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Tips To Start Working Out Again After a Break

One day you’re a workout warrior. The next you’re planted on the couch, watching television. But now you’ve decided to get back into your old active lifestyle.

That’s great. Just keep in mind, particularly as you get older, that it may take some time to return to where you were – or even just close to where you were.

How long will it take you to be more physically active? That depends on how old you are and how long you’ve been sedentary. If you stopped working out at 21, it’s going to be a lot easier to start over if you are now 23, instead of 40.

Years of inactivity can take a toll on your body, as you gain weight and your muscles become deconditioned. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You just need to be smart about it.

Getting Started

If you’ve had a particularly long layoff, you should first talk with your primary care doctor about your plans. This will help make sure you are physically fit enough. And it’s never a bad idea to have a general health checkup before embarking on any type of strenuous exercise plan.

You also might want to talk with someone else who has already been on a similar journey. You can gain valuable insights and tips on things to do and to avoid.

The old adage “no pain, no gain” can be particularly hazardous for someone who has been inactive for a long period of time. So listen to your body. If you feel discomfort or pain, stop and take some time to figure out why. In fact, a better motto would be: “If it hurts, don’t do it.”

Common Injuries

As you get going, your muscles will feel fatigued and sore. That’s normal. But it’s important to watch for signs that this soreness could be on the verge of becoming something worse, like an overuse injury – tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, for example. Other common injuries include sprains, strains, torn rotator cuffs and Achilles tendon tears.

To keep safe, these strategies will help you get started:

  • Don’t rush things: Think of your exercise plan as a pool of water. Start by dipping your toe in – rather than just diving into the deep end.
  • Use proper form: If you’re coming off a long layoff, it’s likely that you’ve forgotten proper form and techniques that can help you avoid injury.
  • Mix up your routine: Rather than just hitting the weights, mix in some cardio and varied exercises to focus on different parts of your body.
  • Stretch and stretch some more: Keeping your body flexible is one of the keys to avoiding injury. You should stretch before and after you exercise.
  • Don’t overdo it: Give your muscles time to recover after workouts and to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Get geared up: Make sure your gear (shoes, tennis racket, etc.) is in good condition and sized correctly for you.

Keeping It Going

Once you embark on a new exercise plan, one of the biggest challenges is to keep going. Your mental attitude will have a significant impact on whether you stick with it -- or find yourself back on the couch.

Ideally, you’ll tackle your new plan with the goal of boosting both your physical and mental well-being. And you’ll be more likely to have success if you approach it with a long-term objective – being healthier – rather than a short-term goal – like making a New Year’s resolution to lose 30 pounds. Those sorts of quick goals tend to be less effective. They also can encourage people to push themselves too hard, which can lead to injuries.

One of the ways to make your new exercise plan stick is to build socialization into it. Find people who are interested in the same sport (a cycling or running group, for example) and join them. Having a friend – or group of friends – to exercise with will increase the fun factor and help you stay motivated on those days when you think about skipping.

And consider using a fitness tracker. Setting goals and watching your progress on one of these devices can be addicting.

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