By Michelle Carbery

Although a few weeks late, spring weather is finally here! If staying inside during the winter months or working from home threw you off your exercise habits, you’re not alone. If you’re ready to get active again and return to a workout routine whether it be in a gym or outside, it is essential to remember the basics of getting back in shape physically and mentally. 

Starting – or restarting — a fitness plan can be intimidating. Here are some tips to help you ease back into working out to avoid injury and keep your body healthy.

First things first

Before starting a new fitness routine or jumping back into something you’ve done in the past, it’s important to have a routine physical. He or she can assess your overall health and recommend exercises to help you achieve your goals. Your PCP can also direct you to age-appropriate activities you may not have considered in addition to general health advice.

You might also seek guidance from a nutritionist for tips on healthy eating so your body can make the most of your physical activity. Your PCP may be able to suggest individuals who specialize in nutrition and good eating habits to help maximize your efforts and results. There are also helpful online nutrition tools or apps that can help guide you. For example, Independent Health offers the Foodsmart app to its members which includes connection to a nutritionist.

Choose the Right Program for You

Perhaps you are going back to a gym you’ve attended for years. Or maybe you are considering a new facility to get your exercise. No matter the case, be sure to research all aspects of a gym to make sure you are comfortable with the resources available. Visit the gym and determine if the equipment is well maintained and safe. Gym staff should be able to answer all questions concerning safety and sanitization.

If you prefer to work out at home, check any equipment you may incorporate into a workout to ensure it is in good condition. Do not limit this review to motorized or moving equipment like treadmills and stationary bicycles – inspect weights and other fitness gear such as bands and pull-up bars as well as clothing and footwear. Make sure anything you use is in good condition and replace what is necessary to avoid injuries.

Also, consider following online workouts with trainers who can walk you through exercises. (Here are some great videos by Independent Health’s own Corporate Wellness team.) Advice from qualified trainers on the internet can be great resources to help you make good decisions regarding physical activity at home. Whether indoors or outside, think about joining group events in the spring and summer months. Many free activities offer more than just a workout – they provide comradery and a sense of belonging that helps boost your mental outlook and provides motivation to stick with a physical activity. Independent Health offers a number of free fitness programs such as Fitness in the Parks,  that, in addition to providing healthy outdoor options, are also a great way to connect with others. All of these events are open to the entire community, not just Independent Health members.

Start Slow

Never feel pressured to exercise at the same level and intensity that you did before taking a break, regardless of the amount of time off. Whether it’s been a month or a year, start slow and take it easy. If you are using weights, begin lightly and slowly increase the weight or the number of reps during each workout. If you are running or cycling, add mileage incrementally rather than attempt to get back to past accomplishments or keep up with workout friends.

Maintaining a healthy and honest approach to physical activity through consistency will increase stamina and endurance allowing you to meet your goals.

Listen to Your Body 

Never push yourself past your limits! Pay close attention to how your body is reacting to your workout regimen. If you feel fatigued or have aches, give yourself time to rest. Proper stretching can help extend your workouts and stave off injury but listening to your body and making sure you have days off to recuperate from exercise will keep you moving forward. Rest days are part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, too!

Be realistic with your goals

Everyone wants to reach their fitness goals as quickly as possible. But trying to take on too much in a workout routine can be dangerous. A smart and steady approach is what it takes to achieve goals, not jumping in with both feet. Setting unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration if you cannot meet them. 

Track Your Progress

You can use your cell phone, smartwatch, or fitness device to track steps, heart rate, and distance. No device? No problem. Keep a journal of your workouts. For example, write down how long or how far you walked each day or how long you played pick-up basketball for this week. If you are using weights, consider keeping a detailed list of your workout. Any digital or print visuals that help you see progress will keep you motivated.

Extra Safety Measures

Be sure to wear reflective clothing and use lights on bicycles when active on roadways and sidewalks in the morning or evening hours. Be sure you are highly visible in darker periods of the day to avoid accidents or surprising unsuspecting persons driving, walking, or running.

By following these simple guidelines, anyone can get back into shape or continue with their fitness goals. Stay safe, and good luck in good health!

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash