Getting back into exercise

If you’ve not been doing exercise for a while, going back to gym training can feel a little daunting. The good news is that getting back to fitness after a break is often easier than you might think. You’ll still have your ‘muscle memory’, so you won’t have to learn techniques again and you’ll be surprised by just how quickly your fitness levels return.

That said, it’s worth preparing for how you’ll get back to fitness. There is a risk of injury if you try to immediately do as much as you could before you took the break.

In this guide, you’ll learn about getting back into exercise safely after some months away from the gym.

Tips for restarting the gym after a break

Here are our 7 tips for going back to the gym:

1. Start slow

We get it – you want to get back to fitness as soon as possible! But while it’s tempting to push yourself hard and make up for ‘lost’ time, this could have the opposite effect if you get injured. The fact is, you will likely have lost some muscle mass and stamina while you’ve been away from training. So, it’s going to take time to build back up to peak performance. In your first few sessions, focus on some simple restart workouts with lighter weights or shorter aerobic sessions which will help your body adjust.

2. Warm-up and cool down

You should always warm-up before exercise sessions, but this is especially true when it comes to restarting workouts after a long break. Warmups help to increase blood flow and muscle temperature and make you less likely to get an injury.

Taking the time to do some cool-down stretches will also be helpful as you get back to fitness. Just a couple of minutes’ stretching should mean your DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) will be much less uncomfortable.

Social distancing: Read our tips for social distancing at the gym

3. Create a SMART plan

Whether you’re eager to restart exercise or are struggling to stay motivated, it is useful to create a plan that will help you ease back into the gym. The SMART acronym might help – this is a way of setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. This approach is helpful because it provides you with a structured way to restart workouts that can keep you motivated longer.

Without a SMART plan, you might set a goal to “get really fit”. That’s a good target, but it’s fairly vague and easy to put off. Here’s what a SMART plan might look like:

  • Specific: I want to increase my running distance by 10k
  • Measurable: I will track my distance over time using an app such as Strava.
  • Attainable: I can train 3 days a week.
  • Realistic: I already have a base level of running 5k, so increasing to 15k is achievable.
  • Time-based: I will achieve this goal within 10 weeks.

4. Use training apps for motivation

There are many apps you can download for free that provide plans and help you restart fitness training. You can use them to record reps, monitor your progress and get personalised tips depending on your goals.

On the social side, there are also fitness apps where you and your friends can log sessions as you go back to training. Seeing how your friends are doing and congratulating each other on achievements is a great way to keep motivated. 

Get inspired: Read our guide to staying motivated at the gym

5. Attend classes or go with a friend

Working out in groups is a fantastic way of restarting exercise after years or months away from the gym. You can choose to attend classes that are suited to your level (and speak to the instructor about any concerns you might have) and get a boost from working out with others.

If group classes aren’t your thing, when possible, going back to the gym with a friend can also provide that support and motivation. You’ll have someone to push you on, and it can be fun to work out together.

6. Reward yourself for achievements

As you start getting back into exercise, don’t forget to reward yourself for the effort you’re putting in. Each time you achieve a specific goal, reward yourself. This will help motivate you to keep going in future. Rewards could be things like buying a new pair of gym shorts, going for a massage or having a relaxing bubble bath.

7. Don’t forget things outside the gym!

As you start going back to the gym, it’s important to remember how diet, rest and sleep also play an important part in fitness. You might be burning more calories at the gym, so selecting the right foods which to provide the energy you need will help a lot. Check out our healthy eating guide as a starter.   

To restart exercising at a Better leisure centre, head over to our locations to find the closest centre to you.