After an unexpectedly intense workout this morning, I found myself crying. This is not unusual for a lot of people who work out hard; sometimes, after pushing your mind and body, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with emotion. Just about all of my clients get emotional at some point during our work together. This is not the first time I have cried post-workout (or, sometimes during!).
But today I cried because the workout was hard. I mean, really hard. It was only my third strength workout after almost two months of inactivity, and I was humbled. I was frustrated with myself, for allowing myself to become so de-conditioned. And it feels like I am facing a long uphill battle to get back into shape.
So how did I fall by the wayside? A long international trip, major jet lag upon returning (which was shockingly disruptive to my body) and another trip, which culminated in a hardcore cold and cough — a cough that is stubbornly lingering three weeks later. Although I did some walking and running while traveling and some cycling classes before I got sick, I did not do any kind of strength workouts. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. (I’m going to chalk that one up to being human — also, being on vacation and not feeling well might have had something to do with it.)
Here’s what I would tell a client who just returned after a two-month hiatus like mine:
Client: I’m struggling, I feel so out of shape! I don’t know why I couldn’t do any working out in the last two months. There’s just been so much going on!
Me: Don’t worry about it, life happens. The important thing is that you are starting up again and your body will get stronger now that you are challenging it again. You’ll be back in shape in no time!
And so I’m not beating myself up about this morning as much as I am reminding myself to treat myself like I would treat one of my clients. Because, life really does get in the way sometimes.
Have you fallen by the wayside? Have you let go of your workouts and found yourself overwhelmed by events and happenings and perhaps even people that you are caring for at the expense of caring for yourself? Any day, any time, you can make a choice to get back in the game. Here’s how:
Start small — do not do a 45-minute run or hour-long strength session if you have been inactive for an extended period of time. Walk for 10-20 minutes. Workout for 5-10 minutes. Gradually increase length of workout and resistance levels. Listen to your body. Don’t get injured.
Be kind to your body — there will be a degree of complacency your body has settled into. You will be sore. You will be uncomfortable. It will be tough sometimes. So be good to yourself. Drink water, eat protein, take anti-inflammatories if necessary. Get sleep! And please, make sure you allow time to recover. If you are falling onto the toilet, don’t do a leg workout until the soreness eases up.
Get support — find a workout buddy, go back to your personal trainer or hire one, find some online classes or take classes in your gym. In a group setting, be confident — going as light as you need to as you ease back in. You’re on your own journey, they are on theirs. There is no competition.
Let go of the past — okay, you didn’t work out for fill-in-the-blank period of time. Let it go! Because you are working out NOW. And you won’t let your workouts slide so easily next time. No self-castigation, save your precious energy for this moment on. Every workout is the first workout of the rest of your life.
Over the course of a lifetime, how, when, why and especially IF you work out will ebb and flow in a variety of ways. If you find you have left the game, know you can get back in it whenever you are ready. Because . . . life really does get in the way sometimes.
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16-plus years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.