I see it every day, people getting back to working out after having taken a period of time off. Lapses in workouts come for a variety of reasons with injuries, time restraints, and lack of motivation being among the most common. No matter what the cause, eventually it will be time to get back to your workout routine.
Whether it’s been a few weeks, months, or years, the important thing is that you’re back and ready to go again. But, when getting restarted, it’s imperative to know how to go about it safely and productively.
For those of you who have taken a few weeks off, you won’t need to go back to square one. It can be best to take a couple of weeks off every year to let your body fully recover and allow you to mentally begin focusing on your workouts again. Scale back your workouts slightly when restarting after a couple of weeks. Reduce the weights you use to about 3/4 of what you were using before.
Also, if you’re used to working out just one or two body parts per workout, consider changing your routine for the first few exercise sessions. Do an upper body/lower body split for the first week or two to reacquaint your muscles to the workouts. After that, feel free to get back to your usual workout routine and weights. You may experience a little post workout soreness at first but that should go away after the first few workouts.
If you’ve been away from working out for a few months, you’ll need to take a little more time to get back to your regular workout routines. Be careful when reintroducing big, compound exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and power cleans. These exercises rely heavily on form and joint strength. While you may have maintained the muscle strength to perform these exercises, you may not have maintained enough joint strength to complete them safely.
Perform some less-compound exercises to reestablish the joint strength and begin adding the compound exercises using roughly 2/3 of the weight you are used to. Look at using the first two to four weeks to get back into your routine and build up your strength before returning to your old workout regimen.
If your time off has been more than a few months, you’ll have to drop back and begin with the basics. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident with restarting, consider getting some help from a trained professional to ensure that you’ll minimize your risk of injury. Use about 1/2 of the weight you were used to using and take the time to build your strength back gradually. While your mind will want to get right back to where you were when you stopped, your body will want some time to readjust. Remember, it’s not a race and by coming back gradually you’ll be able to come back safely and, ultimately, more effectively.
If the reason for your time of was because of an injury, you’ll need to take special care when getting back to working out. Knee, shoulder and lower back injuries, among others, will require rehab exercises in the gym before getting back to your regular workouts. For other medical and health concerns, talk with your physician or a fitness professional before starting.
Again, start slowly and progress gradually as your body allows. Keep in mind that it was an injury that took you out of the gym in the first place and the last thing you need is another one. Whatever the reason for your layoff, the most important thing is that you’re back. Take some time to get restarted and you’ll soon be enjoying your regular workout schedule again.
Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. Direct questions about the information in this column to Pegg at 505.662.5232.