Bouncing Back After Taking Time Off From Exercise

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Blah. I had a terrible workout at CrossFit yesterday. I felt like my body wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, and it frustrated the crap out of me. I also tore up my hands again, which were almost healed from “Murph.” I know”¦ woe, is me.

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When I got home from CrossFit, I received a bunch of pug kisses, which instantly made me feel better. I mean, how could they not? Murphy is the best little Therapy Dog. Check out that tongue! Haha! Pug kisses are just one of his many therapy services.

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I know everyone takes time off from exercise at one point or another because of an injury, illness, pregnancy, or just plain lack of motivation. Obviously, it’s not the end of the world, but it still can be frustrating trying to get back into the groove when you know you’re not as fit as you used to be.

I was definitely struggling with some negative emotions yesterday, and I thought some of you might have experienced the same feelings, so here are a few things I’m doing to help myself bounce back.

  • Be positive. Getting down on myself isn’t going to help me improve, but a positive attitude will keep me motivated to get myself where I want to be. A positive attitude goes a long way!
  • Focus on what you CAN do. I did 100 pull-ups on Saturday. Hey, I’ve still got it! Focusing on what I can do is so much better than dwelling on what I can’t do.
  • Don’t quit. What kills you only makes you stronger? I had a rough workout yesterday and wanted to quit, but I didn’t let myself, and I’m so glad that I pushed through. It definitely made me a little bit stronger.
  • Appreciate the moment. This is going to sound super cheesy, but it’s the truth. Every CrossFit class I go to, I take a moment to soak it all in and appreciate that I’m healthy enough to be there. There’s been so many times that I haven’t been well enough to exercise, so taking a minute to appreciate my physical health puts things in perspective.
  • Set some new goals. Exercising again after taking time off is like starting with a clean slate. Instead of dwelling on the past, I’m looking forward and setting new goals to keep me motivated.

If you’re struggling to get back on track with your diet or exercise routine, here are some helpful posts I’ve written over the years:

Lunch

After CrossFit, I showered up, made some green juice, and then started to make lunch.

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I snacked on some grapes while I worked.

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On the menu: an open-face toasted sandwich with Garlic & Herb Laughing Cow cheese and cucumber slices with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on top. Yum!

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[I am an official brand advocate for Bel Brands in 2013. While I receive compensation for participation as a brand advocate, opinions are my own.]

Dinner

Last night’s dinner was a good one! We had chicken salad with red grapes and celery, homemade French fries, and Kale Salad, which I made using the super easy instruction from the chef at Canyon Ranch.

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Mal and I ate dinner in the living room while we watched Weeds. We discovered there’s a new season of the show on Netflix, so we had a mini marathon last night.

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I ate about 500 peanut M&Ms while we watched TV.

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Question of the Day

Have you ever taken a considerable amount of time off from exercise? What did you do to help yourself bounce back?

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109 Comments

  1. I’m sorry you are feeling dow…I’ve been there. I have suffered through running injuries numerous times…stress fractures that required me to walk with a crutch :(. For the first week or so I get really depressed about not being able to run (or walk well for that matter), but I start to focus on WHAT I CAN STILL DO. For a while it was the stationary bike, swimming, and weights but at least it was something. I also try and put everything in perspective…there are much worse things that not being able to run/exercise.

    Peanut M&Ms….I will eat an entire bag (like the big bags for parties). LOL

  2. I exercised my entire pregnancy; however, getting back to feeling like my “old self” intensity wise took about a month or two. But then, I feel like I had really kicked butt, because I was taking care of a newborn and killing it working out 🙂 That motivation caused me to start racing a ton again and now I am race addict!

    P.S. Here is a really sweet story about Xander, a blind pug that is a therapy dog! http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/05/28/186945844/little-dog-does-a-big-job-in-oregon (yes, I teared up a bit!)

