Search This Blog

Friday, May 9, 2014

Return to Oz: Rebounding at Your Gym After a Prolonged Absence

Stop self-sabotage; don't look back
“I feel like that time I visited Paris and forgot most of the language,” my client said. “I lived in Paris as a teenager and spoke fluent French, so you can understand how forgetting quickly became terrifying.”

My client’s story referred to her long-absent return to my gym. Granted, she wasn’t slacking. She’d had a baby and resided on the East Coast to be with her ailing mom over the past year. While her reasons were completely valid, the reality was she’d been MIA at the gym and her return felt like a gargantuan culture shock.

Her frustration became apparent during our first training season. She unsuccessfully tried to lift a weight that was a little too heavy and nearly
threw out her back. I encouraged her to start out lighter. She cursed and snapped back, “But I did it before!”

Things only became worse as she awkwardly gawked at other females, descriptively noting particularly toned areas of their bodies, as if she were writing for a men's magazine.

I knew some of those women and they work incredibly hard. They lift heavy, supplement smartly, and eat cleanly. Hardly “good genes” or “just lucky” as my client dismissed them.

After two sessions, my client had officially become the Resurrected Former A+ Trainee turned Nightmare (yes, a special level of hell exists for such folks) who was making my workday increasingly miserable. We needed a serious talk about her self-sabotaging efforts, because in the interim she was sabotaging my sanity.

Why the Perfection Myth Derails Your Progress

I see these people on Facebook and so do you. They’re hardcore about working out, regularly posting selfies as well as delineating their hardcore workout schedules and ultra-strict food regimens.

These people never miss a gym visit or have an off day where they slip up and eat those blondie brownies their coworkers brought in. They probably also have perfect boyfriends or husbands who bring them roses and breakfast in bed.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of these people either. Truthfully, I don’t think they really exist. People create fantasies to make their lives look perfect, and if you succumb to that everyone-has-it-together-but-me mentality, you’ll destroy your own success.

I admire persistence, and people who routinely work hard at their training typically get great results. Yet even for the most stalwart among us, life happens. You go through a miserable break-up or your mom gets sick. You lose your job and spiral into a month-long depression. Maybe you’re burned out with your workout and need a break from seeing the same people at the gym.

Whatever your excuse, you can find perfectly legitimate reasons to skip out of the gym. Most of us have done it at some point. I don’t judge or analyze. I simply acknowledge you want to get back into your old routine and become the fit, confident person you were before. And trust me: That person was far from perfect, just like everyone else.

5 Strategies to Get (& Stay) on Track After your Absence

As a kid, I avidly rode my bike, but over time I stopped. In my early 20s, I visited San Diego with a girlfriend and she wanted to bike downtown. Initially getting back on the bike felt awkward. I wobbled a little bit. The seat felt funny. I may or may not have toppled over once or twice. But I soon fell into the rhythm and riding once again became second nature.

Returning to the gym will probably feel like getting back on your bike or any other habit you’ve fallen out of. You don’t forget how to ride or bike or drive a car. You simply fall out of the habit, and half the battle involves getting back on and regaining self-trust.

After a long absence, everything about a gym environment can feel awkward and intimidating. The locker rooms smell funny. You swear people stare at you in the weight room. (Trust me, they aren’t.) Most awkwardness solely exists in your imagination, and once you again fall into routine, visiting the gym will become second nature. As the cliché goes, showing up is half the battle.

I have some strategies I commonly apply with resurrected gym goers to make the transition smoother and less intimidating:

1.     Stop comparing your current self with your former self. Of all forms of self-sabotage, this is the worst. Nostalgia that you could once lift a certain weight and fit into size-2 Lulu does you absolutely no favors. Beyond frustration and discouragement, such comparisons create a “to hell with it” attitude where you’re more likely to blow off your workouts. Reminiscing about your former incarnation as a gym regular probably seemed far more ideal than it actually was. Even during your physical best, you likely felt insecure occasionally. You had weak areas that, despite your hardest work, you couldn't tone. You are here, not there. Own it and start building from that foundation.
2.    Stop comparing yourself with others. Next time you’re at the gym, find someone you consider model perfect. He or she has the body you’d die for. I’ll bet my entire career that person struggles with the same insecurities you do. Better yet, don’t find that person. Admire others, let them inspire you, but embrace your own path. Stop creating a fantasy world where you’re certain you’re the only one who struggles.

3.    Figure out what keeps you motivated. Especially if boredom, burnout, or a crazy work schedule crashed your gym routine, you need to pinpoint what went wrong and, more important, what helped you keep a steady routine when you did thrive. One client found driving 30 minutes to her gym created a convenient excuse to frequently blow off visits. (You know the excuses: “Oh no, it’s 5 p.m. Traffic will be terrible! I’ll just go tomorrow.”) A closer gym created her impetus to maintain a consistent schedule. Do a little soul-searching here. What are your primary goals? What motivates you to hit the gym on those days you’d far rather sit on the couch with Greek yogurt and Seinfeld reruns? Those reasons might be entirely different than they were before. Maybe once you wanted a perfect beach body, but now you want to ditch that post-baby weight and stay healthy. Write it down and let those words inspire you even when motivation takes a backseat.

4.    Don’t overdo it. You’re determined to get into your former fighting shape by early summer, so you go hardcore and book four training sessions a week plus you’re doing burst training at your park. Attempting too much at once becomes a surefire strategy for burnout and potential injury. You know how important recovery is, so give yourself off days, get eight hours’ high-quality sleep every night, and get the right foods and nutrients to keep your body in peak condition. Impatience can become your enemy. Steady and focused ultimately win the race.

5.     Maintain support. You have that friend and so do I. Quite bluntly, she calls you out when you’re not giving 100% or create some BS excuse to opt out. Annoying as she might be, hold on to that friend, because she might be the steadiest anchor to keep you back on your routine. An accountability partner makes hauling your butt to the gym so much easier. That may be your blunt friend or it might mean hiring a trainer to help you return to fighting form. The right support system can help you overcome any obstacles and stay the course as you jumpstart your fitness regimen.

Your turn: Whether voluntary or involuntary, have you ever taken time off from the gym? What inspired you to return, and did you encounter the hurdles my client experienced? Share your thoughts below or on my Facebook fan page.
You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

If you use the article you are required to activate any links found in the article and the by-line. Please do not use this article in any publication that is not opt-in (spam).


Post a Comment