Getting back to exercise after a long-ish break?

Breaks from training are inevitable for most of us. A few hard days in life or a work trip or vacation will also keep us away from training for a week or two. What one needs following such breaks is simply a gradual ramp up back to previous levels of intensity and volume. But what about longer breaks? What about after a hiatus that lasted a few months as a result of injury or sickness or plain laziness? Here is how you get back to training.

Expect it to be hard(er)

This might sound obvious but a lot of trainees make the mistake of underestimating how much a typical training session taxes the body and it’s systems. As a result, they shock the body by putting it through a workout it isn’t ready for, which hits them hard either immediately as a surge in heart rate or cramping or later as soreness or joint pain. This creates a whole host of issues ranging from lack of confidence and de-motivation to insufficient recovery and pain.
The first thing to keep in mind when walking in to train after a hiatus is to expect every action to feel harder than you remember it. And this will naturally urge one to start light without any expectations of performing at any particular level.

Start with the basics

Movement happens in patterns. The more complicated a pattern, the more practice the needs before performing that pattern at a high speed or under a load. So start with basic movements which are simple patterns that the body can execute without much neuromuscular demands.

Squat, plank, hinge, pushup, deadlift, presses, rows, hangs and running are simple movement patterns with effective results. Start with these and work on these for a couple of weeks. Let your body get used to working hard but during simple movement patterns. This will enable the body to work hard without the risk of making errors which could translate to injuries.

Retrain the core

The core is everything when it comes to using your body to perform challenging tasks like exercise. Without an active core, any exercise or activity can easily go from being useful to dangerous. In addition to that, since most breaks from training mean many many hours of sitting and bad posture, the core is the part of the body that gets hit the most when there is a lack of training. So make sure you take the time to (re)train the core before you do anything heavy or intense.

Keep frequency high and intensity low

Since your body is not yet ready to do anything intense right away, it is important to keep the intensity on the lower end. This will protect against overloading. But this lowered intensity might not be enough to produce progress and that’s why frequency of training needs to be high. In other words, do simple work and do less but do it frequently. Within a few weeks of doing this, your body will have gained back enough momentum to ramp up your training intensity.

Have a goal based approach

When we have taken a long break from training, we tend to lose focus on why we are doing what we are doing. And not having a goal results in us wandering eventually getting lost. That’s why it is important to work towards something. A good goal when coming back after a few months of no training is simply to get back to previous levels of fitness.

Go back to your training logs or talk to your coach and determine what your performance metrics were before you took the break. This could be strength or endurance based numbers depending on the nature of training you do. But just make sure there is a clear goal you are working towards. This, along with the above 4 steps will get you on track to your fit and strong self safely and quickly.

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