With the New Year may come the resolution to get (back) in shape. It is a good resolution, but what can you do to ensure success and avoid the guilt or disappointment that goes with not carrying through with your resolution?
It takes about 6 weeks to ease yourself into an exercise routine. This is because when you stop exercising routinely your lungs lose elasticity and capacity, your blood volume decreases and your blood vessels shrink, causing your body to use oxygen less efficiently. With significantly less muscle to support your exercising joints, and smaller blood vessels delivering the ingredients for lubricating fluid to those joints, your knees, elbows, shoulders, wrists, ankles and hips can feel incredibly stressed when you try to suddenly push them back into a workout routine.
Here are some steps you can take to get back to your exercise routine, to start a new exercise program and to avoid soreness and injury:
Set yourself a goal: What is your ultimate specific goal? Is it to be able to run 5 miles several times per week or to compete in a marathon or a triathlon? Do you want to lose weight and improve posture?
Make a plan: Make time for your exercise routine and design a program that works with your schedule. Plan ahead and write out a specific– and consistent– schedule, and stick with it until it becomes a habit.
Make it fun: You should be enjoying your exercise. Motivate yourself with a specific goal in mind, exercise with a buddy and vary your workout
Take it easy: If you have stopped exercising for two months or more you will not be able to just force your body back into your regular routine. Pushing yourself can result in an injury, which will force you to again take time off.
- For the first 6 weeks, extend the time of both your warm-up and your cool down to protect your body from injury.
- For the first two to four weeks, aim to work out three times per week on nonconsecutive days and keep sessions less than 45 minutes. As your fitness builds, you can add more workouts per week and increase the time spent working out. You will know you are ready to progress when your workout routine is no longer challenging.
- Allow your body some rest. Trust your body’s signals, such as fatigue, to let you know when you have reached your limit for each session. Do not wait until you are in pain to stop. Stop when you feel your muscles tiring.
- Alternate types of exercise. If your goal involves an aerobic activity, try to fit in a couple of sessions of muscle training, such as weights, yoga or Pilates and vice versa.
Eat a healthy wholesome diet and avoid sugar as much as possible. Make sure you always drink plenty of water and have some pipa juice after a particularly sweaty workout.
To illustrate, if you used to run (and would like to get back to the same level you were at before taking a break from it) or would like to start running: for at least the first two weeks, run about three non consecutive days per week. Start your workout each time with a long warm-up phase of walking, increasing speed gradually. Avoid big inclines to start with. Then alternate one minute of slow running with four minutes of fast walking for about 30 minutes. Finish off with a 5-minute cool down of slow walking and end by stretching your leg muscles. After two weeks if the routine becomes easy, you can slowly and progressively increase the intensity and length of your workout.
If you want to get back to lifting weights: start with about half of the weight you used to be able to lift when you were in shape. Choose weight loads that you can lift for a set of 10 to 12 repetitions, but not more. Do not work the same muscles two days in a row, but allow them to rest. Increase the weight only when the exercise becomes easy. Start with one or two sets of each exercise and only increase to more after four to six weeks.
Finally remember to focus on the positive results of your new routine!