Getting back into a workout routine when you’ve taken time off is intimidating, so I’ve outlined a guide to help you ease in without losing motivation or risking injury. Just remember: It’s all about baby steps!
Keep in mind, your level of progression is largely based upon your total time off, the reason for the break (surgery, work, children), and your level of fitness prior to it. (You’ll totally relate to The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Taking a Workout Hiatus.) I advise returning to a workout program in a progressive manner. If you start off by placing too large of a demand on your body, you run the risk of injury and a quick regression backward. Being so sore the next day that you are hobbling down the stairs does not indicate a quality workout.
1. Start with Flexibility Workouts
Your first progressive step forward should be to integrate a couple days of flexibility workouts in order to increase blood flow and circulation while assisting in range of motion and joint mobility. Flexibility is one of the most overlooked protocols of fitness routines, and establishing these protocols early on will allow your body to properly readjust to the new demands that will be placed on it. If you have access to health club or fitness professional, I recommend signing up for a flexibility or beginner yoga class. (Or do it without leaving the house: try this beginner yoga flow video to increase flexibility.) Select 10 to 15 stretches, performing each flexibility movement for up to 1 minute.
2. Add Easy Cardio
Next, depending on your schedule and time commitment, try incorporating light cardiorespiratory workouts after a couple stretching or yoga sessions. If weather permits, a brisk 20-minute outdoor walk will help invigorate your mind and get your body moving again. (Other options: try this low-impact HIIT workout for beginners or walking workout for gentle indoor cardio.) The treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike are great indoor alternatives. If you had a well-established fitness base prior to a month-long break, your first week may include light jogging as opposed to walking.
3. Start Strength Training
After the first week of flexibility and light cardio, start to incorporate strength workouts into your routine. (Try this gentle strength training workout for getting back into the gym.) Your time away from fitness probably involved a lot of sitting, which causes weakness in your posterior chain. These muscles are important for basic everyday movement, as well as keeping your spine erect when at your desk. That is why is at this point one must look to incorporate exercises that improve posture, develop core strength, and activate muscles throughout your gluteus and hamstring regions.
Exercises like squats, lunges, bridges, TRX hamstring curls, stability ball mobility, and core work will help to activate these areas. TRX workouts and bodyweight workouts are ideal for working these muscles and create a safe transition back into your fitness regimen because you can work within your own fitness level.
BLOGGER NOTE: Your New Year’s resolution may include a fancy new diet and a new gym membership but haven’t we all been here before? … Repeatedly?
Try something really new this year and abandon the one-swoop-all-or-nothing sort of bravado and aim small, incremental changes to your daily life. Aim to be overall healthier instead of losing X amount of pounds. One of the common side effects of getting overall healthier is loosing weight but the change of focus will take the pressure off. Instead of relegating oneself to be a gym rat simply try to incorporate more physical movement into your everyday busy life by consciously looking for opportunities to squeeze in the extra physical activity. For example, taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator; grabbing a basket for groceries instead of a cart. The simpler the task, the easier to do regularly, and before you know it, your daily physical activity just increased and you are on your way to being overall more active.
A burst of exercise cannot be too short, new guidance from the country’s top doctor suggests, as it calls on Britons to do what they can, when they can.
Until now, the advice had suggested that 10 minutes activity was the minimum required to achieve health benefits.
But today the chief medical officer urged people to fit as much movement as possible into their daily lives, by using the stairs rather than the lift, getting off the bus early and throwing themselves into their housework.
The new guidance keeps the recommendation that adults should carry out at least 150 minutes ‘moderate intensity’ activity – such as brisk walking or cycling – a week. Alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous movement such as running is suggested.
But it suggests this can be done in long or short sessions, spread over the week however suits best.
And the new advice puts a stronger emphasis on “strengthening” activities such as weight lifting, carrying shopping or doing heavy gardening, especially for older adults. And it says any activity is better than none, urging those with inactive lives to take up dancing, bowls or tai chi.
The new guidance also endorses activities such as HIT (high intensity interval exercise) programmes which require very short bursts of exercise. And it suggests that step counters, such as Fitbits might help adults to boost activity levels.
Prof Dame Sally Davies said the advice to the public is that when it comes to activity, “some is good, more is better”
“If physical activity were a drug we would refer to it as a miracle cure,” her report says.
She told The Daily Telegraph: “This is about building activity into every day life, Walking up a flight or two of stairs instead of getting the lift. Getting off the bus early .. or pushing the vaccum cleaner around”.
Officials hope that by making the advice more flexible, those with sedentary habits are more likely to change their ways.
The advice does not set specific time targets for strength activities, but encourages Britons to ensure they carry out two such activities weekly.
