Step Forwards

Getting Back to Group Exercise after a Break

You may have kept very fit through lockdown. You may have chosen to give yourself a break from exercise, or simply lacked the motivation to exercise on your own.  Either way, it will probably have been a while since you exercised in a group environment, and it may be a little intimidating to step back into that environment, particularly if you are carrying a few extra pounds and are feeling a little self-conscious.   

However keen you are to get back into exercise and start losing your lockdown pounds, it is important that you spend time preparing your body for exercise and allowing your body time to recover.

In their article Returning to Exercise After Lockdown, the Practice Plus group advise:

It is vital that you warm up before physical activity to help raise your body temperature, reduce muscle soreness and increase blood flow to your muscles. Just as importantly, you need to cool down afterwards to bring your heart rate and blood pressure down. Stopping abruptly can cause dizziness or even fainting.

As a swimmer I used to forego the after swim stretch in favour of cramming in a couple of extra lengths.  In the long run, those extra lengths did not help improve my fitness or technique, and hindered my recovery time, meaning lost exercise time in the long run.  Similarly, in group exercise it can feel like a ‘waste of time’ to cool down when you could be ‘burning calories,’ but returning heart rate and muscle length to their ‘pre exercise’ state can help you recover and exercise again sooner.

 You do not want to push yourself too hard initially.  Do the best you can in the shape you are in for the class you are at.  Don’t compare yourself to your previous fitness level.

Fitness expert Joshua Pearson says “remember to take things at your own pace, and don’t expect instant gratification. Fitness is a hard thing to master and needs to be a long-term situation, not a short-term fix to get to where you want to be.”

Although it is fine to have an exercise goal, coming back after a break it is important to focus on the enjoyment of exercise and getting back into the swing of things.

If you return to a class grudgingly, or with the sole purpose of ‘getting back into that dress for Christmas,’ then you are likely to get demotivated if you do not see results straight away, or if you do not perform as well as you used to. 

The foundation of fitness success is consistency, so work first on building exercise back in to your routine, and once you are back in the habit you can start hitting your targets. 

So how can you get back in the habit of weekly exercise classes?

Particularly in these challenging times, it can be easy to neglect your own needs, focusing instead on elderly parents, husbands, children, grandchildren, isolating neighbours and friends, and the fact that everything, from shopping to doctor’s appointments, is currently harder and more time consuming than it used to be.

It is therefore important to give yourself the licence to take time for you and your health. 

Working out in a group like in a class or even just with a friend or family member can be a brilliant way to get the ball rolling, especially if you are lacking the confidence to get back into it or the drive just to get things started again. (Joshua Pearson)

The benefits of a group exercise class are that they are at a consistent time each week, and allow you to build a routine around creating time for you.  Particularly if you are booking in advance, it allows you to block ‘you time’ out in your diary and acts as a motivation to attend and take the space you have booked.  Group exercise classes are also full of people who will become your friends, and will serve to hold you accountable.

As Maureen McDonald in her article Returning to Exercise from a Sedentary Lifestyle takes willpower advises:

Get an exercise buddy or join a class so someone else will expect to see you regularly. Watch how much more energy you have for every other task when you take time to work out.

Group exercise will also keep you working through the course of the session.  How many times have you exercised to a workout video at home, only to ‘skip through’ that bit that you don’t like?  I am as guilty of this as anyone is of this hidden in the comfort of your own home.  In a group situation it is harder to hide!

Returning to a group exercise setting can be intimidating, but remember that everyone is in the same position. Take your time, take care of yourself, and do what you can without expecting instant results; you may lower your blood pressure, increase your strength, or reduce the pain from your arthritis before you see any superficial changes.

Top Tips for Returning to Group Exercise

  • It takes 21 days for something to be a habit, so book 3 weeks of classes to help you stay motivated and get back on track.
  • Bring a friend to class to support you and hold you accountable.
  • Exercise to the best of your current ability without judging yourself on your previous standards.
  • Warm up, cool down and stretch to help your body adapt to, and recover from exercise effectively.
  • Consistency is key.
  • Have fun and enjoy your exercise.  The rest will follow.

Reference Material

https://www.active.com/articles/returning-to-exercise-from-a-sedentary-lifestyle-takes-will-power

https://www.exercise.co.uk/learn/returning-to-exercise-after-a-break/

https://practiceplusgroup.com/news/returning-to-exercise-after-lockdown/

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