This post is aimed at those of you who’ve perhaps taken an ‘extended hiatus’ from exercise – i.e. you’ve had maybe weeks, months – or even years of consistent… rest days. I’m not chastising you for this, as it happens; life happens. We’re all human.
Regardless, if you’re now ready to get back on the horse (in a matter of speaking) what’s the best plan of action? Below are my top tips for helping you regain your fitness mojo!
1. Do a bit of organising.
If your training gear has seen better days, it’s a good idea to invest in some new clobber. This is not only practical, but will help you to get in the right mindset for exercise, and subconsciously reaffirm that you’re determined to succeed!
Next, examine your daily/weekly schedule, and decide when you can make time for physical activity – whether this is in the morning, evening, or during your lunch break.
2. Be a corkscrew!
Be a what? Okay, let me explain this concept! It’s important to assess your current level of fitness; don’t make the mistake of plunging head-first into the deep end of relentless training. By doing this, you risk premature burn-out and injury. What’s more, it isn’t fun, and one of the key factors to a dedicated exercise routine is enjoyment. This is rarely the case from the offset – you have to reach a certain level before your efforts turn to reward. Thus, it’s best if you ease in gently – like a corkscrew!
Several, gentler sessions allow you to gradually transition, until you’re ready to ‘pop’, and go at things full throttle! If you want to re-join a gym, commit to maybe three sessions a week at this stage.
3. Incorporate simple, daily exercises.
Squats are a superb exercise that help to build lower body shape and strength, as well as improving balance. Before you contemplate weighted squats, start by slotting a few basic squats into your session (daily, if possible) using just your body weight as resistance. Begin with about 20 reps, working up to 50 or so over the course of a month. You can factor in jump squats, too, as you become more adept at the basic exercise – these help to increase fat-burning!
Push-ups are also a simple but effective exercise that targets the upper body. Again, start with 20 reps per gym session – daily if you can manage it – until you reach 50.Use a training mat to cushion your knees.
- The Plank
The plank exercise is a powerful method of building core strength. The aim is to sustain the plank until fatigue sets in; daily planking can take as little as a couple of minutes, but is highly effective. Initially, you might only manage to ‘plank’ for 20 or 30 seconds, but if you stick with it, you’ll soon extend this period.
4. Do short bursts of cardio.
Ah, that ‘c’ word! Cardio is not something to dread; it’s worth noting that even resistance training – if done properly – boosts heart rate. Thus, specific cardio exercises do not have be punishing sessions that feel like endless black holes! It can seem like that, though, when you’re out of practice.
The key is to incorporate short ‘bursts’ of cardio throughout the week; this will not only help to boost heart and lung function, but stimulate the release of endorphins – the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. So, exercise serves as an underutilised mood-booster! Long-term, this will help you to establish a healthier, more positive relationship with training (honestly!).
Undoubtedly, one of the best super-octane forms of cardio is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s a term thrown around a lot in the world of fitness – and with good reason. It involves alternate periods of training at maximum capacity for about 30 seconds, followed by a recovery period of around a minute, whereby the output level is halved. Aside from being a great conditioning exercise, HIIT is a superior fat-burning technique, and can elevate the metabolism for several hours after completion.
HIIT can be applied to various types of cardio work, but for beginners, a HIIT treadmill workout is likely best. This is because you can time your intervals accurately, and include this in your gym sessions.
A word of warning – start small
Accomplished HIIT practitioners can often do a full 30 minutes, with varying inclines to mimic running uphill, etc. However, if you’ve not done cardio in a while, this will feel like an eternity. Endeavour to put aside ten minutes each gym session – and split this into a minute of brisk walking (or jogging if you can manage it), followed by 15 seconds of sprinting (repeat x 5).
5. Acknowledge the role of supplements
Supplements can provide support to your training, helping you to cross hurdles and reach your potential. If chosen correctly, they’re truly invaluable.
With a nutritious diet as basis, whey protein shakes aid faster recovery, as you’re apt to feel sore much more acutely when you first get back to exercise. Branched-chain amino acid (BCAAs) form the ‘building blocks’ of protein; receive a ‘drip supply’ of these by adding a BCAA powder to your water and sipping this throughout the day.
Prepare, gradually ease back into fitness (use the corkscrew analogy), and incorporate straightforward exercise techniques into your day. Add in some HIIT, and you’re well on your way. Give these steps a try, and within a month or two, you’ll be ready for new challenges!