George E. Eldayrie, MD
Orthopedics – Sports Medicine
It’s easy to miss a few days at the gym, but that can sometimes stretch into weeks or months. You vow to return but struggle to make the commitment. You’re not alone. Many people find it hard to resume working out once they’ve fallen out of their routine. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get you back to the gym.
Habit and Routine Hold Us Back
Humans are creatures of habit, and we get comfortable with our days unfolding in a predictable way. Even if we used to hit the gym regularly, it can be hard to break out of our current comfort zone and go back to our old routine or try a new workout.
We are also very good at rationalizing behavior and coming up with reasons why we can’t do something.
When it comes to getting back to the gym, we may tell ourselves we don’t have time, or that we’re too out of shape and will be sore for the rest of the week if we attempt to exercise.
We may feel embarrassed about the way we look and worry that others at the gym will judge us. Concerns about contagious illnesses may make us anxious about working out close to other people. In short, you don’t have to try very hard to convince yourself you’re better off not going back to the gym.
With so many mental roadblocks in place, many people choose the path of least resistance and simply stay home.
- Find Your ‘Why’
When it comes to motivating yourself to work out, it helps to come up with concrete reasons why you want to do it. Maybe you want to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure. Maybe you’re among the one in three Americans with prediabetes, and your healthcare provider has suggested exercise to prevent full-blown diabetes. Maybe you want to have the energy to keep up with your kids or grandkids.
Whatever the reason, finding your internal motivation can help propel you past mental roadblocks and excuses and out the door.
- Start Small and Take it Slow
Regular exercise doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, and it doesn’t have to happen at a gym. Take a stroll around the block on your lunch break instead of scrolling through social media or use the stairs instead of the elevator. These little things can add up to big results.
Starting small can also help to avoid overdoing it. If you try to go from couch potato to marathoner overnight, you’re setting yourself up for injury or exhaustion — both of which can potentially put you off exercise permanently. Instead of pushing yourself beyond what your body can handle, start slow and make incremental increases as you get stronger.
- Make a Schedule and Stick to It
It’s hard to find the time to work out, which is why so many people see their fitness routine derailed. Make a plan to exercise at a certain time on a certain day and stick to it. Exercise should be considered a priority, an item on your to-do list that absolutely must be done. Once it becomes a habit, you won’t have to try so hard to fit exercise into your life.
- Lean Into Technology
These days, putting together the perfect workout plan is as easy as pulling out your smartphone. There are many apps available that can choose exercises for you based on your fitness level and personal preferences. Online, you can find countless free videos of everything from yoga to aerobics. You can even join a virtual club or group of like-minded people who will cheer you on as accountability partners.
You could also try a subscription fitness plan, where you pay a monthly fee for classes, personal training or other guidance right in the comfort of your own home. You might be motivated to work out when you’re paying for it.
- Give It Time
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and you may find the first few weeks back at the gym a little uncomfortable both physically and mentally. Massage, stretching and cold showers can alleviate soreness. And after two or three weeks of routine exercise, you likely won’t feel sore anymore. In fact, you’ll feel more energy. You’ll start to get a rush of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine after exercise. In other words, your workouts will become rewarding instead of punishing.
SOURCE: ORLANDO HEALTH