Since I was 13 years old, the gym has been one of my favorite places.
It’s the constant in my day, my safe space, and my time for ME.
When I come back after time away, it’s like coming home after a long vacation – I’m grateful for the break, but SO ready to get back to MY place.
But no matter how much I love the gym, there is ALWAYS a part of me that isn’t quite excited…
There’s anxiety surrounding the uncertainty over how much progress I’ve lost.
There’s worry about how much I’ll struggle that first day or week back.
There’s concern about how I’ll look to the others who have been hard at work in my time away.
There’s the fear of tomorrow and how sore I’ll be because I know it’s a sign of just how much I’ve lost.
And do you know what?
Every single one of these things is normal to some degree.
Maybe you’ve been dreaming and waiting for your return, so you don’t see or feel these things.
Or maybe it’s making you question whether or not you should go back at all.
Just know that wherever you’re at, it’s normal and that you’re not alone.
Let’s get into the 10 Steps to Getting Back Into the Gym.
Start Where You Are, Not Where You Were
This is hands down the BIGGEST mistake people make when getting back into the gym.
As a coach, I have seen too many people return to the gym expecting to have the same level of strength or endurance as they once did.
Whether you’ve been off a week, a month, or longer, things have changed.
Whether you’ve worked out every day outside of the gym or not all, your body has changed to some degree.
Your body is highly adaptive, so when energy expenditure, neuromuscular use, and resource needs change, your body makes adjustments very quickly to maintain a high level of efficiency.
Now, that by no means suggests you lose EVERYTHING with one day off. Actually, if you maintain a slightly above average overall activity level with a healthy diet, your body doesn’t change that much if you take a few WEEKS off.
But it STILL doesn’t mean you should expect to pump out the same number of squats or use the same weight on Day 1.
Think of it like riding your bike. It takes a few minutes to steady yourself, feel comfortable in your seat, and regain your pedal rate.
Better yet, think of it like going back to work after vacation. No matter how well you prepare beforehand, there is ALWAYS some catching up to do. Give yourself a day or two to knock out some work and stop wishing you had a vacation from your vacation and you’re back on track.
The point is that your body will adjust back to your gym sessions MUCH faster than when you started. It just needs a chance to get the nerves, muscles, and energy systems fired up again.
There’s a reason this one lands at #2.
Too often clients come back to the gym after a vacation or break thinking that the key to forgiving their sins is to crank up the workout AND diet intensity.
Yes, if you want to lose weight and get lean you need to burn more calories than you take in.
NO, that does not mean sink further into a calorie deficit.
So you’ve put on a few pounds or you’ve maintained weight but just feel soft.
It hurts, I get it!
You’re recalling every sinful bite or sip you took and wishing you had forced yourself off the couch to move your body, but RESTRICTION IS NOT THE ANSWER.
For 2 reasons:
That reinforces the Binge-Restriction Mindset, which only leads to a lifetime of failed diets, body shaming, and dissatisfaction every time you step on the scale or look in the mirror.
You have reintroduced a stressor into your life and your body needs the resources to appropriately manage and recover from that stress.
When you step back into the gym, your body needs to be fed.
It NEEDS fuel.
If you’re not sure how to fuel yourself or you need the accountability to NOT slash your calories into an extreme deficit, hire me as a coach. Together we’ll break your belief or tendency to do this and teach you how to live a happy, enjoyable, and well-fed life.
Okay, so this is important whether you’re starting back at the gym or just waking up on an average day…
BUT when you do get back to the gym there are a few reasons hydration becomes even more important:
You’re sweating more, which means a greater fluid and electrolyte loss.
More frequent use of your muscles requires more water to keep them hydrated and provide nutrients.
You’re raising the amount of stress on your body, and water is necessary to support its functions.
In an ideal world, you’d drink 100 ounces of water per day.
But this isn’t quite an ideal world…
So in that case, I recommend you start by aiming for 64 ounces.
Start With What’s Easiest
Right now is all about getting you some quick wins.
Every victory builds confidence.
And with more confidence comes more motivation.
Right now it might be tempting to take all that excitement and motivation and funnel it towards what’s hardest (tracking calories or macros), but that’s the exact opposite of what I want you to do…
Start with whatever gives you least resistance.
If it’s going for a walk, great.
If it’s eating breakfast, sweet.
If it’s planning out your meals for the day, awesome!
At Complete Performance, we say it has to be “Stupid Simple.”
I want it to be so simple that you almost laugh at the fact that I’m asking you to do this.
