How to Work Out When It’s Been a While

May 11, 2021 Updated: May 11, 2021

Were you thinking about getting back in shape? You haven’t worked out since when? Maybe you kept celebrating long after the holidays were over, or perhaps you just lapsed into a lazy time of not caring about achieving a healthy life. Whatever you did or didn’t do doesn’t matter, because it’s in the past. Today is the day for positive change.

The following isn’t a workout schedule with what exercises to do and how to do them. Instead, it’s a guide to how you’ll want to approach your workouts to achieve maximum results. It has a lot to say about the mind-body connection and its importance in the way you work.

In instructing my fitness clients, I’ve noted several things they’ve found helpful, and you can also benefit from them. These are tried-and-true principles, and they work. I’ve learned that you don’t have to exhaust yourself by working hard for hours on end to find your total fitness. I’m a real fan of working correctly and intensely for shorter periods, say 15 minutes.

If you can devote 15 minutes every day to your workout plan, you’ll be amazed at the results. Does that seem impossible to you? The key is consistency. I challenge you to try it and see what happens. So now, where do you start?

First things first. Ask yourself, do your thinking patterns need to be altered or at least shifted in such a way that your workouts become a priority in your weekly schedule? Be honest with yourself! Without the proper mindset, you’re defeated before you start.

I reinforce this: Your workouts must be a priority, and you must know why you’re doing them. What are your reasons? Do you want to feel better? Look better? Do you have a specific goal? How many pounds do you want to lose? Do you want to compete in the mini-marathon? You have your very own purposes, and you have to keep them foremost in your mind. It’s a good idea to find a visual that will help you with this. An example would be a picture of yourself when your weight was perfect or a picture of a runner winning a race. Put these in front of your face in the place where you exercise.

Second, choose something you like to do. My thing is dancing: ballet, African, folk, you name it. It’s a disciplinarian who will exercise alone, so find a class if you’re not inspired to work by yourself. I wouldn’t say I like running, so if I tried to get in shape as a runner, I would most certainly drop out way too soon. If you enjoy running, go for it, but don’t try to go six miles the first day! You get the picture. Whatever you choose, if you don’t like it, you’re likely to quit before you get to where you want to be.

Finally, it’s essential that you know and accept your current fitness level and start right where you are. Whatever the exercise, start there until you feel strong enough to go to the next level. If you can only do two pushups, do them and then try for 3, then 4, and so on.

One example is the Pilates leg circle. This exercise is done lying on your back, making a large circle from the hip with a straight leg. A client of mine didn’t have the strength to do a full circle with her leg extended, so I had her do a smaller circle until that was strong, and then I had her make the circle a little larger. She worked there for a few sessions and then went on to an even larger circle. The result was that she was doing the full leg circle in a matter of weeks.

Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. They bring beautiful results. I would prefer you work small correctly than try to go to the fullest with lousy form.

To recap:
1. Make your exercise program a priority.
2. Choose something you like to do.
3. Probably the most important, know your level and work there until you’re strong enough to go to the next.

You’ll be back in shape in a healthy, injury-free way if you follow these 3 tips. Seriously apply them and work out mindfully every day for 15 minutes. If you’re a diehard and 15 minutes doesn’t seem like enough for you, it’s OK to exercise for 30 minutes some days. Be sure to vary your workouts so you work different muscles than you did the day before. For example, work your arms and chest one day, your hips and glutes the next day, and then your abs on the following day. Make your plan and stick to it.

Donna Martelli, formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, served on the dance faculty at Butler University, Indianapolis, and is now also a Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Pilates Instructor in Indianapolis, IN. She conducts classes, seminars, and workshops in the US and Europe. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.