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How do I return to health and fitness after time away?

After time away from activity, return to health and fitness and avoid an unplanned injury by following these tips:

  • Always warm up before beginning. Five to 10 minutes of walking and gentle stretching before a run, hike or bike ride can help keep you from aching the next day.
  • Take a time out if needed. Gardening, mowing grass and other outdoor chores provide a great way to get your blood moving and engage your muscles, but these activities can also be intense. If you’re feeling tired, sit down for a few minutes and drink some water.
  • Get strong with weights. Cardio is great for keeping your heart in shape, but using weights in between cardiovascular workouts can strengthen your muscles and help your body burn more calories—even when you’re not working out. Weight training can also boost bone density, which is important since osteoporosis becomes more likely for women and men as they age.

First congratulations on returning to your program. Remember that it is going to take time to get back into a program, and one you must approach gradually. Focus on where you are, not where you were this will only allow you to get easily discouraged. Set realistic goals as part of your fitness program. To help you stick with your program now, it is important to address the reason you stopped. This will allow you to prevent this from reoccurring in the future. This fresh start may be a great opportunity to explore new activities and exercises to keep things interesting. If your reason for stopping was health related you will want to check with your physician before restarting your program. 

Returning after a break is easily done. You’ve made the decision to get back into it and now you act. Clear out the cupboards and the refrigerator of the junk, plan out your menus and get your shopping done and then you hit the gym. Start your workout with a 5-10 minute light warm up and then gentle stretch out your entire body. From there, I would start with 20 minutes of light/moderate cardio and then move to the weight machines. One set of 12 to 15 reps of a total body workout at about a 65% of max should get you started. Just enough weigh that you feel it and wake up those sleepy muscles. Week two, two sets increasing your weights by 5% increments. After you second week you should be back in the swing of things, feeling good and confident. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress. Muscles can easily get lazy but are quick to remember how to perform. Just take it easy on them and remember 5% increases.

Make your workout time a priority. Too often we put ourself on the back burner and take care of everyone else first. If you do not make the time to take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Pick your favorite activity and make exercise fun. Then make slight changes each week to push yourself. 
Roy Miner , NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

Returning to health and fitness after time away from it is not as difficult as you might think. Getting started and committing to a healthy lifestyle will be the hardest part. But as far as your body goes, it will take less time for you to get back into shape as it did before. I do believe that your body does have a muscle memory. And after returning to a fitness program, your body will return to its former shape easier. But the key is to commit to a program of healthy eating and a regular fitness program. And most importantly DON'T GIVE UP.

The best way to return to health and fitness after time away is in slow gradual progressions based on one’s current physical condition’s after approval from a health care expert.

Returning to workout can be challenging. If you are returning it sounds like you have had a disruption and it's a good idea to plan for those so the chances of it happening again are less. To plan for a disruption in exercise you first have to be aware of what those disruptions are. Some disruptions include: work, family obligations, vacation or illness. Once you are aware what disrupts your exercise you can have a plan for dealing with them. For example if you know you are going on vacation and won't have a gym available you can make sure that there are good, same places to walk and areas to do functional strength training.

Preparing for the first day back to working out can be intimidating. Plan to spend your first day doing something you really enjoy and incorporate it into your day. If you are going to the gym, do some research ahead of time. What does your gym have that you are interested in doing? Pack your workout clothes the night before and leave them at the front door so you don't have to think about it the morning of.

It's also very important to set realistic goals when starting an exercise program. For example if you currently don't exercise at all right now expecting to start an exercise program that consists of 60 minutes 6 days a week is probably not realistic. Perhaps more realistic is 10-20 minutes 2 days a week. Once you are able to attain that goal you will build confidence and motivation to continue and to add more exercise.

Depending on how long it has been since your last period of exercise, you might want to check with your doctor to ensure that any changes in your health would not prevent you from starting a new exercise program.

Once you get the go ahead, you will want to use a program that will build a solid fitness foundation. NASM-certified trainers can perform an assessment to identify any imbalances to correct. NASM trainers will create a program that will first focus on creating a fitness foundation that includes stabilization, flexibility, and muscular endurance. After building this foundation, you will work on increasing muscular endurance then move on to other fitness goals such as building muscle (hypertrophy), increasing strength, and/or increasing power.

Working with a trainer ensures that your program will progress using a proven system and includes exercises to meet your fitness goals.

When you return to health and fitness do so in a progressive manner. Unfortunately your body will more than likely not be able to effectively handle the amount of exercise and stress placed upon it that you performed prevouisly in an effective manner. Starting the road back is can be frustrating but do not be discouraged! Start off slowly with a progressive fitness program. Start slowly and moderately increase the work load. Your body will respond quickly and very possibly surpass where your fitness level was prevouisly. If you start out placing to much of a demand on your body injury is a very possible reality and then your back to where you started after your injury free. A fitness program with integrated aerobic and anaerobic conditioning will yeild the most productive results. Possibly consider spending a few sessions with a fitness professional to help you maximize your progress

Before jumping into a program, begin with a reminder of why your were engaged in health and fitness previously, and determine what your reasons and goals are for getting back into it. Thinks about what types of fitness interest you. These might be great starting points to consider if you have had a long lay off. If time has changed your ability to participate in past types of exercise, it's probably time to talk to a professional who can provide some assistance in determine a starting point.

To avoid injury and prevent discouragement from getting back to a regular exercise routine, it is best to listen to your body and work at a level that is challenging, but not above your current fitness level. If you are only slightly sore the next day, it will be easier to be ready for the next workout and start a healthy habit. If you can't walk for three days, you probably aren't going to be too excited for the next workout. Injury never helps one reach his/her goals.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.