If you’re like many people, you may once have been active. Then perhaps a new job, a child, or a busy routine got you away from your active lifestyle.
It’s easy to fall out of your exercise routine, but when you’re ready to start up again, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure your best shot at success.
The first step is to get the all-clear from a physician, says athletic trainer Jason Cruickshank, ATC, CSCS.
“We always recommend checking with either your primary care physician, or a physician who’s monitoring you, to make sure that your cardiovascular levels are okay; blood panels are okay, and once you’re certified as healthy, we can start into some training,” Mr. Cruickshank says.
Why it’s best to start slow and build gradually
Anyone who is getting back into exercising after taking time off — whether they were an athlete before or not — needs to take it slow, he says.
Trying to lift too much weight, or forcing your body into a stretch or into a range of motion that it’s not ready for yet can result in micro trauma to the muscles, Mr Cruickshank says.
This can make you very uncomfortable in the days after the workout or open the door to a muscular injury. It is best to start at a low level to build endurance and to retrain your muscles.
How stretching improves your performance
It’s also important to practice proper stretching, Mr. Cruickshank says.
One way to start is with static stretching, which involves holding a pose in place, and then working up to more dynamic stretching like lunges or side steps to get the blood moving.
Dynamic stretching is the best way to increase performance and also decrease injury risk with sport activity and weight training, Mr. Cruickshank says.
Build muscle memory, too
But before starting any intense exercising, it’s important to remember that doing too much too soon also can slow down your progress in the long run.
“You don’t want to just rush in to the gym and say, ‘OK, I’m going to go over to the bench press now and I’m going to do a set of three reps at as high a weight as I can lift,’” Mr. Cruickshank says. “You’re not going to recruit the muscles that you want and you’re not going to have the neurological changes that you need to make that exercise more beneficial down the road.”
The same rules apply for an athlete who is trying a new sport for the first time, Mr. Cruickshank says.
“If an athlete excels in one sport, it doesn’t mean his or her muscle memory will carry over to different activities, so it takes time to develop that performance level in a different sport,” he says.