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7 simple fitness tips: The workout plan you need if it’s been a while

Been a while since you hit the gym or worked out consistently? Here's how to ease back into a healthy routine

Have you stayed out of the gym for a long time? Maybe you suffered an injury or illness or just fell out of your exercise routine. Whatever the reason for your time off, getting back into working out can be physically and mentally challenging.

Skipping working out for a few days may have little to no effect on your muscle. However, after a long break, say from a few weeks to months, your muscle fibers may begin to decline depending on whether you work out for strength or endurance. 

You also may feel soreness when you get back to the gym. The good news is that even though the process can be challenging, you can build your muscle without much discomfort.

In this piece, we’ll share seven fitness tips on how to get back into the gym safely. It’s time to dive in!

Ease into it

A man doing a yoga pose with a tablet in front of him in the living room.
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Being away from the gym for a while means your body has taken a break from gym stress. If an illness or injury was the reason for the pause, your body needs to get back into the routine gently. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out; you may also feel muscle pain once you are back in. Therefore, you should take it slow and gradually reawaken your muscles instead of returning to your routine on your first comeback exercise. 

Applying excessive workout intensity puts you at greater risk of injury. Studies show that unrestrained training diminishes your body’s immune response. On the other hand, a moderate one boosts immunity.

Hence, you should practice simple versions of your usual workout drills to ease into your workout plan. For instance, if you could deadlift 330 pounds for five reps before, you can start by deadlifting 135 pounds for five reps now and slowly work your way back up again. With time, you can add more weights until you reach your usual daily capability.

You can also try out some exercises for beginners before and after getting into the real deal. Easing into your workout is a sure way to recover your lost strength and endurance without fatigue.

Start with just 5 minutes

A man in jacket and earphones jogging on the street.
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Just as your ability to lift certain weights changes after a long break, the length of your workout sessions can also change. In the early stages of your return, you may not be able to last as long as you used to. There’s no need to force yourself into 30 minutes of weight lifting and risk getting fatigued within a short time. If you try to extend the duration of your workout beyond what your body can handle, you may end up with a muscle tear, strain, or stress fracture.

You can begin with just five minutes for the first few weeks, then step up to 10 minutes and increase the duration as you go on. Create and stick to an adaptable workout plan to allow your body to get back into fitness mode. Only increase the time when you’re sure you can endure it without injury or fatigue.

Make things interesting

Man hiking along trial in forest on foggy morning.
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Working out is not always fun, and if you’re not ready for the low moments, you may soon take another break. It’s best to keep things interesting to stay motivated after being away from the four walls of the gym.

Variety is the spice of life — and fitness. In other words, including variety in your workout routine is an excellent option to make your gym time fun. For example, you can take some days to indulge in strength training instead of sticking to cardio. Again, you can get a gym instructor to help you create the right routine and infuse the right exercises into your workout plan for variety.

In addition, you should choose exercises that you actually like doing. If you enjoy strolling in the park, you can try power walking, jogging, or running. Swimming and hiking are also fun exercise activities you can try out.

More importantly, by listening to music while exercising or getting new workout gear, you can create a new, inspiring mood for exercise. With these tips, you will do fun activities and stay fit at once.

Get an accountability buddy

couple doing medicine ball workout together.

Joining forces with an accountability buddy is a great way to stay disciplined and focused on your goal. This strategy is also valuable in exercise and fitness, especially when you try getting back into the game.

An accountability buddy is a person who knows about your plan to achieve a goal and will help you stay on track. In this case, your accountability buddy will regularly seek feedback, ask about your workout commitment, and motivate you. Ideally, your accountability buddy should exercise alongside you. They will encourage you to keep jogging when all you want to do is hail a cab and head back home.

Also, such a partner makes gym attendance easier since the thought of canceling a gym date and disappointing your accountability partner can make you get out of bed. The person you choose for this role should have fitness goals similar to yours. It could be a family member, friend, or co-worker. They should be someone you trust and have confidence in to push you through. 

Create a realistic schedule

Writing in a planner.
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Darcy Reber, a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System, advises that “you should schedule exercises as you will schedule an important appointment.” Think of your schedule as crucial and necessary, not as something trivial.

Don’t get so carried away by the enthusiasm of getting fit again that you create a schedule that’s difficult to keep up with. The more practical your schedule is, the higher your chances of sticking to it.

Therefore, you should create a realistic schedule by considering your fitness goals, fitness level, the equipment available, the duration of the workout, and your daily routine. You can let your trainer or accountability buddy in on your schedule; they can help you check if it is feasible or unrealistic.

Start with at-home workouts rather than the gym

Man doing squats at home.

You don’t need to sign up for a gym membership before you get back to working out. You can start right in the convenience of your own home. Since you’re trying to get into workout mode, starting at home ensures that you get started in the first place. For instance, if the cost of a gym membership is holding you back, you should consider at-home workouts until you can afford the gym fee.  

This is also another way to ease into the fitness lifestyle. It provides you with privacy and lets you run a flexible schedule. With at-home cardio workouts such as jumping jacks, side lunges, and burpees, you can launch your return to exercising without any equipment.

Prioritize rest and recovery

hip stretch.

Your body needs time to recoup after exercise, hence the need to prioritize rest and recovery.

Research shows that sleep deprivation affects exercise performance by decreasing the time to fatigue and diminishing a person’s focus and alertness. This places them at risk of a gym accident. Therefore, include time off for rest and sleep in your workout schedule. Adequate rest allows your muscles enough time to repair so that you can be in the best position to exercise moving forward. 

Pre-workout exercises or warm-ups will save you the trouble of soreness and injuries. They will help you recover and reduce exhaustion after workouts.

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Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
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