How to Get Back into Exercising After a Long Break

A pair of shoes, a watch, keys, a water bottle, a phone, and barbells sit on the floor and the words "Exercising After an Extended Break" are written beside them

There are many reasons that people take extended breaks from exercising. It may be the birth of a baby, an extended illness, a busy time at work, a move, or any number of other events that intrude on a person’s workout schedule. You may want to get back into your rigorous regimen right away, but for most people, the best way to proceed is to start gently and gradually build back up to the workouts you did before.

Consider Your Health Concerns

If your break from fitness was due to a health problem, you should talk to your doctor before you start exercising again. You may need more time to heal, or you may want to work certain exercises into your routine that will benefit your healing process. For many health conditions, exercise is recommended to improve blood flow and avoid weight gain. Your doctor will be able to tell you how soon after an injury you can begin exercising again and how vigorously you should be working out.

Ease Into Your Workout

Even if you only stopped exercising for a few weeks, enough time has passed for your muscles to begin atrophying. This means that your muscles have gotten weaker, so you won’t be able to do the same level of exercise that you did before your break. Jumping right back into your former workout will likely result in pulled muscles and can even cause torn muscles and ligaments. To avoid pain and injuries, ease into your workout in much the same way you did when you first began your workout regimen.

Starting your workout with slow stretching will prime your muscles for the workout. Take the time to stretch all of your major muscle groups to avoid strains. If it’s been a long time since your last workout, a quick stretch may not be enough. You may want to use your first few exercise periods for mostly stretching and then some warm-up movements to get back into your fitness groove. After you’ve stretched sufficiently, begin the exercises you did before but with less intensity. Do your cardio exercises at a slower pace or for a shorter period and start with a lighter weight when you do strength exercises. Begin by working out for shorter periods of time than you did before and slowly work up to the exercise period you had before your break.

Vary Your Routine

For many people, an extended break from exercising happens because the workout itself was boring and they didn’t get into a routine that was interesting enough. If you have found your workouts to be boring, vary your exercises to keep them interesting. If they aren’t fun for you, you are far less likely to keep doing them. Experiment with different types of exercise to see what you most enjoy. Many people enjoy walking or running on a treadmill. Others love the speed and challenge of the cycle. Try different machines and intensities to see what keeps you going.

Think of the Long Goal

When you’re easing yourself back into exercise after a long break, you may get frustrated at the slow progress that you make. It’s true that easing back into exercise is a long process, but it’s not about getting quick results. Trying to push yourself to get fast results will only cause injuries that can set back your fitness goals even more. When you focus on your long-term fitness goals and see your progress as just one step along the fitness bridge, it will be easier to be patient with your results.

Set a Fitness Schedule

When you don’t have a workout schedule, it’s easy to put off your workouts when other things get scheduled. Having a set workout schedule means that you know which days and times you need to be in the gym, so you’ll schedule other obligations around those times. Building exercise into a habit means you’ll be more willing to do it and less likely to take breaks. Furthermore, being there for all of your workout times will keep you in shape and lead to better results over time.

Keep It Up

With varying workouts, a healthy habit of hitting the gym, and plenty of patience, you will soon be up to your previous fitness level. Keep up your workouts, and you’ll meet your goals in no time. Steady progress and healthy habits will make all the difference in the way you look and feel. If you need help launching back into exercising or if you just want to develop a new routine, Texas FITT’s expert trainers are here to help.