# 16 – How to get back in to working out after a long break

Welcome to the audiofittest podcast, where we talk about fitness and exercise for real people.

Everyone has a break from training and exercise at some point!

Ive always said that for any fitness goal, the hardest part of the journey is getting to your first set of results. In this episode, I want to dish out some extremely important advice to help you get back into exercise, get your goals back on track and share some personal experience to help put things into perspective.

Hey Im Fitness author James Atkinson from Jims health and muscle.com, yourfitnesssuccess.com and the audiofittest podcast. Today were talking… How to start exercising again! This is also relevant if you are looking for info on how to start exercising for beginners. If its your first time on this journey.

Routine is a big deal when it comes to earning results from fitness, diet and exercise. If you have designed  your fitness routine around your lifestyle well, and it fits nicely into your daily activitys.

Or better still works in synergy with your normal daily activities, you’ll find it easier to stick to and this is actually one of the big points that I always try and drill in to people that are starting weight loss or fitness for the first time.

But what happens if your daily activities and normal routine gets interrupted somehow? You could change your working hours, change your job completely (which can be a real challenge with fitness for some), you could take on new, unavoidable responsibilities.

Or I don’t know… There could be a pandemic or something causing gyms to close and forcing you to self-isolate! 

It’s fair to say that the events of 2020 and 2021 kind of threw a spanner in the works for most of us?

It was a tough time for most of us too, and life as we knew it was drastically changed overnight and the phrase “Lockdown” became used outside of detention centres and the Prison break franchise.

Of course there was a lot going on, a lot of uncertainty and the majority of people’s lives and routines changed drastically overnight so there was no lead up to change or chance to drip feed or slowly introduce new habits.

We all know what happened and we all have our own stories to tell so I don’t want to fixate on covid 19, I want to help you get back into fitness, exercise and continue working effectively towards your goals. The pandemic after all is something that everyone can relate to so it’s a great example to use for this topic.

Whether you are looking to lose weight, tone up, build muscle strength and size or you want to work towards functional training, a loss of routine and the ability to train for an extended amount of time will have the same effect on us all –

  • We will lose our progress
  • Take backwards steps
  • Lose momentum
  • Lose motivation

When this happens, I don’t care who you are or where you’ve come from, it’s always a challenge to start up again and put the work in to get back to where you were.

Fitness goals have always been a part of my life and I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, so there have been many breaks and times where I’ve had to start again, so when it happens to me, I know that it CAN be done and I just do the work to get back.

This is why I always have the most respect for the people that have always been out of shape and decide to get into weight loss and fitness and get results for the first time. This is more impressive to me than, say, a long distance runner who has had a break for a few years but decided to get back into it and then completes an ultra-marathon. Or a boxer that gets really out of shape, but then decides to make a comeback and gets totally ripped again.

Sure it’s hard for everyone but every time I have to start training after a long break, I never neglect to think about how much harder it would be if this was my first rodeo and my first attempt at a fitness goal.

So I want to share my experience to help put things into perspective before suggesting possible tips that you can use if you are having the same struggles.

Before the gyms closed…

Before the gyms closed, I had a great routine where my morning alarm would go off at about 4:45am, there would be the standard 15 minute snooze before getting ready to leave the house with my porridge oats, scoop of whey protein in a shaker and my take out coffee.

There was a 20 minute drive to the pub cleaning job…that I was tricked into doing … ( but this is another story totally!). The drive was a scenic one and a coffee and a chilled drive to the pub was a great start to the day.

Once I was at the pub, I’d get my headphones in, listen to Jo Rogans podcast, something to do with world of Warcraft, something about how to be a better self-published author or a music playlist if I felt like singing to myself and didn’t fancy learning anything new that day.

I would also use this job as a light cardio session. If you think about the muscle groups used and the actual movement of mopping floors, you can really take advantage of this. I actually, even learned to mop left handed so I wouldn’t get any imbalance of muscle groups. But once the cleaning was done, (this would take about an hour and thirty minutes to two hours) Id add hot water to my rolled oats and protein shake that Id bought with me and Id  sit down on one of the tables to eat this and check my book sales for the day before… While often be scratching my head at the amount of money Id also spent on advertising.

