How to Start a New Workout Routine After Time Off

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Starting a new workout routine after a hiatus can be discouraging. You know what it takes to do the work. You’ve done it before; it’s just been a while. You fell off the wagon. Had an injury. A baby. Life happened. Maybe it has been six weeks… maybe six months… possibly even six years.

You look in the mirror and you miss your toned arms. You miss how your clothes used to fit. You miss how it felt to be strong. What now?

You’re ready to gear up and do it. You want to reclaim what was yours. You have the right clothes, the right shoes. You have the video queued up or the gym bag packed.

But instead, you sit. You think about it.

Then you look at the clock and you aren’t sure you have enough time. You will get sweaty. You’ll have to run red-faced and dripping to pick up the kids.

So you don’t do it. Instead, you decide you’ll try it tomorrow.

Why? Because there’s a nagging voice in the back of your mind that says it’ll be hard. You don’t want it to be hard because you remember when it came easy for you. If you don’t step out and try, you can fool yourself into thinking it will still be easy.

Tomorrow comes and you put on the clothes. You put on the shoes. And this time, you even turn on the video or drive to the gym.

You’re going to do it.

As you start the warm-up, your heart rate elevates. Your lungs begin to hurt.

It’s harder than you thought. You remember how strong you once were. Instead of curling your large dumbbells, you have to use your small ones. Instead of decline push-ups, you are doing knee push-ups. You become breathless. You feel defeated. You want to quit. Maybe you are even angry that you are where you are. Angry that your body let you down.

What do you do?

You keep going.

That is what you do. You. Keep. Going. Because your options are to stay where you are, where you feel weak, discouraged, and overwhelmed OR dig deep, set your former self aside, and rebuild.

You will have to accept that you are not as strong as you used to be— the good news is that moment by moment, you can regain that strength.

Your new body will be built cell by cell, workout by workout. You will either do it, or you won’t.

So how do you make sure you follow through, even when discouragement swells?


  1. Create goals that are compatible with reality. For example, do not plan a workout program that requires an hour at a time when you know you rarely have that time. (Check out one of my favorite 15 minute, 3x week workout program here.)
  2. Ease into it. One hundred percent commitment does not mean hours in the gym every day. Ease your body into a schedule that starts with shorter workout duration and includes adequate rest days. Check out my favorite  jump start program with Natalie Jill here.
  3. Start where you are. It is understandable that you were likely more fit at some point in your life. Wishing doesn’t change reality: be where you are and start taking steps forward. Do not try to train at the level you were at when you stopped.
  4. Be gentle with your body. The no-pain-no-gain phrase is garbage. If your knees hurt doing lunges, do something else. If your form falls apart after a certain rep, reduce the weight and keep going.
  5. Appreciate all that your body can do. It may not run as fast as it used to (yet) or lift the same weight, but focus on everything it can do. Connect with the success you feel as each minute of training passes.
  6. Put as much effort into restoration activities as you do into training. After your workout is complete, stretch, cool down, and relax your body.
  7. Pick something you enjoy. If you love biking, bike. If you love strength training, lift. Add variety, but if you want something you can sustain, it needs to be a program or activity that you enjoy.
  8. Use non-scale tools to measure success. Can you lift more this week? Bike steeper terrain? Get less winded? Is your sleep better and your brain more focused?
  9. Feed your body. Intentional calorie restriction will not help you reach your goals.
  10. Use positive self-talk. Self-deprecating comments will not help. Use positive statements to affirm your intentions and commitment.
  11. Know that you will gain ground. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen through consistency. Consistency is key.
  12. Keep a journal of your training. Building that log book, day by day, will provide additional motivation to keep going.
  13. Get support. Find someone who is dependable that can check in with you and hold you accountable.
  14. Get medical clearance. It is always wise to get a green light from your physician before beginning a training routine.
  15. Reward yourself. Reward yourself with fun activities that add variety like lessons for rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, or stand-up paddle boarding.

It is tough to feel like you are starting over. Know you are not alone; many have been on the journey and many more will follow. I have been in this spot multiple times— after surgery, injury, and a variety of other reasons. Keep at it; you will make progress!

New to exercising completely?

All this applies to the new exerciser, too. Maybe you never reached that point of following through on a training program. If you are starting at zero, you are in the right place. Everyone can only be where they are and go from there. Pick your direction and get to it. Look for a local trainer to work with or start with a beginner level program like

Pick your direction and get to it. Look for a local trainer to work with or start with a beginner level program like Natalie Jill’s 4-Week Jump Start. It can be done in your home and is a comprehensive mindset, nutrition, and workout plan and includes progressions so as you get stronger, your workout will continue to challenge you.




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