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How to Get Back On The Exercise Track

June 01, 2012

Story at-a-glance

  • When “life happens,” exercise is often the first thing to go; you may find it difficult to reestablish your exercise routine, and the longer you wait, the harder it may be
  • Many people try to pick up where they left off, but this is a mistake as your body tends to adjust its fitness capacity to your current needs; it’s best to pick up slightly below where you left off and not try to “catch up” too quickly
  • Beating yourself up for your perceived lack of follow-through is counterproductive. Instead, recommit, and shower yourself with kindness and praise for jumping back in
  • Showing up on time and sticking to a schedule will help you stay on track; writing your training times down in your calendar for two months at a time seems to result in the best long-term benefits
  • Attending a regular exercise class is a great way to make exercising more fun and more successful, as you might enjoy the fellowship of others who share a common goal

By Dr. Jeff Spencer

We've all found ourselves at certain times in our lives having to put important activities down to address things requiring immediate attention. One of the most often first items chopped from schedules during those pressing times is exercise.

Exercise is an easy item to chop from the calendar in challenging times as its offers back a nice chunk of time, usually somewhere between 20 and 60 minutes, and easy to "get back to later" when life "calms down".

The challenge then becomes to "get back to it later" as when exercise is out of sight its out of mind and the longer its stayed away from it is often more and more difficult to get back to and many times never is until a health crisis demands it be returned to. But, the good news is, when it's time to get back to exercising it is easy to get back to and stick with following some very simple and effective strategies.

  1. Pick up slightly below where you left off – It is vital when returning to exercise that you resist the temptation to start back where you discontinued. When exercise is discontinued the body's fitness gains from training slowly begin to diminish to a level equal to the where the body currently needs to perform at which is less than it was required to when exercising regularly.
  2. When an exercise journal is maintained, it is much easier to know exactly where you discontinued and where to begin again than if no journal was kept and an estimation of where you left off is relied on to establish the starting point for resuming training. Once you've determined what your last exercise workout was, reduce that workout by 20% for two weeks to create a fitness base to resume exercising at again that can be done safely and effectively without exposing yourself injury or excess soreness.

  3. Don't Try To Catch Up – When resuming back to exercise there's the over-whelming tendency to try to catch up to your previous level too fast that most often results in burnout, excess soreness and needless injury. The best fitness gains will occur when you maintain a regular fitness program that balances the ideal exercise to rest ratio that leaves at least one day between similar workouts.
  4. For example, if you train on Monday then train again on Wednesday allowing your body to recover on Tuesday. It is also acceptable periodically to allow two or three days between training sessions when your schedule only permits this. The idea is to be regular and not try to catch up. You will find that when you exercise regularly and allow for adequate body recovery between workouts you will be back to your peak fitness level where you previously left off much sooner than expected.

  5. Praise, Rather Than Beat Yourself Up – An all too frequent personal response to discontinuing exercise and then resuming it is to beat one's self up for discontinuing exercise in the first place. If you've ever felt like this then welcome to the club as it is a deeply ingrained human nature reflex we all have that never serves us well, and can paralyze us from moving forward creating the erroneous belief that we don't have the self-control and capacity to move forward.
  6. This, of course, is a complete myth, and the reality is that at any time we have the capacity to move forward and return to exercise by simply starting again close to where we left off and doing it from a position of love for self and praise for our commitment to get back to exercising, rather from a position of being self-defeating from self-judgment. Trust me, you can do this and often do it quickly when done from a position of self-respect and empathy.

  7. Show up on time – The fastest way to get back to regular exercise is to show up and start exercising on time. Being on time is your single most important sign of respect for yourself and belief in self is an essential ingredient in gaining and maintaining fitness momentum.
  8. To show up on time, have your exercise gear, clothes, equipment and water packed and ready in advance of exercising so you have everything you need to show up on time and get the workout completed on time and not risk being deflected and not finishing the workout from getting bogged down in trying to getting everything ready to workout.

    Another important rule of thumb is to give yourself extra time to get to your workout as there's usually less time than we allow to start a workout and showing up late can reduce our belief in self that we can maintain a regular exercise schedule.

  9. Write Training Times Down – Always write your exercise sessions into your calendar as when it's written its more likely to get done especially much more so than if we try to commit it to memory. Most have found that if they write their workout times in their calendars at least for the next two months running it provides the best level of commitment to maintain long-term fitness habits.
  10. One month doesn't convey enough commitment as it looks like there's an "out" on the calendar and doesn't inspire confidence in the program where 3-months can be a bit too long and have a tinge of emotional dread and being locked in that can discourage people from the long-term commitment needed to create a life of lasting fitness gains.

  11. Attend a regular class – A great way to re-enter the world of exercise is to attend an exercise class regularly. There are many advantages to taking an exercise class. Usually, there are people in the same boat of getting back to exercise and this creates a fellowship of group support to make that transition easier than if trying to go it alone.
  12. The reality is everyone goes through peaks and valleys of enthusiasm for exercise and it's much easier to discontinue exercise when doing it in isolation than when belonging a group dynamic with an accountability component to it. Another part of human nature is that we'll often attend a class with others to support them than we will to support ourselves and that's why having accountability partners creates win-win for everyone.

Getting back to exercise isn't always easy for many reasons but the good news is that it can be done and with a proven structure propelling that re-enty it can be done much more easily with joy, confidence and results. The biggest challenge often is getting beyond the belief it can't be done since the wagon was jumped off of making it impossible to jump back onto again. That mind-myth has no basis in reality and when over-ridden with a sensible, workable plan, steady fitness gains can be achieved and maintained for a lifetime.

About the Author

Dr. Jeff Spencer, Olympian, ICA "Sports Chiropractor of the Year", and author is one of America's top builder of champions.

"Dr. Magic", as Dr. Spencer's often referred to, has been directly involved in 40+ World, Olympic, National and Tour de France championships. He has worked with NASCAR champion Bobby LaBonte, World Series MVP Troy Glaus, rock legend U2, and most known for helping Lance Armstrong win all 7 of his Tour de France victories on site. Dr. Spencer has also worked his "magic" with PGA, WTA, and Supercross champions, ultra-successful entrepreneurs and business standouts, NFL, MLB athletes, as well as Motocross and Formula 1 drivers.

Spencer received his master's in physical education and his undergraduate degree from University of Southern California and his doctor of chiropractic degree summa cum laude from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles. He has taught post-graduate sports rehabilitation courses and frequently lectures on health, fitness, and wellness.

Dr. Spencer is the author of the acclaimed book, Turn It Up! How To Perform At Your Highest Level For A Lifetime and audio program "The Top 10 Tactics From The Champions Playbook".

"Jeff is part doctor, part guru, part medicine man… we believed Jeff could fix all of our problems… while he fixed us physically, he also fixed us mentally… If you judged the most important man on the team by the foot traffic in and out of his door, then it was Jeff. Without him, we know we'd never make it to Paris."

-Lance Armstrong, Every Second Counts

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