7 Easy Tips to Get Back into Working Out After a Long Break – and Enjoy it

To get back to working out after a long break, consider your habits, goals, and schedule and go from there.

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Published:
May 28, 2023
April 19, 2023
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Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. However, for many of us, it's easy to fall out of the habit of regular physical activity for several reasons. You may have taken a break due to injury, illness, work commitments, or just plain old lack of motivation. 

While taking a break from exercise is sometimes necessary, returning to it can be challenging. It's more than just the physical challenge of getting back into peak shape. There are psychological barriers to overcome as well. Keep reading for Signos’ easy and actionable tips to make getting back to your workout routine easier. 

Why is It Hard to Start Exercising Again?

Returning to exercise again after a break can be hard for several reasons. Depending on how long your break was, you may have lost some of your strength and conditioning, making exercise more physically challenging than it was before. When you return to your workouts, you’ll probably feel more intense muscle soreness and fatigue than you once did, which can be discouraging. 

Maybe you’ve developed some psychological barriers to restarting your routine. You might feel unmotivated, afraid of failing or lacking confidence in your abilities. When your brain is telling you all the reasons that you shouldn’t exercise, it can be really hard to overcome these thoughts. 

Figuring out where to start and choosing a routine that suits you can sometimes be complex and confusing, which just adds to the problem. Finding time in your daily schedule can also interfere with getting back into workout out. 

All of these factors can make getting back into an exercise routine feel overwhelming, but with a few helpful strategies, it is possible to overcome these barriers and even enjoy working out again.

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How to Mentally Prepare and Get Motivated to Workout

Exercise provides several benefits for both the mind and body. Regular exercise can promote a healthy weight, build muscle mass, and improve cardiovascular health. It can also increase flexibility and range of motion, reducing the risk of injury and improving overall physical performance.1

Exercise is known to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. It can improve mood and self-esteem and enhance cognitive function, including memory and attention.2

Regular exercise is also associated with improved sleep quality and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Overall, exercise is a powerful tool for promoting physical and mental health and can significantly enhance your quality of life. 

Find your motivation 

Motivation is what drives you to achieve your goals or needs. Motivation is necessary to break old habits and to develop healthy ones. Unfortunately, many people struggle with finding what motivates them and staying motivated, especially if they have mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

You might want to get back to your workout routine for many reasons. You may want to change your appearance, get stronger, improve your health, or live a longer, healthier life. Whatever the reason, discovering your motivation will help you get back to working out and stay consistent. 

Do it for yourself 

Intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation. When intrinsically motivated, a person is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external products, pressures, or rewards.

Time and again, researchers have found that people with high intrinsic motivation (i.e., they are driven by internal rewards and satisfaction) perform much better than people offered high extrinsic motivation (i.e., external rewards).3

Practice patience - know it will take time 

Remember that setbacks are normal, and being kind to yourself is important while getting back into your workout routine. Celebrate small successes and be patient with yourself as you work towards your goals.

Set your (realistic) goals 

Setting achievable goals can help to build confidence and motivation. Start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the workouts over time. 

Value rest days 

Rest days allow your body time to recover from the stress of exercise. Incorporating rest days into your routine can make your exercise routine more sustainable. Overtraining can lead to burnout, which can cause you to lose motivation or quit exercise altogether. 

Taking an active or passive rest day can prevent burnout and keep you on track with your fitness goals. On an active rest day, you take a break from your regular training to give your body a chance to rest, usually by walking outside or going for a leisurely bike ride. Or, take a passive rest day and do nothing. Both are acceptable and needed. 

How to Get Back to Working Out After a Long Break? 7 Tips to Start Again

1. Plan ahead

Before you dive back into a workout routine, decide what you want your routine to look like and how you want to get there. As you make your plan for getting back to regular workouts, think about your habits, goals, and schedule and go from there.

2. Start easy, and don’t push past your limits

Start with small goals and gradually add more. It’s okay that you don’t immediately return to your previous workout routine. You can start with just 10 minutes a day and add more each week. The goal is to get moving more. 

3. Stick to the 5-minute rule 

Havings trouble getting out the door? Try the 5-minute rule. Start the task you don't want to do for at least 5 minutes, and that's it. If, after 5 minutes, you are still feeling the pushback and can't get your head into it, stop.

