Has it been a minute since you’ve visited the gym… or maybe more like a couple of months? Going back to the gym can feel daunting but don’t worry. Fitness is a journey. Even if you take a break, you can always start again and reclaim all the powerful health benefits that exercise has to offer. You can work back to your previous fitness level or even surpass your previous achievements as long as you start slow and build gradually. Heck, maybe getting back to the gym is the perfect opportunity to reassess your fitness goals and/or try new exercise modalities.
Ready to return to your gym workout plan? You’ll do great as long as you follow these powerful tips for going back to the gym.
1. Establish New Fitness Goals
The fitness goals you had before your gym hibernation may no longer apply to your current situation. Even if you have the same general goals, you may need to backtrack on your expectations as you begin to rebuild your strength and endurance. Now is a great time to re-evaluate your original goals and consider whether your priorities have changed.
As you design your new fitness goals, remember to create SMART goals. Your goals should be:
It often helps to write down your goals, put them in a visible place (like on your fridge), and review them often. For extra accountability, share your goals with a family member or friend and check in with them on a weekly or monthly basis.
2. Rebuild Your Healthy Habits
The prospect of getting back into the gym may feel exciting now, but over time, your motivation can begin to fizzle. That’s normal, especially because your busy life won’t stop to prioritize your fitness. Instead of counting on your motivation to keep you going to the gym, remove self-control from the equation by turning your gym visits into a habit.
The best way to build a habit is through consistency. Build your gym visits into your weekly schedule. Try to hit the gym on the same days and times each week so that it becomes automatic.
One way to help your habits stick is by using a powerful technique called anchoring. Try anchoring your new habit to an existing habit you already have. Do you drive to the office each morning? Set your alarm an hour early and hit the gym before going to the office. In this way, you’re anchoring your workout to your existing drive to the office.
3. Take It Easy
If you haven’t been exercising much at home (or at all), you’ll need to slowly reacclimate your body to working out. Unfortunately, just as your fitness improves when you consistently exercise, your fitness level can also go in the opposite direction when you stop exercising. This process is known as detraining. Even after a few weeks off from the gym, your aerobic capacity and strength will begin to decline.
The good news is that you can regain what you’ve lost, but you’ll need to take things slowly in the beginning. Don’t assume you can pick up right where you left off at the gym. You’ll need to lower the weight and/or intensity of your back-to-gym workouts. Start with a slower pace on the cardio machines and shorten the time duration of your workouts. When you hit the resistance machines or free weights, start with lighter weights and lower reps. Let your body guide you and work your way back up to higher intensities and heavier weights over time. If you try to match your previous numbers too quickly, you could invite injuries, not to mention severe soreness.
4. Warm Up and Cool Down
When you’re going back to the gym after a long break, it’s more important than ever to bookend your workouts with a warmup and cool down. A warmup will prepare your body for movement and get your heart beating. This is an excellent way to ease yourself back into exercise and to reduce the risk of injury. Likewise, a cool down will help your body return to homeostasis rather than going from intense exercise to complete rest.
5. Add in Rest Days
It may be tempting after a long break to create a return to gym workout plan that has you hitting the gym seven days a week. However, this much exercise could actually derail your progress, especially if you burn out or get injured.
Part of crafting a healthy workout plan is to build in rest days. Far from an excuse to laze on the couch, rest days are critical to help optimize your fitness results. Your body needs rest time, including lots of sleep. This is the time your body repairs itself and replenishes its food supply, especially when restarting a fitness plan.
When getting back into your exercise plan, give yourself several rest days a week. As your conditioning improves, you may want to remove a rest day or turn a full rest day into an active rest day. Active rest days often incorporate low-intensity exercise, like walking, easy swimming, easy cycling, light lifting, or yoga.
6. Prepare for Muscle Soreness
Going back to the gym may feel great in the moment but prepare yourself for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the 24 to 72 hours after your workout session. Exercise creates microtears in your muscles, which causes inflammation and pain. Muscle soreness can be particularly bad if you haven’t worked out in a while, which is one more reason to keep your back-to-gym workout easy and gentle.
While you might not be able to avoid muscle soreness altogether, you can help reduce muscle soreness by:
Keeping your first workouts light
- Foam rolling
- Spending time in the sauna after a workout
- Using a massage chair (available at some EōS Fitness locations)
- Keep moving the days after your workout
7. Explore All Your Gym Has to Offer
Your gym may have updated its equipment or added new amenities since you last visited. Now is a great time to check out all the different amenities your gym has to offer, especially if you’re looking to mix up your fitness routine. Ask a staff member at the gym to give you a tour. They are glad to do so even if you aren’t a brand-new member.
This is a good opportunity to explore and try different areas of the gym. Check out the functional fitness area. Jump in and enjoy a pool workout. See how a relaxing kneading session feels in a massage chair. Ever wondered if you could get fit while playing video games? Certain EōS Fitness locations offer the Black Box Virtual Reality fitness experience.
8. Try a Fitness Class
It can be challenging getting back into the swing of things when going back to the gym. You don’t have to figure out everything alone. Most gyms, including EōS Fitness, offer a large slate of group fitness classes. By signing up for a class, you can try all sorts of different fitness modalities. You also don’t have to design your own workout. Instead, follow the experienced and motivating instructor. The group atmosphere will get you pumped, while the class itself will make you sweat. Try a dance class. Get back into strength training. Push yourself with a HIIT class. Ease into movement with a mobility class. There are so many group fitness classes to choose from that you’ll never get bored at the gym.
9. Hire a Personal Trainer
If you want to get into great shape and hit your fitness goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, consider a personal trainer. A personal trainer will offer you accountability as well as create customized workouts tailored to your goals. During each session, your trainer will challenge you with the types of exercises that will give you the most benefits. At EōS Fitness, your trainer will also design a monthly workout calendar providing you with details on exactly what you need to do between sessions to see the best results possible.
10. Don’t Forget About Nutrition
Did your break from the gym also coincide with a break from healthy eating? Don’t worry. Just as you can dial in your fitness again, you can also dial in your nutrition. Focus on eating natural, healthy foods and cutting back on excess. Now that you’re going back to the gym, you’ll need to give your body the fuel it needs to recover. Focus on adding lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole-grain carbs to your diet. A great way to turn healthy eating into a habit is to meal prep each week. Having meals sorted out allows you to make the right eating decisions. Another helpful tip is to reward yourself after a tough workout with a tasty and healthy protein shake.