As a trainer and 500hr E-RYT (experienced registered yoga teacher), I’m often asked by clients, loved ones, and social media followers how to start working out again after a long break, or how to start exercising in general if they’ve never been into fitness at all.
The first tip I give anyone who asks these questions is to give themselves grace; life is hectic for all of us regardless of the time of year, especially when you’re managing a career, loved ones, and your health. When getting back into working out you have to be mindful that your strength, stamina, and endurance might not be where they were when you last hit the gym. When starting to exercise again you need to ease back into a workout regimen. Regardless of your fitness level hiring a personal trainer, finding a digital program to follow, or subscribing to a fitness app can all be great tools to help reignite your fitness journey safely and productively.
If you start exercising again with the mindset you’re going to pick up where you left off, not only are you setting yourself up for failure, but you’re also potentially setting yourself up for injuries as well. Remember fitness is about creating the healthiest body you can achieve and maintain; your primary goal should be to achieve a body you feel comfortable in that is functioning at its best ability. Though there is always room to build more strength, agility, and endurance you want to ensure your main focus is on creating an exercise regimen that fits into your holistic healthy lifestyle long-term.
How Do I Start Working Out Again?
There are a variety of ways you can choose from to jump back into working out, but here are the top five Ashley Joi, certified personal trainer, and I, Christa Janine, think will benefit you the most.
1. Start Walking
“Walking is a great way to start working out again,” says Joi. Whether it’s incline walking on the treadmill at the gym (like the 12-3-30 method), going for group walks with a friend, or finding fun trails that are kid- and dog-friendly, this is a great way to get back into finding intentional movement that is low-impact and accessible to most people regardless of their fitness level.
2. Hire a Personal Trainer
There are a few reasons I suggest people hire a personal trainer, the first being you’re more likely to commit to something you’re paying for especially when you know there’s someone there to keep you accountable. Unlike just having a gym membership, personal trainers are usually more expensive, and most people don’t want to waste that type of money. Second, with a trainer, you have to face someone else as you move through your fitness journey. If you say you’re going to show up there’s going to be someone there waiting for you to make sure you not only show up but you actually workout in a safe and useful manner. Third, you’re not in it alone you’re setting goals out loud, and you have a “coach” there with you to help keep you accountable so you can achieve them.
3. Try Group Fitness
“Grabbing an accountability buddy and going to classes or group training sessions is a fun way to get back into working out,” Joi says. Taking friends and family members with you to group fitness classes when you first begin working out again gives you the safety and security you need when entering unknown spaces. Likewise, as you begin to build community in these group spaces it will give you more incentive to keep going because you look forward to the people and the workout. The camaraderie you build in fitness spaces is one of the most amazing aspects of the process outside of building a healthy lifestyle.
4. Make it an appointment
Schedule your workouts like you schedule meetings with your boss, doctor, or your child’s teacher. Make yourself and your fitness goals a priority the same way you make all the other important things in your life. This one is the most difficult for many because it’s easier for us to “selflessly” show up for others, but when we need to do the same for ourselves, we can sometimes feel selfish. However, remember this you are just as important as everyone else you show up and make time for in your life. Schedule your exercise time and make it a non-negotiable in your weekly routine.
5. Start Slow
So often when people begin working out again, they want to start off working out 5 days a week for an hour each day. Though I love this ambition, it’s not often sustainable when you haven’t been working out regularly. I suggest starting with 30 minutes 3 days a week. Not only is this feasible, but once you successfully do it for 4 to 6 weeks it’s going to give you the confidence to slowly add another workout day to your week or even another 15 minutes to the workouts you’re already doing. Remember fitness is a lifelong journey and because of this, you must look at it as a marathon and not a sprint. If you stay consistent you will reach your goals.
Best Workouts for People Getting Started Again
The best workouts when restarting a fitness journey are anything low impact (i.e. walking, swimming, Pilates, yoga, etc.). Low-impact workouts are easier on the joints while still elevating the heart rate. They allow you to build strength and endurance while creating a safe space that reduces the chance of injury, and lastly, you can always build upon the exercises as you improve your technique. You can also start weight training as well upon re-entry into a workout regimen, but I would only suggest doing so if you have a personal trainer or fitness instructor there to help guide you, so you don’t hurt yourself due to poor form or over-lifting.
How to Avoid Injury When Working Out Again
If you haven’t worked out in a while, it’s understandable to be a little rusty on your form and best practices — but that can also lead to injury. In order to avoid this, a few reminders from the pros:
- Properly warm up: You may be eager and excited to jump right into a workout, but trust me, the warm up is crucial. Doing a few warm-up exercises will ensure that your muscles are activated and prepared for the work ahead.
- Stay hydrated: Your body loses fluids when you’re sweating during a workout. Drinking water will help replace those fluids, maintain performance, and prevent dehydration.
- Get enough rest the night before: Joi says sleep is vital to a good workout and avoiding injury. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep the night before, she says.
- Listen to your body: When you feel any sharp or shooting pains stop whatever exercise you’re doing immediately. Though you will be sore when you first start working out again, there’s a difference between soreness and pain. You don’t want to cause a long-term injury because you tried to push past the pain.
- Fuel your body: I’ve often found that people don’t adjust their nutrients for their workouts and end up getting sick because they don’t have enough fuel for their bodies to function properly. Make sure to properly fuel your body with the appropriate nutrition for the level of activity you’re doing. Not sure what to eat? Check out these trainer-recommended ideas for fuel.
- Consult with your doctor: Before starting any new workout regimen consult with your doctor if you’re at high risk for any predetermined medical condition, and if you start to experience any issues once you begin working out, please seek medical care immediately.
Always remember working out should be fun, not a punishment for something you ate or pain you’re inflicting on yourself so you can “be better.” You are already enough just as you are, and working out is just one way you can enhance your lived experience and do more in this world. Remember: “Your starting point can be whatever you’re capable of, avoid comparing yourself to others, and focus on your own health and life. Do it for yourself, not other people,” Joi says.