Since the start of COVID pandemics (and a long line of other plagues we’ve yet to see), most of us have either seen a Panny Fanny come and go, or go and come. Either way, with establishments opening up with lowered mask mandates, we can kinda sorta get back to how things used to be. Everyone should still be wearing masks in public and otherwise taking care of themselves. You may not have the same eating habits you did before. You may not have the same movement habits as you did before. Your body could look and feel completely different over the course of the last few years. However, if you have not become disabled as a result of the pandemic, you are can likely get back to where you were before with a few baby steps. Listen, here.
You Got a New Normal, Boo Boo.
The entire country has a new normal and so does your body if you’ve been away from your workouts. When you’re getting back into fitness after taking a long break, you have to consider that your fitness level is not at the same place it used to be. Before graduation, I was able to take HIIT workouts with no problem. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. But now, I’m definitely feeling the lack of strength and cardiovascular training. If you’re breathing hard just putting your clothes on, you have a good reason to get back to some kind of movement training. This time, you’ll be a beginner all over again. Think about how you got into fitness the first go ‘round. You didn’t get to squatting your bodyweight from the jump. You didn’t start out jumping rope for 30 minutes. You have to work your way back up to your previous level, and then you can surpass it.
If you’re unsure of what kind of goal you should set as a reborn beginner in fitness, look to what the CDC recommends for exercising. As of now, the CDC recommends that adults incorporate 150 minutes of moderately-intense activity in their schedule, with at least 2 days of that being strength training. For vigorous exercise, the guideline is to have 75 minutes of exercise per week. Though this is a good start, this is simply 30 minutes Monday-Friday, this could be a goal to work up to and not to start with. If you look at your current fitness level and schedule, are you able to reasonably and comfortably do 5 of these 30 minute sessions of activity? If not, you could start with shorter sessions 3-4 times a week and work up to the 150 minutes per week.
Choose Somethin’ Slight
Knowing that you have a new normal, choose something that you can look forward to 3-4 times a week in the beginning. If you’re taking baby steps, make sure that you take small steps that keep you encouraged in the process. You can’t just get off the couch and go straight to HIIT sprints on the treadmill at 7 mph. Your poor lil system may not be able to take that much movement that early and could lead to post-exercise nausea and vomiting. You could also shock your system so much that your cortisol levels rise, impeding your ability to change your body and lose belly fat (if that’s a goal of yours). Start with something with beginner options and fun, encouraging movement, like Zumba if you enjoy dancing. You could start with 20 minutes of yoga or pilates for mobility and flexibility. If you don’t feel up to going to the gym, you could do 5-10 minutes a day of jump rope. (It’s nothing like when you were a kid, promise. 10 minutes of jump rope is an eternity without practice). You could start with bodyweight exercises and focus on compound movements that give you the most bang for your moves.
Focus on the Habit, FIRST.
You’re rebuilding the blocks to your wellness foundation and if you want it to stick this time, you need to make it sturdy. Before we get to vanity and aesthetics, even though that’s the glamor of it, you must focus on the feeling before the look. When you make fitness changes, you’ll likely feel them before you see results. And even before you feel them, you’ll need to focus on building up consistency to feel results, and then see results. To make it a habit that can stick, you’ll do best to attach it to a cue. For example, if you wanted to change your cleaning habits to include preventing mold in your shower, you’d attach the action of spraying bleach in the shower to the cue of being finished with your shower. For fitness, you can attach it to a cue like when you clock out of work, you’ll change into your clothes. Or when you get home, you’ll go directly to a Zumba YouTube video. Or before you get to work at 8am, you’ll stop by the gym for 30 minutes, shower, eat and be on your way. Also, you’ll have to change the identity you hold in relation to your fitness goals. Read Atomic Habits by James Clear. One of the most poignant themes from Clear is to change your identity to fit your goal. It’s not just that you want to run 3x a week. It’s that you want to be a runner, and to be a runner you need to start with 3 sessions a week. It’s not just that you want to lift weights or do CrossFit, it’s that you want to be a powerlifter or a CrossFitter. Make it easy to build the habit and be the habit.
Of Rest and Warmups
When it comes to changing your fitness schedule, the only thing more important than movement is rest. Make sure that you take a rest day or two. Too many rests days will make stagnancy a habit again but you’re muscles will need the rest to rebuild and the warmups to function properly. If you’re planning to get back into running or weightlifting, a warmup may suit you best to prevent injury after a long break. If your exercise of choice is less intense, your exercise may incorporate those movements into the session. Rest and warmups will be your friends when you’re coming off the couch.
It’s a Slow Burn.
You’ll feel changes before you see the changes most times. With this in mind you’ll have to put vanity last. It’ll come in due time with consistency. You’ll need to focus on fitting movement back into your schedule and eating like your life depends on it, because it does. Most of the work will be done in the kitchen if you haven’t already figured it out. And your pooch will be the last to go. You can’t look at yourself like a hot pocket. You can’t just pop yourself in a microwave and hope that only the center will get heated. You gotsa have patience, shug. It’s even easier when you focus on function. Think about how you want to feel in old age. It’s not just about today or getting this summer body. Everything you do today, your future self will thank you for.