How to get back into training after a long break

woman stretching on grass
woman stretching on grass

Has it been a while since you’ve worked out? I get it. Life gets in the way, injuries happen, finding motivation becomes hard, and working out takes a back seat. Don’t stress about it, you can’t change the past, but you can start today and keep it going moving forward. I’ve listed all of my tips and tricks below on how to get back to training after you’ve taken a long break.


I’ve had to restart many times so far. It happens. In college my workout routine was very fast or feast depending on my course load, I’ve gone through training seasons when I’m prepping for a hard hike and seasons of slacking because work gets in the way, and from taking breaks because of an injury.


It might feel impossible to get back on track, especially if it’s been a long break. Don’t panic! Your body will acclimate to the training and you’ll get back to it!


It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you’ve last worked out, in this blog, we’ll go over how to help you get back on track. No time like the present!


Set up the right mindset

If you go into your training with a bad mindset, you’re in for a rollercoaster of disappointment and misery. Working out is an amazing mood lifter and stress reducer, it also makes you feel great from the inside out. Especially after you start seeing those results with consistent training.


But if you’re going into it with a bad attitude, focusing on the negativity, or all the things you could be doing instead, the whole process is going to suck and you’re going to fall off the wagon again. So the best thing you can do for yourself is to shift your mindset around working out.


Working out and training is something you get to do, not something you have to do.


Training will help you get closer to your goals. What is your why? Are you working out to train for a 14er? Are you going on an amazing multi-day backpacking trip this summer? Do you want to finally make it to a dream destination? Or maybe you want to lose weight and feel better in your skin. Find your why. And use that to shift your mindset around working out.


Consistency and frequency

It takes at least three weeks to build a habit, which means you need to consistently workout! When you’re coming back after a long break, it can be tempting to jump into it full speed ahead. But if you overdo it, you will burn yourself out quickly and then end up falling off.


Start by setting up a schedule of three days per week and work your way up to five.


Sticking with it will be the hardest part. You’ll want to quit. You’ll have weeks that are hard and you won’t want to workout. You’ll have days when you’re exhausted. But don’t quit.


Start with light weights

It’s tempting to jump in and lift the heaviest that you can and squat the most. You’ll be too sore to consistently workout and you’ll burn yourself out quickly. So instead, start where your body is at now.


If you need to use 2 pound dumbbells or just do bodyweight workouts to start, do that instead of jumping in for the 10 pound ones. You’ll work your way up.


Modify the workouts

It’s ok when you’re getting back into it to modify the workouts. If you can’t hold a plank for 30 seconds, hold for as long as you can. If you can’t do a push up, modify it and do it on your knees. If you can’t do 10 squats, do 7. Instead of jumping squats just squat.


Focus on your form

While you’re getting back into it, focus on your form. Make sure you’re squatting or planking correctly. This will set you up for success as you get back into it.


Remember to not sacrifice form for intensity and speed.


Set and track goals

Setting attainable goals will help you get there faster and once you start to see progress, you’ll be more inclined to stick to it!


The keyword is attainable. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, well that’s awesome! But that’s a hard goal to reach in one big sweep. Break that goal down into smaller, more attainable goals. Start with losing 5 pounds, then 10 pounds, and so forth.


Or maybe your goal is to day hike Mt. Whitney from Whitney Portal in Lone Pine, it’s a 22-mile day hike, not an easy 22 miles either. So start with being able to comfortably hike a mile at altitude, then work your way up to 3 miles, then 5 miles, then 7 miles, and so forth.


This is exactly what I’m doing after my knee injury. I injured my knee on the John Muir Trail in August. From August to January I couldn’t hike or exercise and as you can imagine, I lost most of my strength, so I had to start over. So I set goals for myself.


Make sure to track your progress. Mark it in your phone or a notebook and start keeping track of your progress. Write down your goals too and set attainable deadlines for yourself. If you write it down and put a deadline to it, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.


Create a detailed plan

Having a plan makes it easier to stick to it! If you’re trying to figure out what workouts you need to be doing every day it’ll become very easy for you to fall off. But if you have a plan, this goes back to the point made above in the goal-setting section, you’ll be more likely to stick to it.


Make a workout date and stick to it

If you write it down and put it in your calendar, you’re more likely to stick with it. Don’t just say well I’ll work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week. Pick the days and set times during the week that you plan on working out, put it in your calendar, and stick to it! No excuses.


Keep the workouts fun

If the workouts are fun, you’ll stick with it and actually look forward to working out. I occasionally treat myself to a Soul Cycle class when I feel myself dragging a bit and I need a boost of motivation. I create my own cycling classes at home (I have an indoor cycling bike) or I do cardio on the stairmaster at the gym. But every now and then I’ll need a good burst of energy and Soul Cycle does exactly that!


I’ll also mix up my workouts and occasionally take a boxing class, add more HIIT to my workouts, mix up the movements, challenge myself, or just try something new.


Not only does it add variety to your workouts so your body gets stronger, but it helps keep you excited and motivated.


Warm up and stretch it out

Make sure to spend the first 5 to 10 minutes of your workout warming up. Then at the end of your workout stretch it out!


Take rest days

Make sure to take rest days. These are needed so your body has time to rebuild and recover from the workout. You can still stay active on your rest days, which is recommended, but instead of doing a hard hike or a HIIT workout, go for a walk around your neighborhood or just stretch. You can even have a dance party in your living room.


But these rest days are so important, so add them to your schedule. I recommend working out three to five days per week, then using the other days to rest and work on mobility.


Celebrate yourself

You heard me right! Don’t fight your body and yourself, celebrate yourself! Yeah you’re just getting back into it, yeah it will be hard, and yeah you’ll have good days and bad days. But don’t take it too seriously and remember to celebrate yourself. Your body is amazing and capable of so much! It gets us to the top of 14ers and back! Remember that and be kind to yourself.


If you want more tips on how to prepare for your next hike, don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter!

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