on a vacation, you celebrated the holidays with your family, you volunteered for things, you stayed in and watched a movie, you worked overtime, you focused on school. There is nothing wrong with taking a gym vacation, just as long as you never take a fitness vacation. They are not the same thing. But, since you are back at the gym now don’t be distracted or discouraged by what you used to be able to do. Yeah, it’s frustrating to think that you used to be able to lift heavier and run further, but be thankful for what you can do today. Don’t try to get back to where you were. Don’t try to get back into the shape you used to be. Instead, be where you are now and push forward. Be better than you used to be.
9. Take the First Step
This is my favorite tip. It is the inspiration behind this entire post. Just start. The first step out the door is the hardest, especially because it’s January and it’s freezing outside. But, the first step is the most important. Take it with confidence, take it with determination, take it with passion for what you do and with the knowledge that exercise is not about weight loss but about empowerment.