How to Safely and Efficiently get Back to Training after a Long Break

Whether you had to stop training because of a situation out of your control, a long term injury, or you couldn’t keep up for some reason, it’s important that you come back with a plan if you want good results. The way you come back will have a huge impact on your future success. It will set the tone for the rest of your active life and could make the difference between you getting back to your prime shape or feeling defeated and crawling back into a sedentary lifestyle.

This is why you need to know exactly what you should do and mistakes you should avoid. You also have to find a way to not only get back into your old shape but keep progressing as well. Here are a few tips for safely and efficiently going back to training after a long break.

Make Sure Your Initial Goals make Sense

You can’t go in thinking you can hit the same targets as back when you were still active. Depending on the time you spent away from the activity, you might not even be close. Things like bad life habits or additional weight will make things even worse.

The first thing you should do when getting back into the game is to come up with a real goal. And before setting goals, you have to make sure that they are S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. goal setting methodology comes from management and leadership but can be applied to any goal. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bond.

First, your goal has to be very specific, so you can really see it and not imagine it as an abstract idea. For instance, getting back in shape is not specific enough to be a goal. Maybe you have a list of exercises in your workout. In these cases, you should aim for specific limits as far as time or resistance goes. You should also make sure that these goals are higher than your previous plateaus, so you can actually become better and continue progressing.

Next, the goal has to be measurable. This goes hand in hand with being specific. You have to track progress as you go and make sure that it's written down and can be referenced. You have to divide your goals into smaller benchmarks and measure success and progress to make sure you don’t regress. If your goal is to lose weight, then you have to monitor your weight at regular intervals, have a clear food and activity journal, and have benchmarks there as well.

You have to make sure that your goals are attainable too. If your goals are unattainable, you will simply get discouraged and fizzle out. So, make sure that you start with something modest while still clear and measurable. You have to be at least 80% sure that you’ll be able to attain the goal. If you can’t, try something less ambitious. For instance, if your goal was to lose 30 pounds in two months, try aiming for 10 instead.

Next comes relevancy. You have to make sure that the goal in question actually aligns with your personal training goals. You don’t need to start training like a marathon trainer if you absolutely hate it and your training has always been resistance-based.

Last, you want to make sure that your goals are time-bound. You have to be able to set yourself clear limits to attain them, clear timelines, and milestones along the way.

Get Back Into the Groove Slowly

It’s very important that you get back into training slowly. This is in large part to prevent injuries. This is also very important if you happen to be getting back from one.

First, you should focus on a workout regimen that puts a lot of emphasis on rest time. While this is especially important for resistance training, those who focus on cardio should also start slowly, especially if we’re talking about running. You need to let your cardio system get back in motion, and you have to acclimate your joints as well.

If you were doing heavy resistance training before the break, we would suggest split exercises every other day when first started. You could decide to do a top/bottom split or a typical “bro split” where you’ll be focusing on specific body parts.

The goal here is not to get massive gains, or even to get back to your previous targets, but to prepare your body while still progressing. With an ‘every other day’ schedule, you leave plenty of time for each part of the body to recuperate and will be able to overload progressively.

Also, know that you will be more prone to damage and possible injuries during this time. If you ever suspect you may be suffering from an injury, we suggest you contact a physio in Camberwell immediately. A physio could also help you deal with joint pain at the beginning or work on a pre-emptive program to make sure that you get back into action without aggravating a previous injury.

If you were more of a cardio type of person, you should also reduce the length and frequency of your sessions at first. Another thing you could do is move to lower impact exercises.

That doesn’t mean you won’t get the same workout, however. For instance, running a 12min/mile for one hour will burn around the same number of calories as doing backstroke swimming for one hour. The only difference is that swimming does not put anywhere near as much pressure on your joints. So, consider making a switch, at least until you feel yourself getting back into your previous shape.

Ramp Things Back Up Progressively

However, that doesn’t mean you get an excuse for slacking off. As we mentioned earlier, the goal is not to get back to your game shape, only to start stagnating. One of the ways you could get steady progress is to go by solid increments. For instance, you could increase the weight or number of sets by 10% every two weeks. You could also reduce reps between sets.

Another thing you could do is increase the length of your sessions if they start to feel too easy. If you don’t feel like you have a solid workout from your elliptical session, you can try going for a slightly longer session or increase resistance.

Pushing and Pulling

During your first weeks, it will be very important to keep rest in mind. Not only do you want to alternate workout days, but some will advise that you take a full week off resistance training if you want to continue progressing and prevent injuries.

However, when we say you should have rest days, that doesn’t mean that you should be completely lethargic on days you aren’t training. If you’re doing some cardio, doing some light activities between sessions will keep your blood pumping and well oxygenated. If you’re doing resistance, slight activity has been shown to actually help with muscle recovery. This is in large part due to increased blood circulation. Just make sure that you eat plenty of protein during those days, and make sure that the activity in questions isn’t putting too much stress on the muscle groups that are recovering.

Make it Fun

Working out doesn’t have to feel like a chore or be boring. If you’re spending half an hour on the stationary bicycle, then going back home, why not get yourself a bicycle instead? You could either use it to run errands or specifically for training. Either way, it will surely beat doing it in some sweaty gym.

Another thing you should think about is joining organised sports or start training for one. One hour on the rowing machine sounds like an absolute ordeal, but playing two hours of 2 on 2 badminton doesn’t sound near as bad. Try to find clubs in your municipality or community centres, and see what they have to offer. Many will have organised sporting activities you can join, some for free.

Make Sure You Make Yourself Accountable

This is very important if you don’t want to start faking it and slacking off. Being accountable to someone will give you that extra jolt you need, and help you remember why you’re in this for. You might also need someone to push you in the back for the first few sessions.

This is one of these times where you could consider hiring help. You could do it just for the first few weeks and to build a plan. If you feel like you have the motivation, you could also use tracking tools like MyFitnessPal that will allow you to log your workouts and meals and keep progressing. Asking a friend if they’d like to join you or finding a running group could also help with accountability and motivation.

Getting back into your prime shape can be a challenge, but it’s one you can definitely get over when you go about it the right way. Remember to be forgiving, but not too much, and focus mainly on setting clear goals and sticking to them through strict monitoring and accountability.

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