How to Get Back in the Gym After a Long Hiatus

By Jen Comas

You’re going to the gym and working hard on your fitness. You’ve got your workout schedule thoroughly organized, you’re in a good groove and feeling great when all of a sudden, something comes up and causes you to start missing workout sessions.

Maybe it’s a vacation, holiday, illness, injury, work deadline, or simply a busier-than-usual schedule. Time starts to fly by and before you know it, a week, a month, or a few years slip by without getting back into the gym.

It’s happened to most of us, including myself, on several different occasions. Real life has an uncanny way of surprising us and derailing our carefully thought out plans.

It’s completely normal for your training consistency to ebb and flow throughout the course of your life. The most important thing is that you get started again so that you can feel your very best.

The challenge for many people is that getting back into the gym after some time off can feel incredibly difficult, and understandably so. As a matter of fact, how to pick back up with fitness after some time away is one of the most common questions that we get asked here at Girls Gone Strong, so you are not alone.

Here are a few things that will help you get back into your workouts.

Give Yourself Grace

The first thing to do is give yourself some grace. Everyone pushes fitness aside at some point or another — whether they choose to, or are forced to — and you have the opportunity to jump back in now. That is all that matters.

In addition to giving yourself some grace, work on avoiding self-deprecating remarks.

If someone at the gym asks about your absence or notices your return, all you have to do is say that you took some time away and you’re back now. No need to apologize or explain, and certainly resist making jokes at your own expense.

I often hear women describe themselves as “lazy” or “slackers” because they haven’t been to the gym. This negative language is not helpful, and instead (if you feel the need to talk about it at all), you may try re-framing it and talking about how excited you are to be back rather than discussing the past.

Evaluate Your Expectations

One of the biggest challenges that my clients face in getting back to the gym after a hiatus is that they are scared of how much strength or aerobic capacity they may have lost. It can be difficult and feel disheartening to develop certain skills or strength and not being able to pick up where we left off.

Something to note is that your first workout — and possibly the first handful of workouts back — will feel hard. You might feel out of breath and it may be uncomfortable. This is normal, and it’s important to remind yourself that the discomfort won’t be everlasting.

After a week or two of being consistent with movement, things will start to feel better. Getting over the initial hump can be the hard part, and might take some mental fortitude, but it’s temporary.

The best way to overcome this is to ease back into things by cutting down on the duration and intensity of your workouts for the first several sessions back. This is important for a couple of reasons.

First, it will ensure that you get in a workout without being too sore. I often see people hit the gym after a long break thinking that they can pick up right where they left off. Not only does the workout end up feeling really hard which can feel defeating, but it leaves them so sore that it takes them far longer to recover, causing them to miss their next scheduled session.

In order to set yourself up for success and ensure consistency, consider cutting down on the number of sets that you normally do and back down the weight that you are using by quite a bit. Let your body get adjusted to working out without crushing yourself.

Additionally, by giving yourself permission to ease back into things you take the pressure off yourself. As I mentioned above, many of my clients are afraid to go back for fear of seeing that they’ve lost some of their fitness.

Set yourself up for an easy win to build some success momentum which will help you get back to the gym again for your first session back.

Choose Something Fun

When you are trying to get back into workouts, it’s important to choose something that you enjoy. While we know that a well-rounded training program is inevitably going to incorporate some things or exercises that aren’t our favorite, that isn’t something to worry about right now. The most important thing is that you move your body.

What do you love to do for fitness? What sounds fun? A dance class? Group fitness? An outdoor boot camp? A one-on-one training session? Let yourself do whatever sounds most appealing. It doesn’t have to make perfect sense right now. The only goal is to move your body and feel good while doing it.

Recruit a Support Buddy

Everything feels a little bit easier when we have a support system to lean on. If you are feeling a little apprehensive about getting back into fitness, can you recruit a friend or family member to go to the gym, take a fitness class, or even just start going for a walk with you a couple of times per week?

After a hiatus away from the gym, it can be tempting to focus on what you were capable of doing in the past, but I want to encourage you to resist staring in your rearview mirror, and instead, focus forwards.

There is no wagon; only real life, and real life is rife with sickness, vacation, seasons that are higher in stress, and periods where we straight up don’t want to go to the gym.

This is OK, and to be expected. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to use this opportunity to get moving again.

Note from GGS: If you’re ready to start training again and need inspiration on where to start, our Get Results series of training programs can provide you with:

  • 12 weeks of workouts designed to get you the results you want in less time
  • Evidence-based information on recovery, nutrition, mindset, and self-care to help you reach ANY health and fitness goals you have.
  • An invitation to our free, closed Facebook group to discuss your progress, challenges, and any questions you may have along the way

Click here to take the next step toward the results you're looking for.

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About the author:  Jen Comas

Jen Comas is a Girls Gone Strong co-founder and GGS Coaching Head Coach, as well as a NASM Personal Trainer and USAW Level One Weightlifting coach. She has competed in figure and trained as a powerlifter, teaches and practices yoga, and is obsessed with motorcycles, dirt biking, and downhill mountain biking. Learn about Jen on her website and follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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