pilatesI have to go to the gym.  I’m scared though, it’s been so long.  What if it doesn’t remember me?  What if it’s made new friends, friends who didn’t abandon it for holiday cookies and birthday cake?   What if it’s hard and I look lame? I don’t want to be the lame girl.  Ugh, perhaps I’ll just spend the rest of my life on my couch.  My couch doesn’t judge me.  My couch loves me and envelopes my expanding budunkadunk.

Okay, so perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but somehow it seems that no matter how many months or years of solid persistence in eating well and exercising regularly; a few weeks off makes me feel like I’m starting all over again.  I can’t run like I could; lifting weight that used to seem easy now feels like I’m trying to drag an Oldsmobile across the weight room, and even though the weight I’ve gained isn’t all that much I feel slovenly and bloated.  It all kind of makes me want to hibernate,  as awesome as that sounds I’m fairly certain that that’s not the best course of action.  Which can mean only one thing.  Sucking it up and hitting the gym again.

I happen to be one of those all or nothing people, so when I go back to the gym after a hiatus I tend to think that I can just bounce right back into my superwoman uniform and be the gym bunny I once was, which is all fine and good in my super ego, but reality means that if I do that I could seriously strain my muscles preventing me from actually getting back into a routine, which is why I’ve come up with a a list of ways to ease back into a regular exercise routine without landing yourself on a morphine drip…

  1. Try intervals.  Sure when we last left our heroine she was sprinting for 45 minutes at a time, but after some well deserved if not someone indulgent time off the muscles we once had have decreased slightly in mass, and are tighter than when you last used them.  Instead of running try doing a 5 minute intervals between jogging and walking (either on an incline for added challenge or flat plane walking to make the transition easier). The same goes for elliptical, rowing machines, biking, treadclimbers, you name it intervals are great way to ease back into a cardio routine.
  2. Take time off to heal between workouts.  It’s New Years so we all start out with the intention that we’re going to workout EVERYDAY.  I hate to be the bearer of reason here, but if your body is still adjusting to the gym, the most responsible thing to do would be to give it a day between workouts to recuperate.  When I was getting certified to teach Spin, my books warned against people taking back to back classes because even the most seasoned aerobic warrior needs a little down time. It really only takes 2-3 weeks to feel up to your fighting routine again. If your nice to your body, it’ll be nice to you.
  3. Strength training is super important for everyone.  Not only does it make you all strong and hot, but it is vital for bone health.  So, yes, strength train, but if you’re new to working out or just getting back on the ball, start low.  I know the sort of warped high that comes with next day soreness, but easing up on weights is the best way to go.  If you’re not sure where to start ask one of those personal trainers that are standing around trying to look cool but never actually do anything.  It might even make them feel important.  Please remember that people have done some serious damage to their muscles by trying to be too macho too quickly.
  4. Take classes.  I love classes for many reasons.  One of them is because it’s like having a trainer around without having to pay them.  Any instructor worth their weight in spandex with be keeping an eye on their class and correcting your form.  Don’t feel bad about it, having good form is important it means you won’t end up with some weird muscle sticking out of your wrist because you’ve been developing the wrong area.   It’s also a great way to learn how to workout if you’re new to the gym.  You can learn a lot by watching and listening and this time of year is perfect to start something new because there are sooooooo many newbies at the gym.
  5. You are not the biggest loser.  I mean that, don’t try to emulate some whacked out tv show.  There are trainers and medics on that staff, plus every single morsel that passes there lips is watched I’m sure.  Don’t compare yourself to the smoke and mirrors the media provides.  Slow and steady really does win the race when it comes to working out.  Listen to your body.  There’s a difference between pushing yourself and killing yourself. It’s a thin line, but please don’t kill yourself, I would miss you and so would the nice people collecting your gym dues.

Oh and hydrate, eat bananas (for potassium), and clean up your machines after you use them.  This has been your New Years gym going public announcement.