Getting back to fitness after time off

Many people don’t know this but the two busiest months for the fitness industry are January and September. That means you may be coming back to fitness after a month or two off (or longer) and there are some things to remember.

The number one rule is to start easy. The most common mistake is to come back and dive right in as if there was no break and this has a consequence! The human body is a fantastic device, it adapts to whatever challenge is offered to it. That means we can train our body to be stronger, faster, leaner, more efficient or many other things. Of course there are things we cannot change, like our height and such but for the most part we have an amazing ability to adapt and change.

The down side to this ability to change is that it works both ways and is possible to let our body adapt to sitting on the couch, eating low value nutrition and living in a stressful world. When this occurs muscle shrinks and becomes weak, body fat increases in our entire body – and not just in the visible areas either. Muscles grow fatty tissue inside of them and throughout the system. The fat on our belly and hips is the more obvious location and the last place for fat to leave.

Back to the process of starting up again with exercise, the rule is to watch out for the Terrible Too’s: Too much, too hard, too soon. Our body requires time to adapt and change to what we are asking it to do. If you try to go run a marathon with no training, your body has no chance to adapt in advance, and although you may finish, it is more likely that you won’t and in the event you do, you will be in a lot of pain and possibly with some long term damage. Marathon training programs take four to five months or more. The same thing applies with lifting weights (resistance training) or group fitness classes or anything challenging in this realm. If you jump right in and try to keep up with the strongest and fastest, or use the weight you used when you were fit; the next day or two will be an experience of pain and soreness! This pain is as a result of your muscles actually tearing a little bit and then healing so they will be stronger for next time. This is a normal process to a degree, but if you push too hard, the healing time is very painful and takes days and days to happen.

The better idea is to start out easier and be patient. Allow your body to come with you on this journey and give it a chance to adapt. Let the group fitness instructor know it has been a while and position yourself perhaps to the rear of the class, so you can go at your own pace. If doing resistance training use lighter weights at first, not as many repetitions and start with a shorter workout. Then make sure you drink lots of water to help your body heal and flush out toxins. Eat food that helps your body heal like fruits and veggies – the more colourful, the better! Good quality lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish, bison or lean beef. Add in some flexibility efforts, like stretching, or even better, yoga. Some strength based yoga classes can help with all of your goals as well incorporating strength and flexibility. A personal trainer is perhaps your smartest starting point in a re-entry to fitness. A trainer can assist you by performing an assessment on where your body is at currently and checking your posture and range of motion. Then a custom program can be set up and you will have a professional guide you through the process to ensure that you are getting the most benefit, in a safe and effective manner.

Whatever it is you do remember it is your body and each day you must teach it how and what to be. Fit or fat, flab or fab – it is up to you every day!

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake. He can be reached at 403-887-7667 or check out for more information.