  3. I’m actually struggling at the moment. Took 2.5 weeks off to pass some grueling finals and I’m finding it hard to be at my best again in classes such as body pump. I’ve also been trying to get my running distance back as stopped running in january but again, I’m finding it hard going and my IT band isn’t liking what I’m doing! Yesterday I wanted to yell at my body to “get a grip” but as you said, it’s all relative. I’m able to exercice and I should be thankful for that.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Tina! It’s only been about 3 weeks since I’ve “pushed-myself-hardcore-stuck-with-a-routine” worked out but it’s still bumming me out. I’m trying to remain positive and will hopefully get back to the gym in a day or two! I have been eating the same/healthy still, however. I actually MISS the gym; I really do. May has been crazy and I currently am sort of fighting a weird eye infection, that’s what I’ve been chalking May up to. I hope to be on that wagon more and remain on it come June! 🙂

  5. Yep, I know exactly how you feel. Normally (if I’m not injured or something like that) a completely different type of exercise is what I need to bounce back. if i havent done yoga in a while, i’ll take a couple classes and just give myself a new perspective with a change of scenery. feel better!

  6. Last April, a level 2/bordering level 3 (almost had surgery) ankle sprain put me in an AirCast for 12 weeks and the doctor told me not to exercise. I put on 17 pounds last year. I finally started exercising again this year and I’m down 11 pounds so far, but it’s been a lot of work! A Beachbody Challenge Group really helped me with motivation, as did signing up for a race (I’m on Week 7 of Couch to 5K).

  7. I completely understand how you are feeling! When I was pregnant, I took about 2 months off. I had no energy to do anything. Then I took another 2 months off because I had a rough miscarriage that required a lot of medical interventions. I had to focus on getting a healthy body and a healthy mind before I could focus on fitness and exercising. Starting back after a 4 month break felt impossible. It seemed like all the months I had put into training were out the window and I had to start from scratch. After only a month of being back in the gym, I hit 2 new PR’s on lifting and after 2 month back I am running my 1st 5K of the year on Saturday! Its amazing what our bodies can do!!

  8. Ahh, I think you’ve given your body a rest that it probably needed. Now, you’re going to kick some ars and come out stronger than before. Have you tried wearing gloves? Personally I feel that I can lift more/longer because the pain of ripping my hands up is gone, just a thought. Have a great day!!!

  9. I hear you…it’s hard to bounce back! I’ve come back after three kids, a broken wrist and now working on coming back after a bad high ankle sprain. I try to work out (as best I can) through these challenging times knowing that it’s just a matter of time until I’m back on track. When I broke my wrist I still was able to manage the treadmill and I power walked the morning my third was born 🙂 A little crazy? Maybe, but if you have the exercise bug…you understand!

    Hang in there!

  10. I get like that some days when I go to workout and my body is just NOT having it. I hate when that happens!

    A couple of years ago, I underwent emergency surgery and had to take about 4 weeks off of working out. It was so depressing! When I finally was able to start working out again, I definitely wasn’t at my usual level. Basically, I just started off slow (shorter workouts and lower intensity) and worked my way back up. It was definitely a slow process, but I feel like I bounced back fairly quickly.

  11. 100 pull-ups is something to be SOO proud of! My goal is to do ONE! I’ve never been able to do one and I’m pretty fit/athletic. But I haven’t given up and I’m still trying. Any advice/tips??

  12. It is always hard for me to bounce back after taking time off from exercise too. But you will be back to normal fast! No worries! 🙂

  13. Hey Tina- random question. Do you know of any sources to find estimated calories counts for fresh homemade juice? I recently bough a juicer and have been juicin like crazy but just kind of curious how many calories I am taking in. One great recipe I think you will love (because I know you love sweet potatoes) is 4 oranges, 2 sweet potatoes, 6-8 carrots and 1/2 lemon! I have no idea how many calories this has per serving (makes 2 servings) but would love to know if you have any websites you rely on for calorie estimates.

    Thanks!

