Getting back into exercise after a long break
It’s entirely likely that you’re getting back into exercise for the first time in a year this month as we see gyms in England reopen and outdoor exercise across the UK resume. If you’ve been lacking in motivation, this is a great time to get back into it, but how can you make sure you’re doing it the healthy way?
Warm up properly
It’s the most boring part of exercise for sure, but it’s more important than ever to warm up and cool down properly if you’re getting back into exercise after a long break. If you’ve never given much thought to warm-ups and cool-downs, then it’s time to add them to your workouts.
Warm-ups give your body the chance to gradually increase blood flow to your muscles, readying them for movement, and cool downs help your body gradually return to its pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure.
Not sure where to start? Look at dynamic warm-ups, like this one from Men’s Journal or this 5 move routine from Men’s Health.
When you’re done with your workout, add on this stretching routine from Coach or pick from Lifehack’s huge list of effective cooldown exercises.
Take it easy for the first few weeks
If all you’ve done all year is indulge in your favourite foods while sat on your arse working from home, no judgement here. Even if you’re a key worker, or you’ve managed to resist the lure of packets of custard creams (with a will of steel) there’s no doubt that living under the shadow of COVID-19 will have had an impact on your activity levels.
Whether you’ve been missing out on your weekly MAN v FAT Football games, or you’ve been missing the gym, it’s natural that it’ll take a few weeks to get used to returning to normal again. Just keep this in mind and don’t beat yourself up about it if you find your fitness levels have slipped.
Get enough rest in between sessions
Exercise makes us feel good and it’s human nature to chase that feeling so we can keep up that sense of wellbeing. But resting properly in between sessions is key to improving your fitness and keeping your body in tip-top shape.
Resting is essential for muscle growth, and not recovering properly from your workouts can lead to decreased performance when you do work out next. Think about it – have you ever tried to throw in an extra workout but struggled through it because your body was knackered? It’s like running through treacle and it’s no fun.
So what’s the perfect amount of rest? It depends on things like your age, fitness level and the intensity of your training, but generally giving yourself 24-48 hours in between training the same muscles is a good guide.
That’s not to say that you must be completely inactive during that rest period, just enjoy a gentle walk or do some light stretching (also known as ‘active recovery’) instead of an intense workout.
Don’t start doing everything at once
Now that gyms are opening, it’s tempting to sign up for every class they’re offering or to commit to attending 5 days a week. It’s great that you want to get active again, and your gym will undoubtedly appreciate your support, but you’ve got to start small.
If your body isn’t used to moving as much as it was pre-pandemic, suddenly throwing it into a hardcore workout regime will do more harm than good. You’ll be more likely to injure yourself if you’re pushing it too hard, and you’ll also be at risk of suffering from burnout which will lead to you feeling defeated.
Start slowly and build up the number of sessions as well as the intensity of your workouts as you get used to it again.
It’s easy to forget to drink enough water and we’re probably all guilty of not making enough effort to hit our recommended daily amount.
But keeping yourself hydrated is important if you want to see real progress with your fitness levels. Getting enough water before, during and after a workout helps to boost your energy levels, replenishes water lost through sweat so you don’t get dehydrated and just generally helps your body function at its best. So remember to drink enough – it’s time to make your water bottle your best friend.
If you’re getting back into exercise after a long time, it’s important to follow the above advice to make sure you have the best chance of staying injury-free. Not only will your body thank you, but you’ll be much more motivated to continue improving your fitness.
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