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Whether you’re returning to regular workouts after a break during the lockdowns, or you’re a complete beginner to exercise, my advice is to ease into it.
So many people make the mistake of cramming in hours of exercise every day for the first few weeks, thinking that will get them to where they want to be. I’ll admit I’ve done it in the past. But instead of reaching the goal any sooner, that approach tends to result in either exhaustion, injury or just a total loss of interest in exercise.
Going from doing nothing to suddenly smashing out sessions during every spare minute you can find definitely isn’t the way to go.
So how can you ease into exercise so you’re more likely to stick with it?
1. Decide on your goals
Having a goal will help you to track any progress you make and in my opinion it also helps to keep you motivated. The other reason I mention deciding on your goal now is because it’s worth remembering that if you have very specific goals then the type of exercise you do will matter.
I mean, if your goal is to be able to do a backflip, then you obviously need to attend some gymnastics classes (ok, maybe a few more than just some). Or if your goal is to learn how to swim, you kind of need to get in a pool.
So deciding on your goal will help you to figure out whether you actually need to include specific types of exercise in your routine.
I’m a strong advocate for finding a form of exercise you enjoy, because you’re obviously more likely to stick with it if you actually have fun while you’re doing it!
I do have some specific goals, but to be honest with you, most of my training is just done for fun. I do it because I like how it makes me feel – both physically and mentally.
And while we’re on the subject of goals, I just want to let you know it’s ok if your goals change. If you no longer enjoy whatever your training was before the pandemic began, it’s ok to not go back to it. Instead of forcing yourself to do something you now hate, try something new!
2. Choose something you’re likely to stick with
When you think of exercise, what image comes to mind? And does that image involve something you WANT to do? If so, go for it! But if whatever you’ve pictured fills you with dread, find something else instead.
There are LOADS of things you can do to stay fit and active! And whatever you choose doesn’t have to involve the gym if you don’t want it to. Like I said earlier, consider whether your goal requires specific forms of exercise and plan your next step from there.
Some forms of exercise I enjoy are surfing, skating, dancing, calisthenics, gymnastics, pole dancing, yoga, HIIT, tennis, kayaking, paddleboarding, aerial hoop, weight training, TRX sessions and climbing.
- Am I good at all of those things? Heck no!
- Do I fit them all in every week? Definitely not. I don’t have time!
- But do they all get me moving and having fun? YES!!
For me, exercise is just as important for mental health as physical health. And the examples I’ve listed are just a small handful of ideas. So try a few different things to figure out what you like.
Maybe have a look for exercise classes that are being held near where you live, or maybe even online classes. One good thing to come from the many lockdowns is the increase of online classes. So there are plenty of different ways you can start easing into exercise.
And before you start searching online to find the most effective workout (yes, I’ve been there before), let me save you time:
So just get started. Pick something you think you’ll enjoy and give it a go! And as I used to say to my son when he was little and I was encouraging him to try new clubs at school, if you don’t like it you never have to do it again and you can try something else.
Also, if you don’t like it then at least you’ll have narrowed down something in your search – you’ll have figured out what you don’t want. So you’ll be one step closer to finding something you do want to stick with because you can look for something that doesn’t have similar elements to the workout you disliked.
But if you do like it you’ll have found a new active hobby!
3. Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t
I’ve been unable to train for a year due to ill health (I’m getting better but progress is slow). So I know the feeling of wanting to just go for it as soon as I’m able to train again. Seriously, I get it. But it’s much better to ease into exercise gradually, so take your time and create a routine that’s realistic long-term.
Listen to your body and make any necessary adjustments to your old training plans. To give you an example, if you’re into weight training then it’s best to drop your weights down to around 50% of what you were doing before lockdown. Then focus on perfecting your form and technique before gradually increasing the weight. Whatever you’re doing (it obviously doesn’t have to be weight training), pay attention to the signals your body is giving you.
Take it from someone who’s had their fair share of injuries in the past – easing in gradually is definitely better than getting an injury from pushing too hard too soon and ending up unable to train for even longer! And don’t forget how
important essential rest is! Your body will probably need more time to recover when starting a whole new exercise routine. Even if it was once used to it.
I know this all might feel like a big step backwards having to adjust your old routine, but the best way to avoid that feeling of moving backwards is to resist the urge to compare your current fitness or strength levels to where you were before the pandemic began. Comparing yourself to how you were back then won’t help at all. In fact, it could completely get in the way of you making progress.
So instead of getting frustrated that you can no longer do certain things, focus on the things you can do right now. And focus on doing them well.
And if you’re new to exercise, I realise how easy it is to slip into the mindset of wishing you were further on and able to do bigger/better things already. But again, just focus on nailing the basics right now. Focus on being consistent. And focus on celebrating what your body is able to do.
By the way, if you have any kind of health condition it’s always best to seek medical advice before starting a new exercise routine.
4. Make yourself feel comfortable
I think it’s fair to say that easing into exercise after a fairly long break can feel daunting, even without the added stress of a pandemic. So I need you to understand it’s ok to feel nervous about easing into exercise again after all this time. And you’re definitely not alone in feeling that way – I’m right there with you!
So try to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible. That might mean doing home-based workouts rather than going to a class with other people. Or if you do fancy joining a gym but don’t like the idea of having to make small talk, pop some headphones on (because we all know headphones are like an adult version of a security blanket).
I always feel more comfortable if I’m wearing something that makes me feel good…and something I can actually move well in. Because who wants to spend a whole workout yanking up leggings or adjusting a sports bra?? So take some time to pick out your favourite activewear and make yourself feel good.
Or maybe buy something new to get you in the mindset of starting again! Something that’s both comfortable and practical. It’s official, I’ve become my mother… I chose to write both comfortable and practical before even thinking about how it looks! Thankfully, Adidas have got my back selling loads of activewear that’s super practical AND looks awesome!
So when it comes to easing into exercise, basically, do whatever feels right for you so you can feel comfortable. And if you really want to try something new but just can’t get rid of those nervous butterflies in your tummy (we’ve all been there), maybe spend some time focusing on calm breathing and meditation before you do whatever it is. The power of breathing to calm your mind is something I’ve discovered during the pandemic.
Speaking of which, if you do attend a class or go into a gym, make sure you’re following the covid-19 policies to ensure other people feel comfortable and safe too.
5. Enjoy it!
We’ve been sold the idea that exercise is purely something we HAVE to do to lose weight. Something we mainly do because we feel compelled to check it off the list. A means to an end.
But what if we change our perception? What if we start to see exercise as something we can actually enjoy?
Exercise can be fun! And it can bring so much more to your life than just the ability to fit into a certain dress size. You just have to alter your mindset a little and find something you enjoy.
So decide what you want to do and start easing into exercise. You don’t have to be great at it (says the recovering perfectionist) – just enjoy the feeling and reap the benefits!
The activewear I’m wearing in this post was gifted by Adidas, but the views are all my own.
Happy Healthy Nat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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