Getting Back Into It
How to kick start your training after some time off.
Does anyone else feel annoyed that they let Christmas blow their training plan out of the water? Who else is bloated by booze, tired from too much sugar, a bit fatter, a bit less fit and a lot less motivated?
Every athlete will have times in the year when their carefully planned fitness schedule goes out of the window. Injury, illness, a holiday, a work trip – there are lots of reasons why we end up failing to stick to our training plans. And we have to accept these – life will get in the way sometimes. The important thing is how fast you get back on the wagon once life has returned to normal. Getting back to those early morning runs or evening spin classes can be tough.
So how can you ensure that most of January doesn’t slip by before you’ve dusted off your trainers once more? I spend my week training all sorts of different clients, from semi-pro athletes, to once fortnightly exercisers. So I asked a few of them how they motivate themselves back into exercise and along with a few of my best tips, here’s the best advice from both trainer and fellow trainee!
Set an achievable goal
If you started the new year with a vague promise to yourself to join a gym or ‘get fitter’, you’ve got nothing definitive to work on. Instead, set yourself a smaller goal. Most people reading this will have their next target; The Wolf Run on the 7th April, but break this down further – do you want to improve your time, take the hard option at each obstacle or just get round the course? Breaking the goal down will help you write your training plan. Which leads neatly on to:
Make a weekly training plan – and write it down
Michael, a businessman, says ‘I use the ‘notes’ section at the bottom of my diary to plan what exercise I’m going to do for each day of the week and then I tick them off as I do them. I know if I don’t force myself to write in ‘spin class or personal training session’, the chances are, it won’t happen. When I look back at the end of the week and I can see everything I achieved I find it really motivational.’
You are more likely to do your exercise if it’s written out in ink and staring you in the face from your fridge door, Gmail calendar or notepad.
Start off easy
Sophie, a mum of two, admitted that she’ll spend some time in the gym on her own, doing some easy workouts, before she’ll come back to her trainer after a holiday. ‘I know it’s going to hurt after 2 or 3 weeks off, so I’ll ease myself back in with some simple stuff, like 30 minutes on the cross trainer with a magazine, or a yoga class. Then I feel my confidence return and don’t dread hitting it hard once more!’. This approach also makes sense from a safety perspective; if you’re a little out of condition then going straight back in with a tough workout is a fast track to injury. Build yourself back up to your usual training load over the same number of days or weeks that you’ve had off.
Remember why you love being fit
It’s easy to forget all the reasons why you exercise when the alarm goes off at 6am. Better sleep, increased confidence, being able to eat more, stress relief, weight control – focus on what you love about your fit lifestyle and how much you’d miss it if you stopped altogether. Miranda, a PA, told me ‘I use my weekly runs to clear my head. My work is pretty crazy and if I’m really busy, I can forget to do things, but weirdly these forgotten tasks usually come back to me on my Friday morning jog. As a bonus, I also enjoy my Friday night wine a bit more if I know I’ve earned it!’
Line up some treats for achieving your goals
Most of us are carrot motivated, rather than stick driven, so work with this. Charlotte, a fellow trainer, makes sure she gives herself a treat if she sticks to her resolution. ‘I always try to make January an alcohol free month and I line up nice incentives to see me to the end of each week. Booking a massage for the end of week 1, blowing some money on some new workout kit in week 2, a trip to my favorite sushi restaurant for the 3rd week – these really keep me going when I’m feeling like I might crack.’
Ask for help!
Understand the value of support. If you’re finding it really tough but it’s important to you, ask for help from your partner, your friends, or other sources of motivation. Even posting on the Wolf Run facebook page and getting some support from fellow Wolf Runners can be incredibly motivating. Jane, a freelance physiotherapist, makes her friends meet her for a run. ‘I’ll be honest, I hate cardio. I can happily spend 3 hours a week in a gym doing strength and resistance, but I cannot motivate myself to do cardio. So once a week I meet a friend who loves to run and we do 40 minutes together and have a catch up gossip at the same time. I know I’m probably her recovery ‘easy’ run, and that’s OK – just getting that weekly session in is good enough for me.’ If none of your friends can be persuaded out of the pub - pay someone else to kick start you! Treat yourself to a few sessions with a personal trainer, or join an outdoor fitness class. You’ll soon find that you’ve got your training mojo back.
At some point you are going to have to put all excuses aside and dig out your self-discipline. It will be harder work to start with, but who said anything in life worth fighting for was easy? ‘Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.’
For any questions or help with your fitness and exercise goals, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help!
About the Wolf Run training expert
Genefer Archer is a personal trainer with a Masters in Sport and Exercise Science. She runs a personal training business, The Body Professionals, in London and has a particular interest in running and triathalon training and sports injury avoidance and recovery. She will be writing regular articles on training and fitness for Wolf Runners.
For more information or to book personal training, visit www.thebodyprofessionals.co.uk