23 Jun Returning to the Gym after a Layoff!
It’s Been a Rough Couple of Months…
It’s late June 2020, most of us have spent the last 3 months locked in our homes, only leaving to buy necessities and occasionally go for a walk outside. Healthy habits that have taken years to establish were quickly replaced by unhealthy ones and many of us have become entrenched in sedentary routines. The number on the scale has crept up steadily and the thought of exercising becomes more and more foreign. This is the unfortunate reality for most Americans and although it’s not our fault, we’re the only ones that can start to turn things around for the better. However, we need to be mindful in our approach to beginning to exercise again and ensure slow and steady progression that that allows for the development of permanent, sustainable habits.
If we try to flip the switch overnight and return to our old exercise/diet regimens, there is a high probability that we will quickly relapse. Very few people can handle a complete overhaul of their habits in a matter of days and almost nobody can sustain such rapid change to their habits in the long run. The key to success is slow and steady changes in routine that are sustainable over the long term. If you previously worked out 5-6 days a week, start with 2-3 days a week and ease back into it. If you’ve developed a bad habit of late night snacking, instead of trying to immediately eliminate it, start by substituting what you normally eat for healthy alternatives such as vegetables.
Beyond the sustainability issue of immediately resuming your old exercise routines 100%, there’s also the risk of injury. After 3 months of being sedentary your muscles need to be eased back into it. They’re likely tight and inflexible putting you at a higher risk of injury. Make sure that you stretch thoroughly and warm up with light cardio before returning to any high intensity exercise.
When you’re establishing healthy habits (even if they’re habits you previously had), slow incremental changes are the way to go. When the changes to your daily routine are slow and steady they feel less intrusive and are easier to maintain. So as you begin to get your diet & exercise routine back on track, remember to take baby steps, one day at a time!
Setup your Environment for Success
Another important aspect of establishing (or in this case re-establishing) positive habits is setting up your environment for success. Let’s use our aforementioned example of late night snacking. If you’ve developed a bad habit of eating junk food in the evenings (as many of us have!) then you can work to curb this by not buying the junk food in the first place and only keeping healthy snacks in your house. This way, when it’s late at night and your resolve to eat well is lapsing, you would have to go out of your way to cheat on your diet.
The same concept can be applied to going to the gym. Many people plan to workout in the mornings but never do because it’s too easy to hit the snooze button. However, if you have your gym clothes setup, your breakfast pre-made and set your alarm across the room so you’re forced to physically get up when it goes off, it’s going to be much harder NOT to go to the gym.
These are just a two of many ways you can setup your environment for success. We all have times where we tend to lose our resolve and relapse on our diet/exercise plan. The key is structuring your environment in a way that makes it harder to fail in times of weakness (at night, when we’re with friends, weekends, etc).
Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING
The last quarter has not been an easy one. Beyond the physical limitations to exercise there has been significant emotional stress caused by the uncertainty and worry surrounding the pandemic. The physiological response caused by this stress leads to a furthering of the negative effects that a lack of exercise was already having on our bodies.
There’s nothing we can do to change the last three months but we can certainly take steps to improve our health in the coming weeks/months. If you haven’t exercised at all and your diet has fallen apart it’s okay! Start taking small, incremental steps today to improve your eating habits and begin exercising on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, in fact, you’re more likely to stick with a new regimen if it’s introduced slowly. The key is to begin doing something!