Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen it.
Maybe you have, too. Those people who are emerging from the year-long pandemic their best version of themselves. They leveraged this time of slower schedules and more time at home to get into the best shape of their lives. They’ve conquered their nutrition goals by eating more meals at home and being more intentional about planning their menus. They’ve taken time for self-reflection and they got a great set of weights for their home gym. Oh, and they redesigned and painted that home gym while they were at it.
Good for them. The post-pandemic glow up. Hooray.
That’s not how it went down over here. Not by a long shot.
Let’s just say I was an over-achiever. In the opposite direction from fitness.
The calendar and the community shut down and in response I shut down all kinds of nutritional practices and exercise routines. And in the doing, I achieved a level of pandemic fitness sloth I didn’t know I was capable of.
Fast forward lo these many months and it’s time to face the lockdown music. As access to the vaccine continues to expand and social opportunities begin to bloom like spring begonias, I’m going to have to start facing members of my community without my housebound camouflage of sweatpants.
And beyond the public nature of emerging from the pandemic, and more importantly, is honoring the agreements I have with myself about taking care of this physical temple.
How do you jump back into fitness training when you’ve allowed that practice to lay dormant for over a year?
Here are some ideas I’ve used to get back into healthy disciplines.
Break out that calendar.
This was critical for me to get started. I’ve blocked time on my calendar for my running schedule. Right now, I’ve committed to 30 minute runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday mornings. I’ve actually made it a one hour block, with 15 minutes to pull on my running gear, and 15 minutes on the other side of the run to get cleaned up. I don’t allow anything to get double-booked during that one hour block. And I’m keeping those times, just like I would an appointment where someone was expecting me to show up. Except this time, it’s me who’s expecting me to show up. So I do.
Maybe this is you, too. Because I’ve had times in my life where I’ve been in peak fitness performance as a long distance runner, I want to be able to jump back in right where I left off. Which is ridiculousness, I know, but I can’t help comparing where I was to where I’m having to start anew. And if I add a new layer to my fitness goals, like trying a new class or weight lifting routine, I’ll go all in on my enthusiasm. Which generally means I can barely walk for the next week.
Not the best way to create any kind of continuity, by injuring myself right at the start.
Starting slow is critical to the game plan. Those first few weeks, do a combo of walking and jogging, in intervals. Go for lower weights. Adapt movement as needed when tackling that new fitness class. Starting slow will speed up your fitness consistently, which will ultimately be jet fuel to your goals.
Pride alert: because I’ve been a long distance runner for a long time running long races, I figured certain beginner runner programs and apps were beneath me. Same with weight lifting.
Turns out, they were exactly what I needed, once I put my pride aside. Apps like Couch to 5K and fitness tracking on my Altrua HealthShare App have taken me back to basics and have allowed me to build back up. With attainable goals and ways to track my progress, it’s made the process of getting back on the roads all the better.
It took a few weeks to start feeling any kind of enthusiasm for my new fitness schedule, but once those endorphins started kicking in, I was tempted to start skipping rest days and to accelerate my goals and calendar. Resist that urge. When you’ve had a period of time off from fitness, your rest schedule is arguably as important as your workout schedule.
Debra Myhr, a physical therapist at OrthoCaroline explains it this way: “Rest days are important to prevent overuse injuries, and to allow for muscles and body to recover from the exercise,” Debra explained. “You are creating small tears in the muscles as you work them, so it is important to give them rest. It also allows the immune system to recharge, since it is being taxed to repair your body from the stress of physical activity.”1
Establishing better patterns of exercise and rest, right at top of getting a fresh fitness routine rolling, will help you stay with that new routine for the long term, instead of burning yourself in early days.
Wherever your health and fitness situation finds you today, progress is still progress. The walk around the block after dinner. Choosing the side salad instead of the fries. Moving your body every day and getting enough water. They are small steps but they all add up. And that means healthier days as we look forward in hope to a post-pandemic tomorrow.
Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.