Once I was finished at the pub and was fuelled up for a training session, Id head straight to the gym to lift some weights. My goals have always been to build muscle mass and definition so the training would vary and run in cycles, but the routine as to where I fit these training sessions in would always be the same.

Once Id finished at the gym, Id head home in time to get the car back for Mrs Jims Health And Muscle, so she could go to work. We only have one car between us, this is why I set out so early and we make it work….. Fitting training in around your lifestyle is a massive help and I’ve talked about this before so wont go into it much here.

So usually by 9 – 9:30 am I’m sat at my PC ready to work on writing fitness books, planning podcast episodes, figuring out advertising and the like… Im working on building my own business.

Eating and diet is another major consideration in my life as it should be for  anyone as it dictates how effective your fitness training will be and it has a massive influence on your overall physique. So it won’t surprise you if I told you that I knew what times I would eat and that I had meal plans throughout my working day.

So all of this was a good routine that we made work. I had my work days planned and linked into my training and my diet was on point. I was happily going along with this, working towards my fitness goals when one Friday evening I’m told that I no longer needed to clean the pub, my gym closed its doors and we should only go out of the house if it was essential.

To be honest, my first reaction was a bit of relief! I was being told to just chill out at home and don’t go to work. Immediately after my first reaction, I felt disappointment because I lost my gym! I’m lucky to have a really happy home life so this instruction to stop doing everything was kind of welcomed by us overall.

The first night of lockdown…

The first night of lockdown as we watched the film “contagion” …. (Yes this was actually showing on the TV) , I suggested to Mrs Jims Health And Muscle that we get into a routine as soon as possible. I could carry on working on my fitness books business, get a training routine sorted out with exercise bands. After all I literally wrote the book on home workouts with exercise bands so this was easy for me do.

With all these plans in place however, I did struggle to get into the swing of things. Work wise, it was hard to concentrate as the house was busier than normal and I always need maximum concentration to get things created, learn about marketing, advertising platforms and such, this has always been difficult for me as I’m not an academic so I became very unproductive with content creation.

When it came to training. I had been lifting heavy weights using barbells and dumbbells, squatting around 120KG as my main workload, shoulder pressing around 50kgs for 10 – 12 reps for example and this is hard to replicate with exercise bands.

Don’t get me wrong, exercise bands are an amazingly versatile bit of kit and everyone who has a slight interest in resistance training should own a set, but at that time, the goals that I had with resistance training needed heavy weights that you would find in a gym to achieve and get to where I wanted to be so the resistance bands weren’t the best fit for achieving my personal goals.

So right away, I had to change my fitness goals. The problem was that my goal and mind-set for training at that time was to put on muscle mass by doing the big lifts with heavy barbells and dumbbells and I was making good progress. This was of course cut short when the gyms closed.

   I had to do some form of training to keep myself active so I settled for resistance bands as they were my best bet.

On the diet side of things, it became difficult right away. Not being able to get hold of the normal fresh food we routinely buy was one challenge, but I’m the cook in our house so I had extra cooking or meal prep responsibilities throughout the day. Normally, my main cooking job is evening meal and this is for myself and Mrs Jims health and muscle… I’m going to call her Tammy from now on. J This was not a problem but when making food for both of us, I always put in a bit of extra effort with flavour and try to make it a bit more exciting rather than having a mind-set of – “here’s my carbs, here’s my protein and here’s my fat”. So this is where the slippery slope started.

Another observation of myself is that I will eat for function based on my training goals and my goals had been lost so there was no need to keep the diet up. Of course, this is NOT what you should do and I know this, but all the changes and the uncertainty just led my mind down this road.

 As the days and weeks went by, I started treating the lockdown as a big holiday! Work wise, I became incredibly unproductive! I was unbelievably lucky with income as one of my book niches is “home workouts” and I saw a big spike in sales as these books were already well established. We also have savings so that took the worry out of finance for us. I play the online game World of Warcraft and have done for years so I’ve made some great friends in this community, most of these guys were off work too, so it made it really easy to log into the game and hang out with them.

My motivation for exercise faded with my muscle mass and it was made worse that I wasn’t eating the right foods. I would train with resistance bands every now and then but it was a really hot summer and the lack of motivation and being uncomfortable made this a real chore. The one thing that we did do every single day without fail, however, was go for a 2 mile dog walk with our little buddy “Lebowski” the Jack Russel. We are also really lucky to live in a rural area so this was a daily highlight.   

