Men's Health

Getting Back to the Gym

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What time is it? It's time to get back to the gym after your too-long absence. Hey, we're all pretty busy these days. And there are a hundred distractions that can make exercise fall to the bottom of our list of priorities: vacations, travel, colds and flu, and minor family and work crises of all sorts. They all conspire to keep us from doing our workouts.

But it's time to get back on the right track. And when you return to the gym after a long absence, it's important to pay special attention to the following:

Warm Up
Depending on how long it's been since your last workout, your body might have lost some if its flexibility and tolerance for exercise. So it's important to perform a longer warm-up that gets the blood flowing, and the muscles, ligaments and tendons ready.

1- Walk for 15 to 20 minutes on the treadmill, slowly increasing the pace as you go.
2- Perform 5 or 10 minutes of stretching, making sure to stretch all of the major muscle groups, such as quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, shoulders, chest, back, etc.
3- Before performing each weightlifting exercise, select about 50% of the weight you'll be using and perform 8 to 10 slow, easy repetitions. This prepares your muscles, tendons and ligaments for heavier lifting.

Go Easy
When you return to the gym after a long absence, you might be tempted to start off with the same weights you used the last time you exercised. Depending on how long you've been away, it is quite likely that you will not be able to lift that much weight on your first time back. Trying to do so is both a strain on your body and a psychological blow to your positive attitude.

So be prepared to start with slightly lighter weights, and try increasing the weight on each set. This will allow you to gradually build toward the weights you were formerly lifting.
Start your workout with the exercises that require the least amount of weight, such as weighted crunches or flies. End with heavy lifting exercises, such as the leg press and bench press. This technique allows your body more time to adapt to the intensity of the workout.

On the topic of going easy on yourself, don't plan too many weightlifting workouts per week. It takes time to fully recover and for new muscle growth to manifest. Three times per week is sufficient.

Write Down Your Numbers
One of the absolutely indispensable keys to building a leaner, stronger body is to ensure that your workouts are geared toward progressive overload; meaning that whatever weight you lift today must be surpassed during your next workout, by adding more weight or doing a few extra reps.

It's important to realize that if your last workout stimulated a bit of new muscle growth, lifting a little more weight may not affect your perceived effort, as you've become a bit stronger.

Of course, the above can't happen if you don't know exactly what you lifted on your previous workout. So take a moment to write down the weights, sets and reps you performed on each exercise (or the number of seconds you hold the weight if you're doing Static Contraction Training). Next time around in the gym you need to beat those numbers.

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Stay Cool
Finally, take another 10 minutes to cool down at a slow pace on the treadmill. Use this time to feel the warm afterglow and sense of well-being that intense exercise provides. Those endorphins are awesome! Take a moment to associate that positive, relaxed yet invigorated feeling with going to the gym and doing your workout. For many of us, this can shift our psychological focus from dreading a workout and doing it reluctantly, to positively looking forward to it and to the sense of well-being it delivers.

So get back to the gym today and all this magic can be yours.