Have you ever taken a break from exercising and found it incredibly hard to get started back up? It’s so easy after taking some time off to say “I’ll do that tomorrow.” The struggle is very real to me as I recently went through birthing a baby with a broken foot. Needless to say I had to take a break from exercising for a while as my body recovered. But even after I was cleared for exercise by my doctors, it took some strong motivation to get back into fitness.I did a pretty good job of remaining active throughout my pregnancy. Even when I didn’t feel like working out I tried to do a walk or a simple weight lifting routine. However, at exactly 39 weeks pregnant I found myself with a freshly broken foot. I was unable to bear weight on that foot for at least a couple of weeks, so I got to enjoy the following modes of transportation: walker, crutches, crawling (yes, this definitely happened), and knee scooter (This one was a life saver. Thanks Mom and Dad for bringing it to me.) Needless to say, this threw me into a spiral of inactivity before the usual postpartum resting phase even started.
Staying active is as important for me mentally as it is physically. I work really hard to stay active since I know it feeds healthy emotions for me as well as a healthy body. While I was pregnant I was imagining that I would of course be back into exercise early. Unfortunately, healing wasn’t as quick as I anticipated postpartum, and I was even more limited with the broken foot! Normally I could’ve been walking to rebuild fitness before I could officially exercise. However, even walking was off the table for a while because of my foot.
By the time I could finally work out again I found myself wondering where I would get the time while taking care of a newborn. All I could think about was how out of shape I was, and how much I wanted to put it off until “tomorrow.” However, I chose to make it a priority and worked to overcome the multitude of excuses swimming through my head. I’m not saying I don’t mess up or make excuses, but I am getting better and more consistent with each passing week.
Here are a few things that helped me get back into fitness.
Get Back Into Fitness and Exercise
1. Set realistic goals
Setting realistic goals is harder than you’d think. Really dig into what is reasonable for you. If you have not exercised in a while, consider how much time you have available, what your life looks like, and what you are physically able to do. You may not have the time or determination to devote an hour each day to exercising, and that’s okay. 15-20 minutes of moderately intense exercise done consistently will get you much closer to your goals than an hour or two done once every couple weeks.
2. Start slow.
While this is certainly a part of setting reasonable goals, I believe it deserves it’s own point. It can be very overwhelming to restart exercise by doing the same workouts you were doing previously if you haven’t been exercising for a while. This was my big hindrance on restarting exercise postpartum (and post broken foot). I kept wanting to dive right into the exercise I was doing before. However, my foot is still sore and my body just finished growing and birthing a baby. I needed to keep it simpler and easier to start. When my husband pointed this out and suggested easier workouts, I found that I felt more encouraged (rather than discouraged about what I used to do) and was able to keep going.
Of course, once these easier workouts begin to feel more routine I will amp it up in order to get back to my previous fitness level. But not until I can do it safely and maintain a higher level of intensity.
3. Find an accountability partner.
A friend or family member who agrees to hold you accountable to yourself is a key strategy to achieving any goal…fitness related or not! It’s especially helpful when you start (or restart) something new. Changing our patterns and behaviors takes hard work. It’s easy to talk yourself out of something, but when you know you’ll be asked about it later, it is much easier to honor your commitments.
It’s not necessary that your accountability partner work out with you, as long as they agree to hold you accountable and check in with you. However, a workout buddy can provide an even higher level of accountability – knowing someone is expecting you to work out with them can be very motivating if it’s an option for you!
4. Celebrate your accomplishments
Don’t forget to celebrate your wins. When you reach a goal, do something to celebrate yourself! Your reward can be something as simple or as complex as you’d like, just make sure you follow through. This is where setting reasonable goals is key. Long term goals are great, but it’s the short term goals that pull you along and keep you motivated when your in the middle of it. It’s even more important to treat yourself at the smaller milestones. The incremental progress made week after week isn’t going to be as flashy or as intrinsically motivating as the big goals, so it’s nice to have something more superficial to enjoy while you wait.
5. Schedule the time for exercise.
Figure out what time of day works best and mark it in your schedule. This may change with different seasons of life and chances are if you have let exercise take a back seat for a while you need to reevaluate when you can realistically accomplish your workout routine. As a new mother, currently the best time for me to get my workout in is when baby sleeps. And since he isn’t a reliable napper I have been doing my workout after he goes to bed in the evening. This is when he sleeps his best and I know I’m most likely to have 30 solid minutes to exercise.
6. Do what you enjoy.
This is most important. Finding joy in fitness will make sticking with it much more likely. And while doing exercise you love is always important, it can really help you stick with it when you are restarting fitness after a long break. For me, my absolute favorites are hiking, walking, and weightlifting. So, when my foot was still healing (leaving walking and hiking a bit harder to do) I began by picking up some weights and doing a few arm exercises. This propelled me forward and when I was able I went walking and started to increase my cardio as well. Now that I’m in the habit of exercising again motivation comes easier and I can usually convince myself to complete whatever workout is on my plan.
Get Back Into Fitness
If you’ve been out of the habit of exercising for a while now, I feel you. We all go through seasons in life where it’s just not as much of a priority. Don’t beat yourself up over falling off the wagon. Make a change today and commit to taking even a small step towards wellness. Sit down and be intentional about what your goals are. Don’t rush into it. Make sure you have someone in your life who can keep you honest. Most importantly, do something you enjoy, and celebrate the little victories along the way.
Have you gotten out of the habit of exercising in the past? What helped you get back into fitness?