We get it: lockdown has, for months on end, left few means of exercise at your disposal, perhaps leaving your physique looking rather less sculpted than you remember. However, there could also be other, easier-to-overlook factors at play behind why your exercise regime has lapsed. 

If getting back to the gym is your ultimate goal, here are several ways for you to creep back into a suitably vigorous regime if, where you are, gyms have recently reopened.  

Remember that the motivation has to come from you

What if you keep procrastinating even as an open gym near you beckons? Perhaps your primary incentive to exercise isn’t quite the right one. 

“Too often, people focus on the common [motivators] in terms of weight, or they have a health scare, or they want it for someone else,” Cedric Bryant, the American Council on Exercise’s president and chief science officer, tells TIME. He advises focusing on “things that are really meaningful for you as the individual”.

Set a goal that ticks the SMART boxes

Yes, SMART is an acronym there – one suggested by personal training specialist Ryan Campbell of the Wisconsin-based Anytime Fitness, as the MyFitnessPal blog reveals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound – all of the criteria your goal should meet. 

Avoid fluffy, vague goals like “get fit”. Instead, decide how far along that path you want to get, and draw up specific sub-goals such as swimming five laps or buying high quality tracksuits.

Don’t necessarily start in the gym itself

Yes, this article’s title mentions “gym”… but it also says “ease yourself”, right? That’s why your transition back into regular gym life doesn’t have to begin in the gym itself. 

You could start by investigating ways of incorporating just a little more exercise into your regular day. To that end, you could try taking flights of steps rather than elevators and escalators where you can, while you should use your phone’s health app to keep track of how many steps you daily make. 

How to ease yourself back into a gym regime after a long break 1

Take your time even when you do re-enter the gym 

One big reason why is that your lengthy break has probably left you with a lot less muscle strength and mass than you had when you were last at a gym. One 2015 study published by the National Library of Medicine reveals that recovering these gains can take even longer than the break itself.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to follow expert opinion that you should start with just a few daily minutes of cardiovascular exercise before slowly making your way towards longer workouts. 

Don’t worry about how you are faring compared to other people

It doesn’t matter if your personal trainer has a killer six-pack or your friend’s push-ups outnumber yours day after day – just remember that you’re not in a race with them. 

It will take time for your body to biologically adjust itself to its former, pre-lockdown state, never mind that chiseled physique of which you have long dreamed – so, just focus on your own journey. 

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