Taken some time out from your usual workout routine? Here’s how to return to fitness safely – and stick to it – after the summer break…
Hopefully you’ve had a lovely, relaxing holiday. Or maybe you’re still enjoying some time off! Nothing beats downtime with family or friends for a mental boost.
However, it’s fair to say most of us find it tough to keep up a meaningful fitness regime when we’re away from our normal exercise venues and out of the usual routine. No problem – your body will probably enjoy a bit of a break as well as your mind.
When you’re back to reality with a bump, you may need a bit of help to get your body and mind back in gear, though, so we’ve created a plan complete with expert tips to help you on your return to fitness.
Top tips to return to fitness safely and effectively…
1. Picture the new you
First, think about what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by and how it will make you feel when you do.
‘Visualisation is the key to achieving your goals,’ says Lewis Paris, PT with corporate wellbeing platform, Gympass. ‘Think vividly about your aims, then work backwards from that. This will help make sure you’re being realistic.’
2. Think short-term too
Next, have short-term goals to help keep you on track for the main one. ‘Set yourself four-week mini goals,’ says Dan Lambert, PT and fitness expert for Maximuscle, a health supplements brand.
‘Figure out what you have to do to complete these goals, then be consistent. You need to earn little wins along the road to build momentum and longevity in your training.’
3. Have a routine when you return to fitness
Your fitness regime needs to become a part of your life, so block off, say, three hours in the week for exercise. ‘Have set times that are dedicated to you and your goals,’ says Rob Barraclough at TRAIN FITNESS, which educates fitness professionals.
‘My mum would always go to Keep Fit on Mondays and Wednesdays and rarely missed asession. Get into a routine and get the whole family behind you.’
4. Plan your workouts
Structure your session to get the most out of it. ‘We tend to do more of what we find easy, so planning a workout should mean you don’t miss out the challenging exercises,’ says fitness, wellness and nutrition expert Penny Weston.
Aimee Victoria Long, PT and founder of the Body Beautiful Method, swears by having a coach. ‘Even though I’m an expert, I still have an online coach!’ she says. ‘It saves me time as I don’t have to think about what workout I’m going to do and it gives me clear direction and progression in my training.’
5. Warm up, cool down
Preparing your body for exercise is a must for reducing injury risk. ‘I do a full-body dynamic stretching routine along with specific stretches and drills for whatever I’m about to do,’ says Lambert.
Look online or ask an instructor for warm-up moves to suit you. Similarly, gradually slow down at the end of your session until your heart rate’s back to normal, then do some static stretches.
6. Take your time when you return to fitness
Don’t just pick up where you left off. ‘For the first one-to-three weeks, start from an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 5-7 out of 10,’ says Pure Gym PT Jack Young.
Long agrees: ‘Work at around 70 per cent of the levels you were used to and increase that each week. You need to avoid severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which could stop you training again when you need to, affecting your motivation.’
7. Track your progress
Monitor how you’re doing to boost your motivation. ‘Remember, the results you see first may not be the numbers on the scales or the speed of your 5K, but feeling more energised, positive and sleeping better,’ says PT Samantha Robbins from Gympass.
Lambert agrees: ‘I don’t advocate using the scales too often. Progress can be measured through strength increases, fitness tests, body-fat measurements, pictures… Review these regularly to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.’
8. Don’t give up!
It’s all too easy to drop out, but keep that end goal in sight, remind yourself why you’re exercising and reward yourself along the way.
PT Ruth Stone, who works with sports superstore sweatband.com, says you’re most likely to quit in the first three weeks, so get past that and it should get easier. ‘Be aware that it takes three months to form a new habit,’ she adds. Paris agrees: ‘Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint!’
Pitfalls to avoid when you return to fitness
Your body needs time to repair and grow stronger. ‘Don’t try to cram as much exercise in as you can,’ says Barraclough. ‘This can lead to burnout, so try four days’ recovery per week.’
Not being accountable
Training with a friend or joining a group can help you stay on track. ‘At the Hub, we log in four times a week to work out together, then post our sweaty selfies, offering each other support,’ says Jemma Thomas, PT and founder of Jemma’s Health Hub.
Trying to lose weight too quickly
‘Aim for a daily calorie deficit of 250-400 calories, and if you like to let loose a little on the weekend, go for a weekday daily deficit of 500 calories,’ says Long.
‘You can’t out-train a bad diet,’ says Amanda Hamilton nutritional therapist working with Bioglan Superfoods. ‘Use organic cacao powder, natural vanilla or cinnamon instead of sugar.’
Loss of motivation
Try a new gym class. Still finding it tough? ‘Stick Post-it notes on the mirror with motivational tips,’ says Ian Dempsey, pro triathlete, coach and Freetrain ambassador.
Try this workout to ease yourself back into fitness!
Try these moves by Mintra Tilly, head of sports and global race director at HYROX fitness races to ease you back into exercise…
Do one round of the workout below with half the reps (3 or 5) and a stretch after each set. This will get your heart rate up and lungs working. Make sure you can maintain a light conversation while moving.
THE MAIN WORKOUT
Do three rounds of the following exercises, completing them as fast as possible without losing form. You can adjust the number of reps to suit you.
Why? A great total-body exercise that boosts endurance and torches calories
- Standing, bend at your waist and place your hands on the ground just in front of your feet.
- Jump your feet back until you’re in a high plank.
- Bend your arms to lower your chest until it touches the ground.
- Push up with your arms and jump your feet in towards your hands.
- Jump straight up, extending your knees and hips fully, straightening your arms and touching your hands above your head.
Why? Helps mobilise your groin and hips and reduces strain on your lower back, while targeting the deep core
- Sit up straight with your legs bent and soles of feet touching.
- Lower yourself slowly backwards until your back and hands touch the floor as shown.
- Sit up and reach forwards with your arms to touch your feet, keeping your chest upright. Your shoulders should pass your hip bones.
Hand-release push-ups (on knees)
Why? Trains your chest, shoulders, triceps and biceps, and engages your back.
- Start in a high plank. Bend your elbows and lower your chest and thighs to the ground, then lift your hands off the ground.
- Place your hands back on the ground by your shoulders, keep your knees on the ground and lift and cross your feet, then push yourself back up with your arms, keeping a straight line from your hips to your shoulders, until your arms are fully extended. Lower your feet and return to the high plank position.
Why? Challenges your quads, glutes and hamstrings
- Stand tall, then lower back as if to sit on a chair, keeping your chest upright.
- Keep lowering until your hips are lower than your knees. Your heels should stay on the floor throughout the move.
- Push through your heels to stand up straight with hips and knees fully extended, and squeeze your bottom
Do 3-5 minutes of Jumping Jacks (push the intensity in the last part or swap it out for a 1K run if you can!), then slow to a gentle jog on the spot for one minute, before stretching.
Why? Jumping Jacks help improve your endurance and coordination. Do them faster for a stronger cardio effect. Choose a duration that’s comfortable for you.
- Stand tall.
- Jump both your feet out to the sides to shoulder width or wider, and simultaneously raise your arms up and out to the sides, then touch them overhead.
- Return to the start position by bringing your arms down and feet together
Hyrox is launching its first series of UK fitness racing events in London on 25 September 2021, Birmingham 30 October 2021, and Manchester on 29 January 2022. Visit hyrox.com for more information.