The first night of lockdown…

 When the gyms finally opened again and we were able to get back to training I was out of routine, out of shape, probably the most out of shape I’ve been in years if not, ever. So I got my hoodie on, and usual training kit and headed to the gym.

My goals were the same as they were before the lockdown but I’d lost a lot of muscle mass, strength and stamina. I was also holding a lot more body fat than I had in a long time. I actually think that this was the worst shape I’ve been in for as long as I can remember and it was for sure the longest break I’ve had from the gym since I started lifting, which is a big deal.

You might be thinking at this point – “Jim” you are a massive fraud!”. “You wrote the book on fitness motivation and preach about mind-set, focus, sticking to your goals and planning. You should be leading by example!”.

But guess what! I’m only human like everyone else and I’m not going to hide my faults.

To be able to write and advise about this stuff effectively, to make it worth something to others,  I think its best coming from someone who has lived it, is honest and can empathise.

Rather than saying “Im a personal trainer with a six pack and I never eat chocolate” or “When I go out with the lads I only drink water and stay away from alcohol” and “I never lose focus and am always confident”. Yes I have doubts, yes I stumble and fall like everyone else…. And Yes, I sometimes eat chocolate and drink bear with the lads… But not at the same time!…. Chocolate and beer! Urgh! J

But I knew it would be a struggle to get back to where I was and thought I was prepared. On my last training sessions leading up to lockdown, I was squatting 120kg for 12 reps, shoulder pressing 50kg for 12 reps with an Olympic bar, and my training sessions would last about an hour. At the end of each session, I’d be feeling good about my progress. I could see it working on my physique and was looking forward to my next session.

The first month back in the gym when they reopened, I was struggling to squat 40KG for 12 reps and shoulder pressing 30kg if I was lucky. There were obviously more exercises involved, but these are two examples that I remember more vividly than the others. I really struggled through these sessions and always felt pretty exhausted at the end. The only thing that kept me staying consistent with the training was that I knew in a month or two, I would be back to where I was and my goal to get there was motivating. This was a certainty because, like I said, it was far from my first rodeo. And I knew exactly what needed to be done.

Now this goes back to my admiration for anyone who is starting off on a weight loss or fitness goal for the first time. I know exactly what to do in the gym, what to eat and how my body responds to training and diet so as I see it, I’ve got a massive advantage over anyone else whos getting into it for the first time and yet I still saw the first month as a huge mountain to climb and often doubted myself in the gym! I also KNEW without doubt that if I did what I preach I’d get there.

This is something that beginners don’t have, and it was the only thing that kept me going. My goal, consistency and sticking with it is also something that I’ve written about in great length and I’ve always tried my best to lay out a clear path for anyone who’s starting this for the first time as I can honestly empathise with them…

I want everyone to get past the self-doubt, and early struggles because I know my account of this is nothing compared to some and once you get to the first set of results, you see progress, the only thing you have is faith that it will work. To get by on this alone is amazing, so if you’ve done it, I totally … “doth my cap to you” J

I held off with the creation of this podcast episode as I made it part of my motivation when getting back to the gym. To be more specific, I decide that once I was back to where I was before my extended break, this was when it would be created.

So this very morning my alarm went off at 4:45am, I headed to the pub to do the cleaning (Yeah! I got this job back!) ate my porridge oats and protein shake and went to the gym where I did 4 sets of squats at 120KG for 10 reps, shoulder pressed 50KG for 3 sets of 12 reps and had a very satisfying session of bicep curls. I feel positive about my progress again, my diet is back on track and my physique has a decent shape again! This has taken about two-and-a-half months.

I think the messages in this podcast episode are extremely important for anyone wanting to get back into training and are especially important for the total beginner.

The reason I held off with the episode is that I wanted to experience the full journey myself and be in the right mind-set. The last thing that I want to be like is one of those social media influencers that tout “fitness motivation” or “fitness advice” and don’t live it themselves.   

