There’s something epic about exercising. The sound of your feet pounding the treadmill, the endorphins that flood your body, the way your mind sharpens as you suck air into your lungs, the burn you feel as you lift heavy weights, the feeling of running further or faster than the last time you laced up, seeing your body fat visibly shrink as you get into the jeans you almost threw away Sure, you may also feel like you want to be literally anywhere other than the gym. But your body is thanking you the whole time because exercise has some seriously powerful effects on both the body and the mind. And then there’s the fact you’re on the path to unlocking your full potential and living your best life. That’s what it’s all about: the possibilities you didn’t dare to dream about.
Then WHAM! You’re stopped. Everything is halted right there and then. An injury. Work commitments. A patch of bad weather. Maybe even burn out. All of a sudden, everything you had been working toward, all the gains you had made, all the fitness, weight loss and confidence you had worked so hard for, just vanished in the blink of an eye as you’re forced to take a break from your exercise schedule.
It’s a scenario that so many of us have been faced with as we ask the question: what now? Well, to help you get your fitness mojo back after an unwanted break, we’ve pulled together a few strategies that will take you from the sidelines back to your goals in no time at all.
The Definition of a Long Break
Here’s the thing: there is no one definition of what a long break is. That’s because it will vary from one person to the next based on all sorts of factors, like your fitness, experience, age, previous injuries and a bunch of other determinants. That said, the general rule of thumb is six weeks. Any break that lasts more than six weeks is considered a long break because that’s how long it takes to see a significant drop in fitness, strength, technique and VO2max.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is this: the longer you’ve been training, the easier it’ll be to get back into it after a break. Basically, the longer you’ve been into fitness, the bigger your foundation of aerobic strength will be. And that’s just the start because you’ll also have higher levels of mitochondria to give you energy, more red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body and a whole lot more metabolic enzymes than someone that’s only just got onto the fitness train. That doesn’t mean beginners won’t bounce back, it just means it’ll take a little longer for newbies.
Walk First, Run Second
The thing about fitness-fans is they want to train. They want to push themselves, feel the benefits, see the sweat, keep consistent and know what they put in is what they get out. But you have to walk before you can run, especially if you’ve taken a break. So before you pull on your favourite gym gear and take on a HIIT circuit, make sure you can walk (or do very gentle exercise) for at least 45 minutes without any pain or struggle.
We know, we know: it sounds boring. But this isn’t just to ease you back into it. You see, walking is one of the most effective ways to recondition your muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and every other kind of soft tissue so that you’re ready to take on the more rigorous demands of training again. Trust us on that.
Work on Your Strength
Just like Ant & Dec, Bert & Ernie, and those doors that can be folded down into ping pong tables, fitness and strength training are a match made in paradise… especially when you’ve had to take an extended break. That’s why it’s so important to start a fitness-focussed strength program at least two to three weeks before you plan on exercising properly again.
The trick is understanding what muscles-slash-groups you need to focus on then how to use this newfound strength during your return to running. Our advice: focus on workouts that best mimic the core components of your usual training; exercises that will help improve your muscle coordination, timing and biomechanics, all of which will help you avoid any injury or burn out in the future. To put it simply: strength training is the most efficient and effective way to build up the muscles needed to be a more efficient and injury-free fitness-addict.
Find A Controlled Environment
In a lot of ways, it makes total sense to lace up at home, step outside and start up that routine you once knew and loved. But we suggest you avoid free weights or bodyweight exercises and head to a safer environment instead. First off, you want to be somewhere you can exercise without the worry that you’ll be stranded a long way from your door should anything happen on that first session. Whether you pull something, feel a tweak or find you’ve aggravated your injury, you’ll only be a short walk from your car should you need to stop. The other great thing about testing yourself somewhere like a gym or a fitness retreat is this: they are controlled and confined with the right trainers, experts and safety protocols, you know, just in case.
Patience Really is a Virtue
Fitness-fans are a rare breed of people that like to push themselves to new heights every time they get ready for a session, especially when you have a goal in the back of your mind. That’s why so many people do more than they should too soon after an injury. Don’t rush your recovery after a long break.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve maintaining your fitness on a bike, in the swimming pool or doing cross-training; some injuries (and burn outs) can take weeks and months to recover from. It’s all about listening to your body and understanding when your muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments are strong enough to take on the task of exercising again.
Instead, start off with short, easy sessions with plenty of scheduled breaks and do this every other day for 10-12 minutes at a time – and remember the 10% rule. When you’ve been off your fitness routine for more than six weeks, make sure you’re not increasing your effort, exertion, lifting or running distances by more than 10% from one week to the next or you’ll actually stunt your recovery times.
Cross Training is Your BFF
There’s a very simple equation to keep in mind: the more you workout, the faster you’ll build up your cardiovascular fitness. But said working out doesn’t have to mean going back to what youn know or picking up running. Nope. Nada. No way. Instead, try adding cross-training to your routine with two or three sessions a week. A gentle cycle ride, rowing on a machine, swimming — those sorts of workouts will help improve your endurance without worsening any injury.
On top of that, getting familiar with other forms of fitness, such as yoga and Pilates and weight training is a really effective way to build the kind of muscles that will boost your performance and recovery. Of course, make sure you consult with your doctor first, especially if you’ve not been able to train for a few months, as it might be more beneficial to schedule in rest days between your gentle sessions to begin with, holding off on the cross training until the time is right.
Book Into An All-Inclusive Fitness Retreat
When you think of a fitness retreat, you probably don’t think they’re the ideal environment for someone either starting out or trying to get back into fitness. But guess what, our fitness retreats are exactly that because everything we do is tailored to you. Everything. The bespoke diets, personalised fitness plan, removal of temptations, nutritious meals and, of course, the sessions laid out by our world-class coaching team. Everything we do at No1 is designed to help you unlock your full potential and realise you are capable of so much more than you ever realised. So whether you're looking to get back into fitness so that you can lose weight, build strength, change your lifestyle, get your exercise-mojo back or simply get hooked on those post-workout endorphins again, attending our all-inclusive retreats is an epic way to make fitness a major part of your life – and we have them all over: Norfolk, Portugal, St Tropez and more.