June 2022 / Exercise

Restarting an Exercise Routine After a Long Break

How To Safely Re-Start a Physical Fitness Program

What a crazy two years we’ve been through! But we made it! Pat yourself on the back – you deserve it. You pulled yourself through the isolation, the restrictions, and the stress of our Covid-governed lives.

Restarting ExercisingWe put a lot on hold during these past two years. Packed on a few pounds. Got used to extended periods on the couch. But you know what? Its time to get back in gear and start returning to our normal lives. Yes, continue to exercise the measure of healthcare caution that you believe to be prudent – but no more excuses to not exercise regularly.

But Don’t Jump Back In at 100%

We remember how we approached exercise before laying off. We don’t want to jump back to that level immediately after a long period without physical activity for health. What we need to do is work gradually back to our prior levels of exertion if that is practical.

And we’ll throw in an important word of caution. Don’t restart an exercise program after a long layoff until you’ve chatted with your doctor. Tell her and him what you plan to do. Ask their advice. Follow it.

As you get started, be realistic about what levels of effort are practical. For most people, you won’t be able to do things immediately that you once could. But don’t get frustrated. Set initial goals that will ease you back into a routine where you don’t overdo it. Let your musculoskeletal system get used to things before you gradually increase activity. You don’t want to overstress muscles, tendons and joints that have been sedentary to a point of injury on your first day out.

The most important thing in your early days of returning to exercise is to just do something on an easy basis. Rest assured – progress will follow.

Add Strength Training

Fast walking or running are great cardiovascular exercises. But to prevent injury, keep cross-training in mind. Mix up your workouts – tennis, golf and basketball all work to name a few.

But also focus on strength training. The older that you get, strength training becomes even more important as weakened muscles can lead to joint pain.

If You Do Push Yourself Too Hard

If you do end up pushing yourself too hard and get injured, rest is important. It can also be frustrating also as you’ve mentally gotten yourself back to be committed to an exercise routine – and now your injury means a break from that while the injury heals.

But there are no shortcuts to recovery other than taking a break from the exercise that caused the injury and taking an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen. You can also use the RICE routine (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to help recovery along. Hopefully the injury will prove to be a lesson learned, and you’ll be more careful as you ease back into activity when you are ready again.

Make Your Exercise Fun

Choose an exercise activity that you like to do. If you hate running, choose something else that with provide you with a sustained cardiovascular workout. For some, finding activities that have a social component is important to stay motivated. Others are inspired by tracking their progress with the myriad of fitness tracking devices, such as Fitbit, that are now available.

Keep your goals specific, realistic and obtainable. Give yourself adequate time to achieve them. It won’t happen right away. But if you keep at it, you will enjoy results – and the personal satisfaction that goes with it.

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