It happens. Health stuff. Family stuff. Work stuff. Life stuff. Most of us will face changes or difficulties at some point resulting in consistent exercise falling down or completely off the priority list. For some, it’s forced rest due to surgery, injury, or a medical condition. For others, it’s a matter of planning or mindset due to changes in life circumstances. Whatever the reason, if you’ve found yourself without fitness on your priority list for months or years, this post is for you.
Three months of little to no physical activity due to “health stuff” has been difficult. If you read my last blog post, Returning to Exercise Post-Hysterectomy, I had planned on slowly returning to exercise after being released to do so. I was feeling quite positive. What I didn’t plan on was developing shingles that same week, being out again for another few weeks, and experiencing lingering nerve pain. The positive feelings have waned.
I’ve given myself grace but occasionally the body negativity has been trickling back into the inner dialogue. Especially when my favorite jeans no longer fit and my body doesn’t respond to physical exertion the same way. I don’t feel like myself. When did the laundry detergent jug get so heavy? Why am I so tired? Why does this feel so hard?
Can you relate? Although these physical changes were to be expected, returning to consistent exercise after significant time away can be more physically and mentally challenging than anticipated.
What should you do?
First, create space for fitness & wellness on your priority list again, even if it’s close to the bottom right now. Get it in your planner, on your calendar, or on a sticky note. Just write it down!
Potential action: If time is an issue, do a time study. If you find yourself wondering week after week, where did the time go? Do a time study. It's eye-opening!
Comparing where you were to where you are right now isn’t helpful. Focusing too much on the past can keep you from taking those small steps forward. Regardless of size, shape, strength, or stamina, your body is amazing and often capable of more than you realize. Embrace the fact that you will kinda suck at first; both physically and mentally. Improved form, strength, and stamina will come with consistent effort. Shutting down negative thoughts and realizing the badass you are will come with time. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. Yet one step at a time, you will make progress. Even if it feels slower than it should.
Potential action: Get an assessment done so you know where you are now. Talk through or write down your reasons for wanting to get back to fitness; get to your why. Create new goals using that information.
While you don’t want to focus too much on the past, you have experiences and information to draw upon as you re-start your fitness journey. Use them to your advantage. Instead of comparison, seek inspiration in what you accomplished previously and how you felt while doing so.
Potential action: Answer the following questions. What worked before? What didn’t? What did you miss about exercise during the break away from it? What feels good now? How can you include those elements?
It may be tempting to blame age, at least partially. “I’m older now so, of course, all this has changed.” Yes, aging does play a role. BUT it’s not a reason to give up. It’s never too late to make fitness more of a priority. In fact, many trainers, including myself, would argue that it’s MORE important with each passing year! However, it is likely you need to change up what you do now to account for some of those age-related changes.
Potential action: Add 2 days of strength training to your routine. Now sure how to start? Invest in a trainer or coach who will teach you how to safely incorporate resistance training into your workouts.
No matter how you feel about your body it is your responsibility to take care of it. It’s harder to do that when you dislike your body or feel at war with it. You don’t have to love your body all of the time; how about being a bit kinder to yourself? It’s okay if that’s a work in progress. I thought I had more or less conquered my negative body talk but as mentioned above, it has been creeping back in lately.
Potential action: Decide that you and your body deserve kindness. Actively work on your negative self-talk by writing down your most common negative thoughts and practicing re-framing. Request your Self-Talk Matters worksheet to guide you through this process. Type "Self-Talk Worksheet" in the subject line and I'll send it to you.
Getting consistent exercise back on your priority list after a break is challenging no matter what. But you know it’s worth it. You have so many options and opportunities to find fitness that fits with your life and your body as it is right now. You may not be able to do what you did months or years ago. So what? You can do something that will result in a healthier, stronger, more confident, less-stressed you. It’s gonna be a struggle occasionally, for all of us! Let’s do it anyway!