Getting back into shape after a long time off can prove to be difficult. You’ve already gotten used to not working out, but eventually, like many of us, you’ll find yourself longing to move and sweat again. Our motives to start back up again all vary; whatever yours is, make sure you’re smart about it. Here are some things to keep in mind when you lace up (again):
1. It won’t be easy. Harry Pino, exercise physiologist at the Sports Performance Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, says that endurance is among the first things to go once we stop exercising. Runners experience dramatic declines in both their VO2Max and muscle power. So start back slow and gradually work your way back to where you once were. Starting back up with a hard workout will not only leave you incredibly sore, but it may also lead to injury. Try something simple like a 10-minute jog for your runs in the first week, 15 for the next week and so on, alternating between run and off days. Also try slow jogging one day and biking the next.
2. Consider yoga. Because certain muscles have been inactive for a while, you will feel muscle soreness as you start to move again. Yoga can increase flexibility, blood flow and circulation. It’s also important to be aware of joint mobility after a long time off. “It’s shocking to see what happens to the body [when you take time off],” says Pino. “We start to see lots of changes to muscle, strength, and fat levels—it really deteriorates your structural well-being.” However, yoga can be one of the first steps to naturally strengthen your muscles. Although you may not be an expert yogi at first, you’ll improve and notice the positive effects of yoga on the mind and body over time.
3. Be patient. Getting back into the workout regime requires a lot of patience. You’re not going to feel or look the way you may want to after one day back. Adam St. Pierre, exercise physiologist with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and expert with The Starting Line, says, “Too many times a race or other goal encourages a runner to do more than they ought to too soon after injury.” It can take weeks or even months for your muscles, bones and ligaments to get strong again. St. Pierre goes on: “Too often people get it in their head that they need to run for 30 minutes every day, or run and not walk, in order to make progress.” He advises people who are beginning to work out again to leave their ego at the door. It’s important to let your body adapt to the changes of exercising again…slowly. Don’t push a workout that you once were capable of doing.