Six Tips to Help You Restart Your Exercise Habit

Sometimes life’s distractions get in the way of working out. Busy schedules, last minute emergencies, planned vacations, and that head cold going around can all make it harder to be physically active on a regular basis. It’s often like a growing snowball, as one day off turns into the week, turns into the month. But, according to an article in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reducing activity levels from a normal to low level  can significantly reduce cardiovascular fitness, lean muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity. This, of course, makes it even harder to pick back up where you left off when the schedule slows down, vacation ends, or that pesky cold finally succumbs to the decongestant regimen.

So how do you get back on the treadmill after an extended time off? These six tips can help you get back to your exercise habit after time away.

1. Start slow – trying to pick up exactly where you left off can result in some very sore muscles the next day, or even an injury. Start at a more moderate intensity and lower frequency than before, and work your way back to where you left off. You don’t want to set yourself back even further by injuring yourself.

2. Manage your expectations – You may have run a nine-minute mile or bench pressed 150 pounds when you last trained, but it’s unlikely you’ll hit those numbers your first week back. Recognizing this as you return to your workout will help you move forward.

3. Recover well – it’s likely your muscles will be sore after your first workout back. Spend some time stretching using a foam roller on muscles you worked out, and stretching tight areas.

4. Set manageable goals - setting and achieving short-term goals can help keep you motivated. As you get back into the swing of things, think of a time or repetition goal to achieve each workout.

5. Use a Training Partner - having a friend to motivate you and hold you accountable will keep you on track and make the experience more fun.

6. Have a plan - work with a trainer or coach to develop a plan that works for you. This will help increase motivation and decrease the risk of injury as you see progress and acquire new skills/fitness.

This article originally appeared at Health.gov.

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