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How To Kick-Start A Workout Plan, Whether You're Going Back To The Gym Or Not

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As the U.S. slowly begins to reopen gyms and boutique class studios, it seems more and more people have the opportunity to return to their regularly scheduled fitness programs. However, if you're still hesitant about entering group environments, you can still kickstart a workout plan that'll get your body moving regularly.

As someone who finds confidence and joy in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and routine, I feel a bit out of my element in entering the summer season. Having gone through a rollercoaster of habits and workout behaviors throughout this pandemic process that have, at times, left me feeling less “quaran-fit” and more "quarant-frustrated," this seasonal transition feels foreign to me.

As I get back into my own consistent fitness regimen, I've realized it’s more important than ever to take notice of the body’s response to new (or reintroduced) activity. Even if you have maintained a balanced workout and diet throughout quarantine, your body’s stimulus in a gym or class-type setting is going to be vastly different than that of an at-home workout routine. Over-exercising, improper recovery, and disproportionate diet are often the perfect equation for injury and stunted results.

So, whether you have been working out consistently throughout quarantine or you’re ready to pick some new habits, ahead, six tips to consider when turning a new fitness leaf.

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How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Plan Ahead

In order to reduce injury and prevent soreness, plan out your workout schedule in advance, aiming for two to three sessions a week (with time in between to rest and recover.) This will allow you to comfortably slip into a manageable routine that also keeps you on track and accountable. When planning your workouts, consider a combination of cardio and full-body strength training to boost your metabolism and speed up your results. Jumping right into a four-to-six-day-per-week can be overwhelming for your system as well as encourage negative emotional side effects from not being able to meet our own expectations.

How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Start Slow & Low

Before you plan on jumping right back into your pre-quarantine run pace or weight-lifting range, consider lowering your effort by 20 to 50 percent. Any time we are out of our normal training environment, the body becomes somewhat unconditioned. In order to prevent injury or too much soreness, go with lighter weight ranges and lower durations of time for cardio for the first two to three weeks. Because of muscle memory, our bodies are incredibly adept at regaining strength, but you want to do it in a smart and safe manner. (Even if you stayed consistent in working out at home, I still recommend starting at a lower weight and range, however, you will see quick adaptations in the beginning of your retraining.)

How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Choose A Reliable Fitness Source

Think about the source of your workout to be as important as the medical advice you'd get from a doctor. While TikTok and Instagram have become increasingly popular, consider taking an extra step and seek professional sources before you start incorporating those workouts into your routine, especially if you are beginning a new one. Research the credibility of the instructor whose plan you are following, and make sure they have nationally recognized certifications. (I recommend reconsidering following a workout routine from a model or influencer and instead seek out their trainer.)

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How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Consider Recovery

Consider your recovery schedule as important as your training schedule. Inevitably, every time we change something in our workout routine we experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The cause of the soreness is typically adding a stress to our muscle fiber it has not experienced or built up resistance to, so it’s important to listen to your body and incorporate recovery to reduce injury. Great ways to reduce soreness and enhance recovery include warming up before a workout for at least five minutes, staying hydrated before, during, and after a workout, incorporating foam rolling and fascial release post- session, and giving your body ample time to rest in-between your workouts.

How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Maintain & Healthy, Balanced Diet

During times of less training or movement, it’s important to nutritionally support yourself to maintain healthy bodily function, muscular strength, energy, and metabolism. Sticking to a consistent diet rich in all macro nutrients — carbs, fats, and proteins — is key. Cutting calories can potentially eat away at your muscle (if done incorrectly), which will have a negative side effect on your system overall and will cause other complications associated with lack of nutrients. On the other side of things, overeating or having an unbalanced and unhealthy diet can lead to potential stress on your blood pressure and insulin levels.

By keeping a consistent diet you're giving your body and internal system the best opportunity to maintain the work you have put into it. Don’t discount the importance of hydration pre-, post-, and mid-workouts as well, as this will help prevent headaches, weakness/dizziness, muscular cramps, and digestion issues.

How To Kickstart A Workout Plan: Be Kind To Yourself

If you have fallen off the bandwagon with your workout routine, or you are not feeling as healthy or strong as you did pre-quarantine, take the negative energy and emotions and channel them positively into creating new goals. Consider this moment a fresh start to make new promises focusing on your health, your nutrition, and diet as well as ultimately your relationship with yourself. Understanding that physical well-being has a direct correlation to our emotional well-being, consider investing in your own self as much as you do others.