To get back into exercise after a layoff, avoid trying to match your previous workout durations and intensity levels. During your time away from the gym, court or road, you probably lost stamina and endurance and will have to cut high-intensity workouts short, burning fewer calories and taking longer to regain your conditioning. Work slower and longer at first using an effective routine that gets you back up to speed.
Raise your intensity gradually the first few weeks after returning to exercise. Your goal should be to work longer, not harder, during the first week or two.
Start with Dynamic (not Static) Warmups
Don’t start exercising before you’re properly warmed up. An effective workout routine begins with moderate-intensity muscle movements that raise your heart rate, get blood flowing to your muscles and stretches you. Raise and lower your arms, jog in place or start using an exercise machine or weights at a slow speed or with little resistance for several minutes. Avoid holding stretches, which desensitizes your muscles for 15 minutes or longer. Static stretch after your workout.
Exercise at a Moderately Intense, Steady Pace
Get back into working out by maintaining a steady pace that doesn’t require you to take a break a few minutes after starting. Your goal will ultimately be higher-intensity workouts, but to get back into exercise, choose low-impact movements you can repeat for 30 minutes or more. Walk instead of running on a treadmill. Use a lower gear setting on a bike. Use less weight and perform more repetitions if you are using resistance exercises to get back in shape.
Vary your Workouts
Your muscles adapt to exercise, making it easier to workout, but reducing your calorie burn. To prevent muscles soreness or repetitive stress injuries, change your exercises every other workout. Work your lower body one session, then your upper body the next. Swim or walk one workout, then use an exercise machine for the next.
End Workouts Gradually
Think of your workout routine intensity like a bell shape. Start out at a moderate intensity during your warmup as your heart, lungs and muscles coordinate their efforts. Raise your intensity and peak during your main exercise period, reaching your highest heart rate in the middle of your workout. Maintain a pace that won’t make you take frequent breaks. Finish each workout on a downhill intensity. Walk around the gym or your house, pedal without any resistance if you’ve been riding, or walk the last few minutes of your jog. Cooling down as part of your routine helps your heart rate slow gradually.
Stretch your muscles after each workout. Some research indicates that a post-workout cooldown and stretch doesn’t help reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness, but anecdotally, many people feel stretching helps prevent later muscle pain. Post-workout stretching does improve your flexibility, making future workouts easier. If you need to finish a workout 10 minutes early, cut time from the exercise portion of your routine, not your cooldown and stretch.