A Mental Process for Returning to Exercise

For many reasons people take a break or are for the first time getting back into exercise. Life happens, women get pregnant, jobs get hectic, people get sick and responsibilities take us away from
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CrossFit Mental Process for Returning to Exercise

For many reasons people take a break or are for the first time getting back into exercise. Life happens, women get pregnant, jobs get hectic, people get sick and responsibilities take us away from being able to stay on top of maintaining a good level of fitness. Too often I see the status quo of mediocre health and performance accepted as good enough…then life hits, the wheels come off, and people quickly slip closer to sickness without having a buffer to counteract these predictable periods.

I always find it comical when people tell me, “Dave I want to get back into training with you, I just need to get back in shape first!” I tell them fitness is like saving for retirement: The best time to start is 20 years ago, and the next best time is right now!”

You need help to make your transition back to the gym successful and, even more importantly, sustainable. Remember, most health and fitness clubs survive on the fact that you will realize your need to get back into shape. They then proceed to lock you into a yearlong contract that you seldom use after the third month because there is no accountability, efficacy or efficiency in that type of fitness model. No one is watching you to make sure you are progressing or coming in on a consistent basis. It’s very myopic: Just put on your ear buds, do what you are comfortable doing and try not to embarrass yourself in front of the hot people. Not very fun or effective. Then rinse and repeat every January in time for your New Year’s resolution and try to convince yourself that this most recent club fitness gym with a new logo and nicer bathrooms will provide a different result.

Here are some steps to take to help provide more results and sustainability:

Work out with a coach, partner, or group of people.

This will let you feel at ease with possibly looking or feeling uncomfortable. Everyone looks weird and goofy together. If you are struggling, wheezing or grunting, it’s fine because you are in the trust tree, as everyone can do these things together. Also the shared suffering will build community, camaraderie and accountability. You can cheer each other on, push each other to work harder or create friendly competition with the guy you know you should beat.

Don’t feel bound to performing as you once did or as an elite athlete does.

Everyone enters at a different level. A former D1 athlete will probably have a quicker road to fitness than someone who has been relatively sedentary their entire life. What’s important is that in every session you push yourself to get a little uncomfortable as you work at the limits of your mental and physical thresholds. Too much intensity too soon will create a miserable experience and possible injury; not enough intensity will not yield adequate results.

Track your results.

You want to be able to quantify your fitness in a very real, measurable way. This means tracking weights, reps and times of different physical tasks and workouts, then repeating them as a re-test. Increased weights, decreased times and work mean an increase in your fitness.

Take baby steps.

You are not going to go from zero to hero in a single day. Fitness is a slow assent to a distant horizon. As you re-enter the gym, first start by trying to be consistent with your attendance and recording where you are with your scores. You are already jumping leaps and bounds just by being there, because something is dramatically better than nothing. Then start to increase the frequency of your training and push the intensity a little more each day. Finally, try to take a more comprehensive approach by considering dietary and lifestyle factors that can improve your performance. But this will not likely all happen at once.

Best of luck getting back in the gym, and remember: The best time to start was 20 years ago and the next best time is right now!

— David Lipson