Faced with a seemingly endless supply of trendy new workouts that all promise a better body and improved health, choosing the best one can seem overwhelming. As a doctor, I’m setting the record straight: the single best exercise program is the one that you stick with. The simplest way to do this, of course, is to focus on physical activity that you actually enjoy and avoid anything that you hate (even if every Victoria’s Secret model swears by it). But beyond common sense, there are plenty of science-backed methods for sticking to an exercise program. If you’ve ever had grand plans of overhauling your fitness routine only to find yourself returning to your couch three weeks later, these techniques are for you.
Shorten your workouts.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, focusing on shorter bouts of exercise has distinct advantages over longer workouts. In a study among young women who were asked to start an exercise program, those who were assigned to multiple 10-minute workouts throughout the day stayed more committed than women who were asked to complete one continuous workout of up to 40 minutes. In fact, the shorter-bout group logged more total workout time and exercised more days per week compared to the longer workout group. Rest assured: the cumulative effect of exercising in short bouts has the same physical benefits as longer workouts, both in terms of weight loss and overall heart health.
Believe in yourself.
Decades of studies on exercise psychology have consistently identified self-efficacy as the most important predictor of exercise adherence. Self-efficacy is defined as the belief in one’s ability to succeed in a specific goal or behavior change, much like the “I think I can” motto of the little engine that could. Self-efficacy is, thankfully, not an inborn trait but a learned skill that can be developed through achieving small successes over time. When starting a new exercise program, set yourself up for small wins and celebrate them. Focus on the better night’s sleep you may get after just one workout instead of the weight you hope to lose by the end of the month. Another way to improve self-efficacy is to find a role model you identify with who has achieved her fitness goals. Research shows this can vicariously bolster your own self-efficacy.
Make it social.
Though it’s not surprising, the dramatic effect of social support on exercise is worth emphasizing. In an analysis of 44 studies on exercise adherence, researchers found that it was highest when it involved a group, like a sports team or a dance group. Drop-in fitness classes were associated with slightly lower adherence, but they were still superior to solo, home-based exercise programs. Even if home-based exercise is your only feasible option, you can still harness the power of social support by recruiting a family member or friend to work out with you or harnessing the power of an online community. Some studies even suggest that simply discussing your plans to exercise with a healthcare provider, mentor, or friend can increase your likelihood of following through with it.
Adopt other healthy habits.
A handful of studies have demonstrated that people who prioritize eating a healthy diet are more likely to be active. The theory is that engaging in one health-promoting behavior tends to inspire others, and although the link is strongest between healthy eating habits and exercise, it’s likely that any healthy behavior – like getting a full night’s sleep or even flossing your teeth – can increase your probability of following through with exercise.
Keep your expectations in check.
If you expect to see a physical transformation within the first few weeks of starting an exercise program, you may be less likely to keep at it. Studies of new exercisers have found that those with unrealistic expectations of physical change tended to give up when their hopes were not immediately met. Health psychologists have dubbed this the “false hope syndrome.” To avoid it, remember that noticeable physical changes from a new exercise routine can take months to develop. And if your goal is weight loss, it’s important to know that exercise alone – without dietary changes – typically isn’t enough. What you can expect from exercise, however, are short-term improvements in mood and sleep and, in the long term, a dramatically reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia, and several different types of cancer. How’s that for motivation?
A few of my friends who’ve recently retired decided to start walking more, sometimes for an hour or more a day.
Becoming sedentary seems to be a danger in retirement, when life can slow down, and medical research has documented the myriad health benefits of physical activity. To enjoy the benefits from walking – weight loss, heart health, more independence in old age, and even a longer life – medical experts and fitness gurus often recommend that people shoot for 10,000 steps per day.
But what’s the point of a goal if it’s unrealistic? A Centers for Disease Control study that gave middle-aged people a pedometer to record their activity found that “the 10,000-step recommendation for daily exercise was considered too difficult to achieve.”
Here’s new information that should take some of the pressure off: walking about half as many steps still has substantial health benefits.
I. Min Lee at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tracked 17,000 older women – average age 72 – to determine whether walking regularly would increase their life spans. It turns out that the women’s death rate declined by 40 percent when they walked just 4,400 steps a day.
Walking more than 4,400 steps is even better – but only up to a point. For every 1,000 additional steps beyond 4,400, the mortality rate declined, but the benefits stopped at around 7,500 steps per day, said the study, published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More good news in the study for retirees is that it’s not necessary to walk vigorously to enjoy the health benefits.
That difference is important to understand, because it’s how you can tell aerobic vs. anaerobic workouts apart. Your body creates energy in two basic ways: anaerobically (without oxygen) and aerobically (with oxygen), and each of those methods will affect your body differently. Understanding that process can help you burn calories and fat—plus increase your overall strength, power, and endurance.
