Fun Ways to Get Back In Shape
I’m guilty of it. You’re probably guilty of it. It’s winter, I’m busy, I just got a new couch and it needs to be worn in… you know the drill. However, by skipping the gym, we are actually putting our bodies at risk in ways you probably didn’t even realize. Despite exercise being something of a miracle remedy for things including happiness, better sleep, increased body strength and flexibility, better memory, reduced stress, and increased self-confidence, its also just something our body needs to stay strong and healthy as we age. By not exercising, muscles and tendons get weaker, we become less flexible, we can experience chronic diseases and pain, and our pants may not fit like they used to. Not to mention all the stress we are not relieving, the endorphins we aren’t stimulating, and the motivated gym friends we aren’t making.
Starting to exercise again after a long period of inactivity can be difficult, it can be painful, and you may want to quit. Just remind yourself that it will only take 4-6 weeks to get back to a good level of fitness where you will begin to reap a larger return on investment than you can imagine. Here are some tips to help get you there.
Tips to get back in shape, one step at a time
1) Start slow with cardio. Make sure you warm up, and then give yourself recovery breaks every 10-15 minutes to grab some water. It could be hazardous to jump right back into doing 30-45 minutes of cardio right away since your bones, ligaments, and tendons are weak and this increases your chances of injury.
Prevention.com recommends that when you’re just getting back into working out, you should start with a moderate cardio workout about 3 times a week, making sure to give yourself a day of rest in between. Along with this you can do some resistance training twice a week, allowing two days of recovery between sessions. After a few weeks you can add one more day of each cardio and resistance if you’d like.
2) Choose total-body exercises rather than single muscle exercises. Try to incorporate exercises that involve multiple joints at once, like squats and push-ups. This helps you to bulid a base of muscles before you start training singular muscle groups. Lauren Saglimbene, MS, CSCS, a fitness coach based in Lynchburg, VA also recommends that when just starting your fitness routine, you should stay away from high intensity intervals until you have made some progress with your cardio training.
3) Don’t focus on how fit you used to be. First of all, living in the past is a huge detractor of how wonderful this moment is, and who you are now. By focusing on the gains and victories you experience in your fitness journey now, you’re way more likely to stay realistic and enthusiastic about what you can do, rather than disappointed that you can’t do the same things you could.
4) Try something new. Yes, you could go to the gym and get on the treadmill for 30 excruciating minutes. Or you could try a class at your gym, sign up for a boxing gym, experience a yoga class for the first time, or even try swimming some laps. New experiences can help you find activities that you really enjoy. And when you enjoy something you want to keep doing it. Exercise doesn’t have to be machines and dumb-bells (although it can be!)
5) Bring a friend. One of the most difficult aspects of exercising, especially at the beginning, is accountability. I’m not saying you need to get a personal trainer who makes you feel bad for not working out (I don’t think that’s the purpose of personal trainers anyway), but it will significantly increase your chances of sticking with it if you have a friend, family member, or significant other who supports you (and vice versa) in your fitness journey. Also, it will probably be easier to do number 4 with a buddy.
It may be difficult at first, but by taking it slow, being open to new activities, and enlisting some support, you can start reaping the many benefits of a higher level of health in just a few weeks.