4 Tips to Help You Get Back to the Gym After a Setback
It was supposed to be a ten-day trip to Hawaii, to celebrate my in-laws 50th anniversary. I had everything planned out. I was going to hit the resort gym every other day, maybe do some beach sprints like the Instagram fitness celebrities do… hell, even I packed protein bars and creatine. I was going to stay on track, no matter what. When I got back home, I’d be back in the gym and on the mat in no time.
But, things never go according to plan, do they? The vacation turned out to be a whirlwind of children splashing and screaming and the whole family taking off randomly in all directions. (Moms rarely get an actual vacation, they just get to be a mom in more exotic locations.) The resort gym was utilized twice and I ended up eating on the fly, whatever was available. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it sure wasn’t ideal.
No big deal, I thought. Ten days in the scheme of things isn’t going to make me or break me. Then, I got sick. Once we got home, I caught a respiratory infection that turned into an uncontrollable, rib-crackling cough, and I watched all my gains disappear into tissue after snot-soaked tissue.
It’s inevitable, this time of year, to have a setback. No matter how hard you try to stay healthy during the holiday season and throughout the winter months, you will hit a roadblock or two. You will have parties and events to attend, relatives to visit, houseguests, and the dreaded cold and flu season on top of it all.
Temptation is high, your immune system is low and you are bound to trip up a little, no matter how many articles you read and tips you bookmark about staying on track. At one point, you will end up like me, three weeks out of the game, feeling as weak and lost as a newborn deer… that was just hit by a car.
Don’t let it bring you down, my friends. Getting back up after a setback is what separates the successful fit freaks from the couldda wouldda shouldda’s on the couch, making excuses as to why they never returned to the gym. Don’t be that person who is panicking come March that they screwed up their entire winter training because of that one thing that got in the way.
Here are some tips to start a workout routine after a setback.
4 Tips on How to Start a Workout Routine After a Setback
Tip #1 – Ditch the Fatalistic Attitude
Without a doubt, your mental state is first and foremost when it comes to working out. The fatalistic attitude is all about defeat and giving up. It’s the voice that says, “Well, you just ate one Oreo, fatty, might as well eat the whole sleeve,” or “I don’t feel 100% today, might as well skip the gym again… drop in the bucket at this point.”
It’s the feeling that everything is FUBAR and you might as well give up. Step one is to tell this inner-asshole to shut up.
In jiu jitsu, there is a saying: a black belt is a white belt that never gave up. It’s true. Do you think Arnold never had a full schedule, between dogging ladies, shooting movies and Governating? Or that Ronda Rousey never got the flu?
Everyone has setbacks, some are major, but most are minor. Stop the “all is lost” business and focus on getting better. Don’t think about where you are – only where you want to be. You will be surprised at how quickly you get there.
Tip #2 – Go Slow the First Week Back
Nothing is worse than coming into the gym like a wrecking ball after a hiatus and having that wrecking ball crash down on all your hopes and dreams because you lost your gains. The first week back sucks, so accept it. Settle into it and reduce your former training intensity.
Depending on how long you have been out, or if your break was due to business or illness, you might find yourself simply reducing your weights by ten pounds or you may need to drop everything down to a typical deload week. This is also the week to get your macros back on track. It will be a bumpy ride, and you will feel sore, but let me assure you, week two will be better by leaps and bounds.
Week three will most likely find you back to normal. Don’t have high expectations out of this first week, or you will only end up disappointed and risk the fatalistic attitude setting in. Instead, have only one goal: get through.
Tip #3 – Know When Not to Push Yourself
If running on the treadmill sends you back into coughing fits, walk. If you have a migraine, stretch. If what you are lifting makes you feel like you are testing your limits, pull back. Drop a plate, drop a set. It is far more important to move forward right after a setback, than to level up.
Once upon a time, in my early twenties, I decided to do two tae kwon do classes back to back the day after I thought I recovered from a bug. I had to rack in those hours so I could qualify for belt testing. That night, I barely made it home, spiked a fever and ended up in bed again, losing yet another week. I also missed the belt test.
Leveling up will come soon enough, so don’t risk a relapse or an injury.
Tip #4 – Know When to Push Yourself
That said, you don’t want to take it so easy that you don’t progress. Once you’ve got a week or two under your belt, put on your big kid pants and bring it.
If you feel good, do a sprint. If you survived, do another. You won’t get back to where you were by deloading for a month, so stop holding back as soon as you feel you can manage. Now is the time to start pushing out of your comfort zone again.
Don’t listen to family or friends that don’t lift tell you to take it easy. They’re just trying to lull you back into drinking beers around the TV all winter. It is more important to listen to your body than to your friends. You know damn well when you’re ready. Call yourself out on your excuses. It’s go time.
So, here I stand. I lost three-quarters of a month on what was supposed to be a ten-day vacation and Monday is staring me in the face, like “what you gon’ do, punk?” There’s a voice inside me saying, “Just wait until you feel a bit better – make it an even month and then go back.”
Getting on my new lifting and jiu jitsu routine will be impossible. My body is still craving comfort foods. But, you know what? BLEEP that $hit. I am going to lift my new routine lightly and show up for jiu jitsu.
I may not be ready to spar, but I’m going to be there for drills and skills. I’ve got my meals prepped and ready. Because when this month is over, I don’t want to be just starting out, I want to be halfway there. So, get up. Leave the setback behind you and get back to being the future-self you want to be.