4. Keep in mind how good it makes you feel 

Most people feel pretty darn good after they work out. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, and endocannabinoid. These brain chemicals are associated with feeling happy, confident, capable, and less anxious and stressed. It may even help reduce physical pain.4

5. Prep the night before

If you’re going to the gym in the morning, set out your clothes and shoes for the morning. If you’re going on your lunch break or after work, pack your gym bag the night before. Get everything that you need for your workout together and prepped the night before.  

6. Go beyond the gym

There are so many ways to be active, so if you’re not a huge fan of the gym, be open to other forms of exercise. Get outside and go for a hike. Go for a bike ride on a trail. Take a dance class. Go roller skating. The possibilities are endless. Find some form of exercise you enjoy doing and switch things up often. 

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7. Treat yourself for exercise success

Treat yourself to new workout clothes or new shoes. This may help you get more excited to get back to working out. Remember, you don’t have to spend much money on workout gear to be more active. A pair of sneakers and casual clothes you feel comfortable in are great for almost any activity.

How to Stay Consistent With Your Workouts

Make workouts social and find a buddy 

Having someone you can share workouts with can help keep you motivated and hold you accountable, and it’s more fun. Find a friend or family member who also wants to exercise and commit to working out together.

Schedule your workouts 

Establishing a routine for your workouts can help make them a habit. Schedule your workouts for a specific time each day or week and try to stick to it.

Focus on something you like 

Find a form of exercise you enjoy. If exercise is fun, you’ll be more likely to continue what you’re doing. On the other hand, if you dread your workouts and they make you miserable, find a different way to exercise. 

Use fitness trackers 

Some people may benefit from using fitness trackers like an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or Oura ring. If you like seeing your progress and keeping track of your goals, use a fitness tracker. 

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Focus on healthy habits as a whole 

Along with exercising regularly, focus on healthy lifestyle habits as a whole. Stay hydrated, eat well, prioritize sleep, and manage your stress. 

How Long Will It Take to Get Back in Shape?

The time it takes to get back into shape after taking a break from exercise can vary depending on several factors, including the length of the break, fitness level before the break, and the type of exercise.

For cardio (running, cycling), you can expect to see improvements in your fitness level within a few weeks to a few months of starting back up, depending on the length of your break and how fit you were before. Generally, the longer the break and the lower your fitness level before the break, the longer it will take to regain your fitness.

If you've taken a break from strength training, you may see a loss in muscle mass and strength, but studies suggest that you can regain your strength and muscle mass within a few weeks to a few months of starting back up. Again, the length of the break and your fitness level before the break will affect how quickly you can regain your strength.5

It's important to note that everyone's body is different, and the time it takes to get back into shape will vary. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid injury and allow your body time to adjust.

Learn More About Fitness and Healthy Habits with Signos’ Expert Advice

Signos is a great resource for expert advice on nutrition and healthy eating. Signos has a team of registered dietitians who compile evidence-based nutrition information to help you improve your health and wellness. Check out the resources here.

Signos CGM empowers you to improve your health by keeping track of your diet, exercise, sleep habits, and blood sugar. Knowledge is power, and a CGM can give you specific information about how your habits affect your health. 

Find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz.

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References

  1. Ruegsegger GN, Booth FW. Health Benefits of Exercise. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018;8(7):a029694. Published 2018 Jul 2. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a029694
  2. Imboden C, Claussen MC, Seifritz E, Gerber M. Die Bedeutung von körperlicher Aktivität für die psychische Gesundheit [The Importance of Physical Activity for Mental Health]. Praxis (Bern 1994). 2022;110(4):186-191. doi:10.1024/1661-8157/a003831
  3. Di Domenico SI, Ryan RM. The Emerging Neuroscience of Intrinsic Motivation: A New Frontier in Self-Determination Research. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:145. Published 2017 Mar 24. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00145
  4. Belavy DL, Van Oosterwijck J, Clarkson M, et al. Pain sensitivity is reduced by exercise training: Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021;120:100-108. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.11.012
  5. Bloomfield SA. Changes in musculoskeletal structure and function with prolonged bed rest. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997;29(2):197-206. doi:10.1097/00005768-199702000-00006

About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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