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  • Writer's pictureDr Susan Baxter

“I’ll Be Back”

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

With the Arnold Classic Australia coming up in March, we figured that we would channel our inner ‘Terminator’ and help you get back on track with some tips and tricks if you happened to fall off the exercise “gains train” over the Christmas break.

There might be any number of reasons that could have taken you away from your regular exercise routine. Perhaps it was one fab New Year’s four-day festival? Or maybe the commitment to a bronze tan (fueled by a different form of six pack)?

The bottom line is this – what you thought was a couple of missed workouts, in truth quickly turns into a few months(!) without exercise.

But fear not amigo, we have compiled the best tips to make your comeback unstoppable!

Firstly, what happens during the de-conditioning phase? Well, when you quit working out the effects aren’t as obvious as they would be if you missed a meal or two – you feel hungry, your tummy starts to growl, so you know it’s time to eat! Reduced exercise isn’t as obvious. When you cease working out for 2-3 months, four main physiological changes occur:

  1. You lose at least half of your aerobic fitness in the form of lung elasticity.

  2. You heart pumps less blood per heart beat.

  3. Your blood vessels shrink (and your blood volume decreases).

  4. You use oxygen less efficiently.

Did you know that within just 72 hours of ceasing exercise, you’ve lost strength and your muscles have already begun to shrink?

A host of physiological changes to the body means that when you return to working out after a prolonged period, it will feel like starting all over again – so during this time you’ll want to avoid injury2, possible burn out and the moody effects of overtraining. You’ll also have some psychological changes to work on; exercise won’t feel as easy as it used to, and it won’t be a habit anymore.

To get back into it, it is important to reduce the likelihood of injury:

1. Start a little easier than you left off: You will have to breathe deeper to get the required oxygen into your body due to your heart and lungs being less efficient. When you exercise, your heart has to pump harder to disperse the oxygen around the body3. You will also have lost muscle mass, so there is less muscle to support the joints. That means a longer warm up is necessary2 before the workout and across your increased work capacity. Use the first 2-4 weeks of your programme as a baseline before attempting to add some extra weights and plates. We recommend focusing on the basics and fundamentals of exercise, core work (such as planks); full body weight sessions; lots of full range of movement exercises2 at the start, as well as prioritizing stretches. Also, check my other post for some fun and effective workouts.

2. Prioritize recovery: During the initial phase of re-commencing exercise, it can be useful to add an extra hour of sleep or rest for the first week, as this is when you repair. This extra hour will be more crucial if you have recommenced work for the year too (which, just like exercise, represents a type of stress on the body).

3. Cool down: During your exercise recommencement, your body will take longer to recover between sets and after exercise. Take at least 8-12 minutes to bring the heart rate back down slowly by employing some light stretches2 and cardio until your breathing returns to normal. These measures can reduce the pooling of blood and kick-start your recovery process. You might also consider a protein shake to aid your post workout nutrition. Click here for some recipes.

4. Anticipate and relieve the muscle soreness: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is to be expected when doing unaccustomed or unfamiliar exercise, and might dampen your motivation to keep up the exercise. To minimize DOMS, use active recovery in the form of some light exercise and walking, and one good tip from our own experience is to employ alternating 30 seconds of hot and cold water in the shower to boost blood flow.

Getting those four right is half the picture, now let’s get your head in the game:

1. Set goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goals are often preached, but consider training for a charity. It can add some extra motivation for your exercise goals if there is an element of achieving it for a sponsored race or another cause since you are no longer just accountable to yourself.

2. Reward yourself: New sneakers will feel even better on your feet if you had to work out for 3-4 times a week for the first month to achieve them.

3. Plan it, track it and set the routine: Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Set out clothes the night before, download tunes for the session, and get your pre and post workout snacks prepared. My current favorite preparation is to have some Rule One pre-train in Orange flavor (it has BCAAs, taurine, beta alanine and caffeine,) which I feel helps me to achieve greater intensity. Post workout, have a protein shake made with salted caramel Rule One whey, fresh seasonal fruit, and oats. NB: Remember that health should always prioritize nutrition and exercise as the basics, then supplements.

4. Buddy up: Fitness is even more enjoyable – and achievable – when you have a gym partner to share the successes and the hard times with. This is recognized by the fitness app “Gym Comrade” which is the gym buddy version of a dating app.

5. Use social media to motivate/inspire: Just through browsing #fitspo, you will see a lot of fitness fanatics and enthusiasts doing all kinds of new exercises (and looking very shredded whilst doing it). For me, just a quick browse can get me motivated to try out some fun and unusual but effective exercises. (Make sure to stop by our Facebook page, or Instagram and say howdy!)

That all might seem like a lot of bad news and hard work, but don’t forget how incredibly adaptive your body is! When you get back into the habit and re-establish your routines, you will wonder how things were without exercise in your life.

Finally, when you feel like skipping the exercise session, make the commitment to do just five minutes. If you get there and you are truly exhausted, just call it a day; mostly though the buzz will take you and you’ll choose to stay on. Either way it is a win-win scenario. Do read about some things to consider in exercising as well. Good luck and bring the terminator back! If you need some help or you have any question, just message us, and we will help you.

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