7 top tips for getting back into it
No matter how dedicated you try and be sometimes life just happens. Work, kids, studying, a lack of results; all these things and more can push you out of training. But whether you're just coming back from an injury layoff or trying to harness some new-found, new year motivation, getting back into the gym can be tricky business. Here are some tips to help you hit the ground running.
1. Slow and steady wins the race
If you've been away from the gym for a while you almost certainly won't be able to do or lift what you could before. Over training is incredibly easy to do when you're newly back into fitness and eager to see results. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury or unnecessary soreness which can dent your motivation. Don't hit major muscle groups more than once a week.
2. Get kitted out
The more preparation you can do for your workouts the better.
Perfect for keeping track of your progress. Week by week you should be looking to lift slightly heavier or run slightly further, don't keep it all in your head. As well as this, having a physical notepad keeps you off of your phone - essential for staying in the zone. Be sure to make notes when an exercise is particularly hard or easy, or if you need to research something at home.
Help your muscles grow and recover with a few cheap and effective staple supplements. Try a slow release protein powder or some creatine. Creatine is Ideal if you're looking to build muscle or are doing high intensity interval training.
Know your regime; if you're doing a lot of lifting, invest in some gloves to protect your hands, if you're doing a lot of cardio, get some running socks and tops made of sweat-wicking fabric - no cotton!
3. Eat right
One indispensable mantra for anybody looking for results - you can't out train bad nutrition. Don't think of it as dieting, the word diet implies short-term fix. Start to think of it as a general lifestyle choice, if you fuel your body in the right way, it will reward you. Get your head down too, micro-tears in your muscles repair overnight so get at least eight hours in.
4. Educate yourself
Plan your workouts individually and by the week. Be on the hunt for new exercises but make sure you're confident with the required form for each exercise before you hit the gym for maximum results and minimum injury risk. Make sure you don't neglect your back or legs; aim for a well-rounded workout plan. Be sure not to over complicate things early on, start basic - no TRX or supersets - and build from there.
Take a picture of yourself on day one and again after a month. Don't let it be a numbers game, increases in muscle can outweigh decreases in fat and increased exercise can lead to increased bone density, so ignore weight and inches, let it be about how you look and feel. Experts estimate that it takes three weeks to make a habit, so make sure you're clocking up the visits, even if it's just for twenty minutes. Mark each session with an 'X' on your calendar to motivate you.
6. Confront your weaknesses
If you've got strong arms but poor cardiovascular fitness, dedicate some extra time to the treadmill. You should be aiming to close the gap, not widen it. Don't avoid back workouts because you've never done a deadlift before, you have to start somewhere.
7. Vary your exercise
Try and substitute your gym sessions for other forms of exercise. Be it football, fartlek, squash or swimming, outdoor bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular now and they're great for fat burning and functional strength. Don't turn your nose up at yoga, it's vital to stretch your muscles, try to get a good handful into your repertoire.