From a time standpoint of not working out and making bad diet choices, that’s a long time. Potentially, if one does nothing but eat and go back and forth during this time, you’re looking at six months or more of not exercising. I’m not going into the “why’s” or parameters of that missed time. We’re just going to tell you how to emerge from it and get back on track if you haven’t been training and maintaining over the winter months.
Let’s Cut to the Chase
Firstly, your muscles will have atrophied and shrunk somewhat over that period of time, and usually, people build up considerable weight in the form of fat. When you first start out, it’s going to be twofold: at the dinner table, and with slow stretching and light calisthenics.
At the dinner table, you need to limit your intake to what you need. Avoid the condiments and sauces and the other stuff with high-fructose corn syrup. You’ll need to get yourself on a regular dietary routine for about a solid week. All of this is going to be dependent on how much weight you’ve gained, and any other habits you may have picked up in between. In that first week, you also need to do stretching exercises and light calisthenics. If you lifted weights and let it slide? You don’t want to just go out and start lifting immediately. You need to acclimate your system to a healthy diet and your muscles to being subjected to physical exercise again.
Again, it will vary according to the individual.
Getting Back Into the Game
Remember, folks, you need to gently get your body back into shape. Train don’t strain. Workout a little more each day until you feel capable of taking it to the next level.
Basic Workout Program for the First Week
Day 1: Light stretching in the form of side-straddle-hop (jumping jacks), some push-ups, dips (for triceps, with a bar-grips or with the edge of a chair), and some chin-ups. You can use bands (elastic or rubber) for stretching exercises as well.
Day 2: A brisk walk will be good for you and then some stretching afterward. When do you stretch? Try and rub your muscles with your hands, as well: this “massage” stimulates blood flow and distributes it throughout the muscle, as well as stretching the muscle itself. Distance for your walk will vary, but it’s not to be a “walkathon.” You and your body are beginning to become “familiar” with one another.
Day 3: Work your lower body and abs with crunches, wall-squats, more jumping-jacks, and leg lifts…train don’t strain!…and train to your ability level. The idea is to get back into it, slowly and steadily. Stairmaster-type exercises and step-aerobics can work well for you.
Day 4: Another walk at the same pace and distance as the one on Day 2…just enough to get the blood moving and stretch out. Don’t forget to stretch and do the massage as outlined above.
Day 5: Repeat what you did on Day 1 with those same exercises.
Day 6: Repeat Day 3’s lower body and abdominal exercises and then a short walk about half the distance to your other two walking days (Days 2 and 4) to stretch out and finish off.
Day 7: A rest-day from training.
There is your first week of “getting back into the game,” so to speak. Here are points to follow that are important:
- Put the fork down: Yes, put it down! Do not snack in-between meals, and either eat three normal-sized meals or 4-5 smaller meals with equal time in between. Concentration is on high protein meals with low fat and medium carbohydrates. Stick with your pasta, potatoes, and rice. It’s the sauces and condiments that really pile on the fat, as well as the method of cooking. Try to broil meats and bake potatoes.
- Copious amounts of water: Yes, the key to getting back into shape metabolically is to flush the poisons out and stay away from sugary beverages. Sodas are no good. Juice is good, but in moderation, unless it’s vegetable juice and without any sugar.
- Avoid harmful substances: Alcohol is detrimental to training and packing on muscle. Alcohol also is converted along the way and stored as fat after it gives your liver a thorough (and detrimental) fight. Smoking (tobacco or anything else) is out. You wouldn’t inhale a car’s exhaust fumes, so don’t put anything else that’s poisonous and burns you into your lungs. Drugs (unless prescribed as medication) are a complete no-go to be avoided at all costs.
- Soreness and fatigue: You’ll need to capitalize on rest for the first several weeks to a month. Lactic acid will build up in your muscles, and the muscles will become sore and tired. This usually puts a wall up to people getting back into exercising. You can overcome it with proper rest (critical), proper nutrition (critical), and with hot showers, baths, and massages (palliative/supportive measures accompanying your normal hygiene).
- Interference: The normative, daily activities and rigors of existence…the telephone call from coworkers or bosses; the screeching parakeet, yelling children, and barking dog; the conversation between you and your spouse that “has to happen” just as you’re doing pushups; the surprise visit from “Uncle Nick” who has two 16” pizzas and a six-pack of beer. All of these “impediments” need to be overcome to succeed and require discipline on your part and a certain amount of diplomacy as well.
You can overcome what you’ve put on over the winter months. It didn’t happen overnight. It will require patience and discipline. You have to take care of yourself. A mountain of supplies and equipment will not help you if you are out of shape. Now’s your chance to turn things around if they went “south” for the winter. As Ben Franklin put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” but if you have to take that pound to cure it? Then by all means: enter the fray and fight that good fight to win! JJ out!