Whether you had to take time off due to gym closures or you just felt you haven’t had the time, this is what you’ll need to know when getting back to training and a consistent workout routine.
So You Took A Break, Longer Than Intended
Being forced to take time off or feeling like you haven’t had the time is very frustrating. You have worked hard for your progress and the thought of having to start over can be stressful. Just thinking about how much muscle mass or strength has been lost during your layoff makes you cringe.
The good news is if you have only been out for a few months, you have likely lost less than you think. The fact is, you did likely lose some weight on your bench press, deadlift, and squat but it’s not the end of the world. The effects from your break from strength training will be reduced, especially if you have been doing some form of exercise during that time.
Maintaining strength and muscle size is much easier and takes less effort than trying to make gains https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17717119/. The fact that it takes much longer to lose your strength and size gains should help you feel less concerned about starting from scratch, cause you won’t be. Look at this study on women subjects that lifted for 20 weeks and then took almost 8 months off. Yes, I said that right, 8 months off after making significant progress and they only lost approximately 13% of the gains they made during that time https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1827108/.
Getting back to your workouts should not be stressful and understanding where you are starting from should help you in your quest to get back to pre-break levels. Muscle strength will come and as long as you are consistent, muscle gain and training volume will gradually increase to your pre-break fitness level. Take your time and start slowly so you’re not putting yourself in a position that could result in an even longer time away.
You also have to be sensitive to the establishment of healthy habits. If not getting in the gym was not the only thing that took a hit, understand that creating the same behaviors on diet and nutrition can also take time. Do not try to change too many things at once and focus on 1 to 2 things at a time.
Start Off Slow
This could be one of the toughest aspects of returning as expecting to get back to where you were before your long layoff, immediately, is not going to happen. Therefore, jumping right back in and performing the same exercise routine with the same weight, sets and intensity should be strongly evaluated. Your main goal when getting back to a fitness routine should be with lower volumes and weights than what you left off at. It is better to start off with at least some caution as you will need time to get used to exercise demands again as muscle damage will likely occur quicker than just before your break. However, getting back to where you were, will not take as long as it did to get there in the first place.
The main reason you want to take this slow is you will likely experience higher muscle soreness than when you took time off. This will dissipate over time and muscle memory is real. You will also want to prevent overtraining and injury as this could put you out even longer and you certainly don’t want that!
If you are returning to weightlifting, cardio, or aspirations to once again increase fat loss, be prepared to take logical steps in getting back to pre-break levels. Muscle loss and fitness level changes are certainly going to happen but if you approach your return in the right way, you will be back to where you left off sooner than you think.