How to get back on track after time away from the gym?

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer
Founder and Head Coach
If you haven’t been to the gym for a while because of an injury, illness or busy life, you need a come- back strategy to avoid  injuries and an early dropout.

Physical and mental deconditioning

In an ideal world, an injury, illness or other life event should not hold you back from investing time and energy in your health. In most cases, staying active and eating healthy is beneficial for health. It enhanced recovery and it helps to relieve stress. The very moments when we think we don't have time to invest in our physical and mental health are often the moments when we need it the most.

In situations that get in the way of investing time and energy in your health, the body is often exposed to different types of movements and postures (for example prolonged periods of sitting or lying); at different intensity (varying from no intensity at all to extreme stressful intensity); in a different environment; sometimes with different eating habits. Mental factors can also play a role. Such as work- life balance related stress, feelings of anxiety, insecurity, fear, loneliness, or feelings out of being out of control. All of this has deconditioning effects on the body and mind.
The body and mind are connected, they function ‘as a whole’. The physical and mental changes in our lives during injuries, illness or other time consuming events affect that ‘whole’. Therefore, it is important to have come-back strategy, and not to underestimate these deconditioning effects, in order to prevent injuries and an early setback or dropout.

Three step- come back strategy

1. Set realistic expectations and create reassuring thoughts

Don’t expect yourself to pick up where you left. Scale down weights, duration and intensity of workouts. Slowly but surely rebuilt a strong foundation. Be patient, trust the process. You will get back and grow stronger again. Let these reassuring thoughts be your guide, don’t freak out.

Start slow and  increase slow!

-         50-75-100%

During the first few weeks, start at 50% of the volume and intensity of your pre- time off level. Due to deconditioned factors you are more vulnerable to injuries. An abrupt increase in intensity and weight would also mean an increase of your risk of injuries and overtraining.  After the first few weeks gradually increase the volume and intensity to 75% for the next couple of weeks. And then, slowly build up to your 100% aka your pre- time off level.

-          Judge by feel

Always judge by feel: let your body and common sense be your guide. Impatience over- enthusiasm or peer pressure are your worst enemies.

-        Stay active during the day and do mobility work regularly

Try to stay active during the day, by going for walks for example, Also, invest in mobility daily, if only for 10 minutes.

2. Assess yourself daily

Assess yourself every morning: how does your body feel? Do you mentally feel at ease, excited, or down and stressed? How is your energy level? What tension, soreness or other obstacles do you need to take into account? Let the signs your ‘whole’ gives you, guide your actions.

3. Be coachable

Give your coach input to work with. Your self- assessment is valuable information for your coach to guide you with your come back strategy. Be coachable by being patient, trusting the process and your coach!

What to expect from your coach

You can expect your coach to guide you in setting up realistic expectations and in affirming reassuring thoughts. Sometimes your coach will push you a little bit, and sometimes your coach will slow you down.

You can also expect your coach to use his coach- eye to assess you physically and mentally. Not only in your technically execution of the exercises, but more over in picking up those little signs on how you’re doing physically and mentally. And on the basis of that to tailor training sessions to your needs in order for your to get back on track in a healthy, smart yet challenging way.

 Create your own health!©