What’s An Anaerobic Workout?
Any activity performed at a high enough intensity that your body can’t provide the necessary energy to complete it with oxygen intake alone is considered anaerobic. “Anaerobic workouts primarily utilize fast twitch muscle fibers that can function only for a short amount of time without the help of additional inhaled oxygen,” explains Lesley Bell, a NASM-certified personal trainer and brain health coach at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Cali.
Without oxygen, the body uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose in the muscle cells for energy. But that process can’t be sustained more than 90 to 120 seconds of high-intensity exercise because your muscles have produced a significant amount of lactic acid in that time; after that, “your body must begin to utilize inhaled oxygen in order to break down glucose and fatty acids” to continue to produce energy, says Bell, and that’s when your aerobic energy system takes over (more on that in a minute).
Here’s an advanced HIIT workout from Kelsey Wells that’ll get your heart pumping:
“Anaerobic is done at a high intensity and usually using multiple intervals,” says Andy Coggan, the director of fitness at Gold’s Gym. If you’ve ever done a HIIT workout, that’s anaerobic exercise. Plyometrics, sprinting, and weight lifting are all considered anaerobic—you’re going all out with 100-percent effort, but you can only sustain that effort for a short period of time. “Most sports involve anaerobic bursts followed by periods of rest,” too, he adds.
What’s An Aerobic Workout?
If the word “aerobics” makes you think of women dancing in Spandex, you’re on the right track—those low-intensity classes are designed to keep your heart rate up for an extended period of time.
“Aerobic exercise is anything where oxygen intake is sufficient enough to provide the energy necessary to sustain that exercise without tapping into alternative energy sources,” says Coggan. These workouts primarily utilize slow twitch muscle fibers and the glucose and fatty acids the anaerobic system has already produced for fuel, which can sustain activity for extended periods of time, adds Bell.
Any lower- to moderate-intensity exercise is considered aerobic. Think about steady-state exercise like walking, running, cycling, or even dancing. You’re not going to be gasping for breath during these workouts, because your body is continuously consuming enough oxygen for you to power through.
Why Are Aerobic and Anaerobic Workouts Important?
Obviously, these styles of training are pretty different. And they’re both equally important in a well-rounded fitness regimen.
Aerobic exercise triggers fat burning, because you still have oxygen in your muscle tissue. It also “improves the cardiovascular system by strengthening the heart and potentially increasing the maximal amount of oxygen the body can utilize (AKA your VO2 max),” says Bell, which can improve your endurance.
On the other hand, anaerobic exercise—like HIIT—has been shown to burn more total calories in a shorter amount of time. “Science shows that this method of training can be extremely beneficial for power development, building muscle mass, and fat burning,” says Coggan. You’ll also build stronger joints and bones due to the increased impact on your body.
To picture how these training methods affect your body, think about the bodies of elite athletes: A typical cross-country runner or marathoner follows a highly aerobic training program, whereas a CrossFitter is someone who prioritizes an anaerobic program.
But you can’t just do cardio or just do weights if you want to get fitter or stronger—even if you have a specific goal in one of those areas.
“Both styles of training will burn calories and improve the function of the heart and lungs, and the best bet for maximum adaptation and body transformation is to combine these training styles over the course of a week,” says Coggan.
“In doing so, you’re getting the power- and muscle-building benefits of anaerobic work while adding the increased stamina and endurance associated with aerobic workouts.”
Here’s How Often You Should Be Doing Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises Per Week
As Coggan said, you want to make time for both anaerobic and aerobic workouts throughout your week. The most important thing to remember is that there’s an inverse relationship between intensity and duration, says Bell. That means you want to do less of the higher intensity workouts (anaerobic) and more of the low- to moderate-intensity workouts (aerobic).
“Research has shown that a maximum of three to four days of high-intensity exercise with proper rest periods in between is optimal to see results,” says Bell.
“Anything more may yield the same or similar health benefits, but can put you at risk for overtraining or overuse injuries.”
Aerobic exercise, though, could theoretically be done as many as seven days a week. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults have at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio per week. “You could split that up anywhere between two to five days, as long as you’re keeping your heart rate around 60 to 75 percent of your maximum,” says Bell. (If you’re going to increase the intensity of the cardio, you’ll want to decrease the duration of it.)
The average person should start with one to two aerobic sessions with one anaerobic session per week, says Coggan. “Over time, you can work up to three to four aerobic sessions intermixed with two higher intensity anaerobic workouts spaced a few days apart from each other,” he says.
Recently the office threw a surprise wedding party for a coworker and there was a beautiful chocolate cake with whipped icing fashioned in the wedding color scheme. The icing had a stunning diamond ring motif made of more icing and the pale lavender and purple whipped icing was a gorgeous contrast to the dark chocolate once the cake.
