Restarting your workout engine

Published 10:13 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I spent most of Tuesday walking around with my muscles creaking and aching to remind me that I made progress. That morning, I had stepped into a gym for the first time this year to get back into a routine and regain some of the strength I’ve lost.

My exercises have been on again, off again for years. I’ve spent week to months on a regular pattern only to go cold turkey for one reason or another. It’s a common problem for many people and there’s plenty of advice to stay regular, like Scott Young’s 15 bullets in his lifehack.org article “15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).”

Young nails the early steps for restarting the engine. Start with your same workout benchmarks as before or even less. If you were running 5Ks six months ago and stopped running altogether, then it’s going to take time to get that stamina back.

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Repetition is going to be your goal, and I’m not just talking about workout sets. Young recommends working out daily for at least a month, but if that’s not feasible, set a target for how many days each week you can exercise and push yourself to do it.

Part of that is going to be finding the best “quiet hours” in your schedule, either before or after work. I love morning workouts, because you get a sense of accomplishment even before getting to work.

As you’re working to get back into a rhythm, measure your progress. Young suggested marking workout days with X’s on a calendar and recording gains in your maximum reps or lifting weight. I’m a much bigger fan of the latter. Progress is intoxicating, and there are numerous apps and devices that help with that, like Fitbits.

Another piece of Young’s advice is to identify the reasons why you keep falling out of your routine in the first place.

“Do you not enjoy exercising?” Young asked in the article. “Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.”

The more masochistic parts of me enjoy the struggles of lifting and running, and it’s important to find some ways to make your workouts enjoyable, even if it’s just music or a podcast in your earbuds.

But remember that exercise is supposed to be difficult. Pushing your body is going to strain, and you’ll naturally find excuses to avoid the workout entirely, especially with work stress already bogging your day-to-day.

But it’s consistent exercise is still one of the best stress relievers. It’s not just about looking better, although that helps. It’s also about surprising yourself by breaking your limits and setting new ones to break the next day.

Good luck to everyone else that plans to sweat through the rest of 2018.