Sometimes life gets inexplicably busy and you’re all-of-a-sudden tasked with juggling multiple, conflicting, priorities. And so you find yourself having to make a very #adult decision about which priority you’re going to have to set on the back-burner. At least for now.
For me, at the moment, the gym is that thing. For the past few weeks (if not months) I’ve only managed one structured workout per week (two if I’m lucky and feeling unexpectedly energetic). This is far from the usual. The reason for this is that I am choosing to tactfully prioritise ‘sleep gains’ over ‘gym gains’ whilst I complete my L3 Personal Training Qualification, alongside my full time 9-5 job (8-6 is you count commuting time). In order to still perform well at work, and have the capacity to study in the evening and at weekends, I can’t also be consistently getting up at 5.30am to squeeze in that early-morning session. I’ve tried, and it wasn’t working.
Maybe you’ve been snowed under with a ‘busy period’ at work, staying late and missing your usual evening workout. Maybe you simply fell out of the habit of booking ‘gym-time’ into your weekly schedule. Maybe it’s a simple as “the weather has been really great and I’ve chosen to be outside with friends and family, rather in the gym”. Whilst it may feel like it, you’re not alone in letting the gym take that back seat every once in a while.
However, whatever the reason for your gym hiatus, that first session will likely seem like a very daunting task.
Over the course of my fitness journey I’ve had many a ‘first session back’. The following tips are based on my own experiences, and advice I have received along the way. They are ways that I have learned make that first session a little bit more of a positive experience!
1. Choose your Moment
There is no rush. The gym is going to be there whether you decide to go today, tomorrow, or in a week. There may be no ‘right time’, but there’s also no need to bully yourself by thinking “I should have gone back by now, I can’t have this long off”. The word ‘should’ is a dangerous one. Actually, making sure you are physically and mentally as ready as you can be to take on that first session will be more beneficial in the long run. The practice of exercising literally means ‘putting stress on your body to make physiological change‘.
So imagine; if your reason for taking time off the gym is because you’ve been super busy and stressed at work, jumping back in first thing on a Saturday morning is only going to add to the stress in your body. In this example, maybe take your Saturday morning to chill, re-charge, re-fuel and instead make some time in the afternoon.
2. Take your Time
Following on the the point above, make sure you have enough time for the class or workout that you want to do. Rushing in late to the class or having to leave dead-on-time to get to another appointment will only mean your mind will be wandering. Your head will be thinking about the next thing on your to-do list, not on your exercises. And, subsequently, you are also then much less likely to enjoy yourself. Give your first session back the time needed to complete the workout with the focus and attention you deserve. Do your workout, and do it well – you’ll be more likely to go back.
3. Take it Easy
Do not go back in expecting to smash PB’s (no matter how much you might want to). Of course it will depend how much time you have taken away from the gym, but the likelihood is that it will take time to get back to the level of fitness that you were at before. So don’t ask too much of yourself – it will only serve to demotivate you and foster negativity towards your workouts (and that’s not what we want at all)!
Choose weights that challenge you, but that are also realistic – meaning you’ll complete the full session. Focus on executing all exercises with a full range of motion and good form and technique – you’ll get the most out of your session, even with lighter weights.
4. Enjoy Yourself
Yes, it is possible to enjoy exercise, no matter what we’re led to believe on TV/social media/the internet. Whether you’re following a strict programme or not, I would recommend allowing yourself to treat that first session back as ‘playtime’. Give yourself the freedom to choose exercises that you like and you know you can do well. Even better, take a friend with you and tackle the session together! Your workout as a whole will feel like less of a chore, which in turn will be extremely motivating. Motivation leads to adherence. Adherence leads to consistency. Consistency leads to progress.
5. Acknowledge your Efforts
It’s really easy to get bogged down in the negativity of how you’ve ‘gone off track‘, how much of a struggle that first session was, or how long its going to take you to get back to where you were before. Instead, Celebrate the small win. You went back to the gym and that is great! Regardless of how you felt the session went, give yourself credit for getting there, and moving your body in a positive way again. Giving ourselves praise is an unfamiliar thing, but something that practiced regularly will foster a much healthier relationship with fitness and yourself, generally.
And that’s it! I hope these tips have given you a realistic ‘plan-of-action’ and also the encouragement and reassurance you need to make your gym ‘comeback’ like. a. boss.
If you have any other tips – things that have helped you get back into your fitness routine and could help others do the same – leave a comment below – I’d love to hear them!
Until next time,