The hostess who coordinated the party was cutting and dispensing out slices of cake. Everyone had taken their appropriated slice and there were 2 left. She started to hand me a plate and I said “no thank you” with a smile. Her eyes got wide and asked “Whhyy?”and I respond with another smile.
A coworker sitting next to me gave me a sheepish look and said, “you’re being so good.”
I looked back at her nonchalantly and said, “it’s not about being good or bad.”
“It’s about the decisions that you make,” she interjected proudly before continuing.
“And I am making a very different decision from you” she finished just before she shoves a particular large bite of cake in her mouth.
What I really wanted to explain to her was that the truth of the matter is that I simply didn’t want to eat a piece a cake at that particular moment. ‘Didn’t want’ not as in I craved it and was purposely overcoming my urges and denying myself. No. ‘Didn’t want’ as in I genuinely had no desire, zero, zilch, nada. A notion which I am increasingly discovering is something so incredibly foreign that I may as well trying to explain the time continuum string theory. Many are simply unable to comprehend the concept of not ‘wanting’ to eat cake and actually mean it, much less accept.
And I was fully aware that when I turned down the piece of cake that my decision made many of the ladies very uncomfortable. I can see them rolling their eyes at me, some internally, some out right and that is okay. I refuse to be pressured to eat something when I have no desire for it. Random, frequent, forced social eating is one of the many habits which can easily lead me back to being obese. And their visual uncomfortableness is not really a reflection on me, personally. No. Their uncomfortableness resonates from their displeasure with their own choices but cleverly deflected on to me. I am okay with that too.
I am constantly frustrated with people’s misguided definition of what healthy living. healthy eating, healthy choices are. There seem to be a disconnect between the widely ill conceived truth from the actual reality. I think it is fairly common for people to think healthy = 100% compliance 100% of the time 0% indulgence. But the reality is if anyone only commits to healthy choices at 75% of the time, it would still make an impact on their overall health. A concept which alludes many, while most refuse to acknowledge operating under the ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Which is a real shame.
I also wanted to thank everyone who shared in my momentous 1000-day MFP milestone. I have been oddly quiet because to be quite frank I was internally having mini panic attacks of failure and reverting back to 3 years ago.
As I have mentioned, my recent food experiment was an epic fail and it took me about 3 weeks to fully resolve the issues from it and feel better. It was one of my worse experiment failures to date. So here’s what happened and forgive me of violating TMI rule but I hope it will help others.
Since I have lost the weight and started to concentrate more on strength training, I have habitually been heavy on my proteins as all hours of research suggests (macros: F 30 C 30 P 40). However, the additional portions protein was causing some severe constipation where I have had to resort to using a laxative once or sometimes twice a week. I knew laxatives were very harsh on the system so I did more research for other alternatives. Many suggest the first step is try to introduce more fiber through real foods. But since I have FODMAP sensitivity I am limited to what I can implement into my eating repertoire that is high in fiber. I literally consume as much vegetables at lunch and dinner in hopes for a natural remedy but It did nothing. So fiber supplements was the next recommended approach to try this is where the downward spiral started.
I knew exactly how this frog feels! LOL
Without considering my own height & weight or additional research I simply dived in head first and took 2 gummy supplements at one time (according to the directions on the bottle). The very next day I was so ungodly uncomfortably bloated that I was literally busting out of my jeans! I decided to split the dose to one in the morning and one at night – still felt like I was a gazillion pounds. Then I cut the gummies into quarters and took one quarter in the morning and one at night. I didn’t feel worse but I certainly didn’t feel better. I did this for about a week or trying to ‘tough it out’ because it did provide the relief I was seeking otherwise. But after the scale tipped passed my ‘caution’ weight I decided that it was not working for me.
SO I stopped the fiber supplements and adopted a somewhat vegetarian eating regimen. Instead of my standard 8 oz or chicken or pork for dinner, I opted for salmon or tuna. I reduced my onion (FODMAP) consumption to about ¼ of what it was and concentrated on eating very clean for 2 weeks – no snacks, no extra carbs, clean.
I finally dropped back down to my usual weight range and I felt SO much better. All my clothes fit comfortably around the waist again and I have only recently started to snack again but very very cautiously.
It was a terrifying experience because when I see that number on the scale I had to consciously fight my panic instinct to cut calories. It is very different to understand intellectually that the weight was not fat weight but water weight and be aware that emotionally the oompa loompa sometimes can still try to hijack logic.
Moral of the story is, if you need extra fiber try natural ingredients first. If you have to go to a supplement, start slow – do NOT boom – take the full dose all at once to begin with. And only as a last resort go to a laxative.