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Once you fall off the fitness wagon, depending on your age and lifestyle, it’s not always easy to get back on. Making some small or big adjustments to your lifestyle to make exercise an organic part of your daily routine is often the key to success. But, of course, that’s easier said than done.
I know what it’s like to have increasingly little time for fitness due to work and family obligations. And if you add an injury or illness into the mix you have even more reason to skip the gym.
Two months ago, I suffered a fall that left me with no broken bones but in a lot of pain for more than a month. During that time, I was unable to work out and for a short time thereafter I’d lost my enthusiasm for working out. Now, I’m back on my fitness grind and I’m going to share what worked for me. I will also share what the experts believe is effective. I hope you find it useful.
Creating and Meeting Fitness Goals
To get back to where I was, I knew I had to meet three major fitness goals:
- Find time to work out and get back on a schedule
- rebuild my endurance and stamina, and
- rebuild loss strength
Making Time for Fitness
For me, simply getting back on my schedule was the hardest part of getting back on the fitness wagon. I had quickly developed bad habits, which included favoring my most injured leg and moving oh so cautiously, which made my least injured leg hurt even more, and spending my workout times doing other less healthy and productive things.
Also, because I was still recovering from injuries, I needed more time to workout. I could not perform my previous workouts because I had lost strength, endurance, and mobility. I had to completely change how I exercised and spend more time exercising because I moved much slower than before.
I started with walking and resistance bands. And, over time, I increased the amount of time I spent working out as well as my speed. At this point, I am exercising at least 5 days a week. I don’t feel ready for my calisthenics routine, yet, but I’m getting there.
How the experts make time for fitness
Fitness experts often suggest turning mundane activities into exercise opportunities: walking short distances instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair, and so on. For those who are fit enough to partake in these activities, it’s a very good idea. Killing two birds with one stone is always an efficient use of one’s time.
Gina Wagner, the author of ‘25 Ways to Make Time for Fitness,’ also suggests exercising while watching TV and finding a cheerleader. The cheerleader needs to be someone who wants you to succeed and will hold you accountable when you skip workouts.
“What looks like lack of time is often lack of motivation, so consider recruiting emotional support. … Nominate a friend, family member, life coach or personal trainer to be your cheerleader and encourage you (positive messages only; no nagging) on a daily basis. Or, join an online community like www.fitlink.com that emphasizes can-do camaraderie.”1
Rebuilding Endurance and Stamina
Even if you are not recovering from an injury, it may be wise to start off slow if you have not exercised in a long time. Trying to do too much before my body was ready (calisthenics) led to an extended convalescence and nearly caused me to give up. I had little choice but to take it slow when I was able to start again. But I’m sure you’ll discover, as I did, the more you exercise the more you can exercise. This is how we build endurance and stamina.
For the first two weeks, I walked. I couldn’t walk for very long because I still had a lot of soreness in my legs and I tired quickly. I walked for short periods throughout the day and evening. In the morning, before work, I walked a minimum of 15 minutes. I walked during lunch at work and after returning home. I even walked after dinner. When I had more stamina, I walked for longer periods fewer times per day. After a month of walking 3-4 times per week, I began using resistance bands for 5-10 minutes before my walks, but only at home.
How the experts rebuild endurance
According to Livestrong, to build endurance and stamina you need no less than 150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. My own exercises, in the beginning, were far from “vigorous” but they did help me rebuild some endurance and stamina.
They also recommend exercising at least 30 minutes per day, which I did, and alternating the exercise routine, which I did not. To learn more about rebuilding endurance and stamina, read ‘How to Increase Stamina & Endurance’.
Rebuilding Lost Strength
I won’t lie. I’m still working on rebuilding my strength. The resistance bands have helped a lot, but when you are injured and not able to move normally for a long stretch of time you can become very weak. I was very weak. I still feel ill-equipped to do my old calisthenics routine (which was pretty brutal and exhausting when I was in good physical health), but I hope to be ready for an abbreviated version in another month or two. Until then, I will be using my resistance bands at least 3 days each week and regaining confidence in my ability to get it done.
How the experts rebuild lost strength
There’s a lot of advice out there for those who have been sedentary for long stretches of time. There’s even advice on rebuilding strength after injuring select parts of the body – the arms, legs, back, etcetera. The most useful information on this topic, for me, is nutritional. When you can’t do much in the way of fitness you can still eat to maintain muscle mass.
Dr. Christine Rosenbloom, a sports dietitian for Georgia State University athletics, suggests eating foods rich in protein, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, and fiber to help retain and build muscle mass. Read ‘Eating for Strength and Recovery’ for more information on this topic.
If there’s enough interest in my journey back to full mobility and strength, I may write an update this Summer to let you know how it’s going. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments regarding this topic comment below or tweet me on Twitter.
1 Wagner, Gina Demillo. “25 Ways to Make Time for Fitness”. Experience Life, March 2011. Web. January 2018
Mitchell, Peter. “How to Increase Stamina & Endurance”. Livestrong, September 11, 2017. Web. February 2018
Rosenbloom, Christine, Ph.D., RDN, CSSD. “Eating for Strength and Recovery”. Eat Right, January 7, 2015. Web. February 2018