Feeling bad about not exercising? Don’t.

Life happens and it is possible to regain your level of fitness, or even exceed it. It’s easier than it may seem, and it starts with your mindset. If you’re down on yourself for gaining weight, it’s going to make it harder to get back to the fitness level you feel the best at. What we think about grows, right? In this podcast, I break down five steps to take to help you reframe and regain your level of fitness without focusing on weight loss or body shaping. More exercise is better than none and there’s no better time to start than right now.

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Just a few months ago I was in awesome shape.

I trained for and ran two half marathons within two months of each other.

I was teaching more fitness classes, golfing, and walking. I practiced yoga about once a week, too.

I also began filming my Vitality Practice videos. That means practicing at home and then shooting the exercise sessions with my videographer.

I love movement and the feeling of accomplishment I get when I improve my fitness level. So, to be exercising more than average felt awesome! Like I was…

  • Breathing easy, even with the most intense cardiovascular exercises
  • Enjoying fluid movement with a large range of motion
  • Easily stretching and reaching my body with enhanced flexibility
  • Lifting heavy weights with good form
  • I had unlimited endurance to move and groove and encourage people to do the same

Then I went on an amazing road trip to Western Canada. While I was active on the trip, it certainly wasn’t engaged in my usual level of activity.

I hiked in Sault Ste Marie, paddle boarded in Wawa, and ran by Lake Superior, hiked, dug for amethyst, and went tubing in Thunder Bay.

I ran in Saskatoon and Edmonton. And we hiked for five days straight in Jasper. My 12-year-old daughter and I did aquafit in the pools at the many hotels we stayed at. 

This was over five weeks. And there was a lot of driving. That means a lot of sitting.

Isn’t sitting the new smoking?!

Needless to say, I got back from the trip and felt like my fitness level dropped off significantly.

I went running and tired really quickly. My body felt stiff. I got back to teaching and could barely cue because I was breathless doing some of the basic movements.

I’ve been here before. It’s amazing how quickly your level of fitness decreases with less movement. I had a long way to go after my concussion in 2018 and when I was pregnant with our twins in 2006. Everyone experiences a dip in fitness at some point in their life.

I’ve worked with many clients who are coming back to more movement after pregnancy or an injury. I’m also blessed to work with people who consider themselves to be new exercisers.

I know what it’s like to feel disappointed, frustrated, or overwhelmed when we lose the strength and endurance gains, we once had. Feeling out of shape doesn’t feel good, for anyone. But the concept of “out of shape” is different for everyone.

Here are my five suggestions for how to regain your fitness level…

Step 1: Be kind to yourself!

Step 2: Go slow and give yourself time.

Step 3: Do activities that are the most fun for you, or that combine family and social time.

Step 4: Don’t compare yourself to others!

Step 5: Set a new goal with mini-goals along the way.

Here’s a couple of training principles that will keep you optimistic as you start to build up your fitness level. All of them have to do with the concept of muscle memory.

When you move, you activate sensors (called proprioceptors) in your muscles, tendons, and joints that constantly give feedback to your central nervous system. With the repetition of any movement pattern, we benefit from the neural pathways that connect our brain to our central nervous system. It makes our movements automatic as we develop this amazing feedback loop between our brains, our muscles, and back to our brains. This muscle memory allowed me to downhill ski with my daughters after over 10 years of not skiing. 

Keep in mind sometimes our neural pathways get out of sync and we begin to compensate with the wrong muscles for certain movements. Please listen to my podcast interview with Matthew Verboom in Episode 19 to learn more about this if you’re having muscle pain or reduced range of motion.

The best thing to do is just a bit more. More exercise is better than none. And you’ll find with your muscle memory, you can come back faster, easier, and even better than ever before, because of how you trained before you took a break.

Maintenance: It is easier to maintain your fitness level than it is to gain it, so staying pretty active will help you keep your strength and endurance. You won’t have to push yourself as much as you did to get there.

Recovery: We must give ourselves adequate rest in order to avoid injury, burnout, lowered immunity, and to stay motivated. So have at least one day of no exercise or low-intensity exercise per week. I like going for a short walk or doing yoga on my recovery days.

Reversibility: We lose the effects of physical training when we lower our activity level. It’s just the nature of our bodies. Coming back can be complex so please reach out if you have questions about your own situation. The American Council of Exercise recommends that trainers treat clients who’ve been away from exercise for a period a few weeks or more to be treated as newcomers to exercise. Don’t just jump back into your exercise routine full force. Please ease your way into it with love, compassion, and optimism for what you can achieve moving forward.

The truth of it is, our bodies typically change shape when we lower our level of exercise. Do not weigh yourself. Do not judge yourself negatively if your clothes feel tighter. Be compassionate and embrace the changes, knowing you’re perfect as you are, especially given the circumstances of whatever kept you away from exercise – like a hectic schedule, difficulty at work or home, pregnancy, illness, or injury.

Exercise has tremendous mental health benefits too, so as you become more consistent with your activity, you’ll start to see progress in your abilities. This is definitely a motivator for most people, and it will keep you moving for the long term. Detach from any weight loss or body shaping outcome and focus on how your body feels and performs, especially in daily life activities.

All the best for your transition back to exercise. Make it joyful movement and the process will be way more fun!

Resources:

Muscle Memory

Episode 19 Muscle Activation Techniques: https://www.careerfitmom.ca/2018/10/16/episode19/

Episode 9 Use NEAT to Improve Your Health

Reversibility