Anyway, I don’t like to just give accounts and talk about my experience without also talking about actionable steps that you can take if you have, or are having, the same struggles. Maybe this is enough for some and the messages in my account are clear, but I would still like to leave a checklist to follow as a kind of summary to take away.  So here are some practical steps on how to start exercising again if you are struggling or finding it hard to stick at.

Remember your goal and train to achieve it

Theres two parts to this, the first one is that you have to have a good enough goal to keep you motivated. If you are unsure of your goal, ask yourself why you want to exercise in the first place, what do you want to achieve and why. This may sound silly and you might be thinking that its obvious, but if you can be specific and define your goal on an emotional level, you will have a better understanding of what you really want.

So training to achieve your goal. The more you know about the training effects of different exercise, the better you will understand this so this is why always go on about self-help and self-education when it comes to the subject of fitness and weight loss. If you are training in the right way to get the result that you want, you will get your results quicker and this will keep you motivated.

If you look at what happened to me when my goal was to build strength and size and my options were limited to training with resistance bands at a level that would not challenge me as much as training with heavy barbells and free weights, this training didn’t align with my goals.

Sure I could have settled for a leaner more toned look and if I was motivated enough to do this I could have come out of the lockdown being totally ripped but with less bulk. But this was not my goal and the training didn’t align so I lost motivation. So make sure you identify your goal very specifically and build a training routine that will give you the effect that you want, so if you want strength, go to the gym and lift heavy weights with compound movements, if you want fat loss and muscle tone, do circuit training with higher reps and maybe resistance bands, if you want to be a better runner, make sure you follow a progressive cardio training plan, this is a very basic overview and there is a lot more to it than that but hopefully you get the gist.

Pick a resource that you trust and stick to that plan

This builds on the last tip. There are LOADS of ways to train with resistance and cardio and there are LOADS of different personal trainers, media recourses and marketing companies pushing their ideas to train. And I’ve seen some disgusting video adverts that would definitely have sold their idea to me if I didn’t know what I know and have my experience.

So once you have defined your goals, find and devise a plan to follow from somewhere that is trustworthy. When it comes to looking for fitness advice in this day and age, you should be sceptical, the more you learn and the further along your fitness journey you go, the more this will become apparent.

learn about what your body needs in order to achieve your specific goal and then go looking for a resource that will help you in your training sessions. But if you are newer to this game, you should approach this with a bit of scepticism, especially when searching the internet J

Once you have a good plan that you can follow, stick to it! From my account, you can see that it took me two and a half months to get back to where I was and this was after the best part of a year’s break. So it’s important that you give your plan time to work, stick with rather than deciding it’s not working after a week or two and go looking for something else. I know it can be tempting if you see something new!

Have faith in the process

As mentioned, this is hard! Those that do manage to succeed with fitness goals for the first time and get to the point where they see their first results, probably immediately forget that having faith in the process was what got them through.

And the people that lose faith and decide to keep looking for the ultimate training routine or diet that will work for them and never stick to anything long enough for it to work won’t be aware of this and may give up before getting anywhere.

But if you are listening to this, I’ve made you aware of it so you will have an advantage over those that aren’t.

And the truth is that there are many training methods and diet ideas that will give you a similar or exactly the same result out there to follow, so be aware of “breakthrough weight loss diets” or “fitness industry secrets”. There are no secrets. The more you learn about the human body, the more time you spend around people who have a passion for fitness and exercise or fitness professionals, the more you will understand about fitness results and how to get exactly what you want out of your training.

Well, this has been a longer episode than usual but I think it’s a really important one so I was happy to put it together. I’ve not been as consistent as I’ve liked with these podcast episodes as other things like writing new fitness books and learning about selling more fitness books has to take priority.

I do however love to create these podcast episodes and it would be awesome to monetise it so I can sink more time into it. But at the moment I gotta keep the lights on, so the stuff that helps me do that has to get more attention! So I will aim to get at least one episode out every month.

But all of the episodes are “evergreen” and relevant to fitness progression so if this is your first time here, have a look through the previous episodes if you found this useful There’s stuff that will always help people out.

If you do want to help me grow this podcast and you found it useful or enjoyed it, podcast reviews on the platform you get your podcasts from are extremely valuable to me and they will help out more than you know.

And with that! Thanks for listening, you are awesome!

All the best Jim

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