Because instead of draining that motivation you have about starting, you ADD to it when you confidently crush your first task!
Make each step a LITTLE bit more challenging, so when you reach the hard stuff, you’re up for the challenge!
Wait for the Perfect Day to Start
You’re a few days out from getting back into the gym and your excitement level is THROUGH THE ROOF, but then the day gets closer and closer and that excitement turns into a bit of anxiety. Before you know it’s the day before you COULD go back but you’ve reasoned with yourself to give it another few days.
Sound about right?
Here’s the thing – THERE IS NO PERFECT DAY TO START.
You’re always going to have other things to do and places to be!
You will always have other stress in your life!
I don’t make any guarantees in my coaching, but I will promise you that stress will always be there.
So the right time?
Yea, that’s right now.
Because it doesn’t get any easier the longer you wait.
Listen to Your Body
You’ve been out of the gym for a while and you’re excited to get back in.
Motivation is high, the opportunity is right in front of you, so it’s time to go all in, right?
Yes and no.
Yes, in that you SHOULD go all in on every warmup, mobility, strength, accessory, and cardiovascular exercise.
No, that does not mean burn all of your excitement by doubling up on training sessions, tacking on more sets, or pushing yourself to complete failure in hope of speeding up your progress.
Do you know what that leads to?
A bone-dry motivation tank and burnout.
And with any of those, your training, possibly even gym time, is going to take a hit.
Yet it happens all the time…
The excitement over being back in the gym masks the signs and messages your body sends designed to prevent little things from turning into bigger things.
Schedule times to check in with your body and to really find out what it needs.
More warmup and mobility work?
A lighter load in your strength focused exercises?
A better cool down?
Oh, and it is perfectly okay to give it a day off when it needs one.
Get Real with Your End Goal
Any client who comes to me ready to get back into the gym comes with a laundry list of goals.
“I want to lose X weight.”
“I want to tone up X area.”
“I want to be beach body ready.”
“I want to get stronger.”
“Oh, and I want to do this all before X date/event/birthday.”
The list goes on.
Personally, I’m a goal-oriented person, so I get real fired up hearing someone else list off their goals.
However, in my experience as a coach, I’ve learned there’s a need to be realistic about the things on the list and narrow it down to 1 or 2 items in a realistic timeframe.
Losing weight, getting stronger, and living healthy all require different plans that don’t necessarily mesh well together. Your body needs different nutritional resources, diets, and training programs. Not to mention, when you try to focus on a list of goals, you’re likely prolonging the time for goal achievement.
Pick one goal, crush it, then move on to the next.
Not sure how to go about setting your goal?
Check out The Ultimate Goal Setting Guide HERE!
Be Open to Ditching Your Bad Habits
The reality is you hate where you’re at…
But do you know what got you there?
Repeatedly overeating low quality food.
Stressed out binge eating.
A sedentary lifestyle.
Bad, unhealthy habits.
And if you’re honest with yourself, you know they have to change.
But when it comes to actually making that change, it’s A LOT easier said than done.
When your coach recommends change, be open to it.
Voice your concerns.
Work together to meet in the middle.
BE OPEN! You’re doing this for a reason!
Plan It Out
Right now, you’re filled with motivation and excitement over getting back to the gym.
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that motivation and excitement fades.
You won’t spring out of bed every morning or auto-pilot drive there after work.
That’s why you need to plan it out from the beginning.
Block times, set reminders, and consider it a non-negotiable in your schedule so it’s established as a routine in your schedule.
Do it while your motivation is high, so as it wanes, it’s not something to get pushed aside.
Do It for You
If you really want this to stick, then this might be the MOST IMPORTANT step for you to consider.
Too often people start their fat loss journey for their family and say things like:
“I want to do it for my spouse.” Or “I want to keep up with my kids.”
Because their doctor said so – “My doctor suggested I lose some weight and start exercising.”
But these are all external motivators.
Doing it for these people tie your goal and happiness to an external event.
The only way to lose fat and SUSTAIN it long-term, is to look internal and to tie the pursuit of those goals to our values.
That means that you do this for YOU.
Of course, you want to be healthier for your family and to adhere to your doctor’s requests, but long-term success comes when you do this for YOU!
That’s the only thing that will get you off the couch when the last thing you want to do is workout.
That’s what will help you say no to pizza and ice cream and yes to tonight’s salad.
Doing it for you is the ONLY thing that will help you actually ENJOY the process and results.