    1. I’m not sure. Sorry. Maybe caloriecount.com or one of those sites where you can calculate the calories would help?

      Thanks for the sweet potato juice recipe. I bet I would love it! 🙂

    2. @Renee C.: I bet some of the good juicing cookbooks have calorie counts in them! I know it’s something cookbook authors and publishers waver on including all the time, but I’m sure at least one has counts that you could use as reference. I’ve been searching for a great juicing recipe book (or app, now that I’m addicted to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian App!) for a while, but haven’t found the perfect one yet, so if you find it, do share!

  14. I worked out through my pregnancy last year (Body Pump and prenatal yoga) but I wasn’t able to run after the 4 month mark. I was so anxious to get back to it, I tried going for a job 2 weeks after having my daughter! It took about 6 weeks after that before I went on a run that actually felt “good” – every run before that meant lungs burning, body aching, wondering how I ever loved the sport. It takes a lot of persistence to come back from time off. It’s not fair that it takes so much time and work to build up fitness, but it seems to vanish so quickly when you’re out of commission!

  15. i’ve never really taken time off- which always backfires on me! after my past two marathons i ran too much, too soon, and got injured. lesson learned! this past marathon i took about a week off which i think helped me recover properly.

  16. I took some time off after having my baby boy but he was my motivation to get back into exercise as well and I’m so glad I did. I really believe that my body needed that rest, not only because of my pregnancy, but I hadn’t had a substantial rest from exercise for about 5 years and it was much needed!

  17. A few months ago I had mono, and I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks, much less exercise. It was super frustrating when I got back-I was so weak and I couldn’t run a few hundred yards without wanting to die. And everything I did made me crazy sore. However, now I’ve gained my fitness back. To stay positive, I focused not on what I could do, but whether I got a good workout in. It simply took less for a good workout!

  18. I know it’s tough bouncing back but you have a lot to be proud of! You work really hard at Crossfit, running, and all other aspects of your life/health. Don’t worry, your wounds will heal (literally and figuratively :))

    Oh and I have to tell you that I made your sweet & salty granola last night. are you joking? HEAVEN. so so delish. thanks!

  19. Ahh I love puppy kisses! They make me so happy. Except when puppy insists on biting my nose, then it becomes a tad inconvenient.

    Before I ran my half-marathon, I only worked out on one day during the 2.5 weeks leading up to it. That wasn’t intentional tapering or anything on my part; I just wasn’t feeling it. For me, the best solution was just to give myself some time to rest and relax so that when I did exercise again, I wouldn’t be burnt out.

  20. I was going to CF several times a week, then some vacations and injuries got in the way. I have only been a couple times this month and am feeling really anxious about not being able to keep up with others or having to really scale the workouts. In general I am in kind of a workout rut, even though CF does provide a great variety, I feel like I must do other things to keep my interest- maybe yoga or going for a run on days I have no desire for a CF workout. I wish thinking about it didn’t cause so much anxiety!

  21. Noooooooooooooo!!! Why did you have to mention the new season of weeds on netflix? now I will be “stuck” watching it and not sleep the rest of the week!

  22. I’ve never chosen to take time off, but I have gotten really sick before. I had mono in college, and exercising with this is very dangerous (plus you’re exhausted). To get back at it, I started slowly with walks, working my way up to short runs. And then a few months into that, I headed back to the gym. I just kept telling myself my body needed the recovery time!

  23. I am taking time off from exercise right now! I thought I threw my back out last week but as it turns out, my herniated disc got inflamed. All alst week I could not walk upright and of course, no exercise. I am doing some things now but definitely not the intensity I want to! Hang in there!

  24. If I take time off, it’s usually because I get bored with what I am doing. I was on a running plan for a while but it got too difficult (I am NOT a runner) so I switched to circuit workouts for a while.
    If you are looking for a new thing to do, try pole dancing! It’s a killer workout and SO MUCH FUN!

  25. Thanks Tina. It’s’ really good to hear about some of the “bad” time as well as the good… really motivating. Oh and your Crossfit workouts would kill me so try not to worry too much 🙂

  26. Totally relatable post. It sucks when your mind says “Go, bitch” and your body says “No, bitch”. The bad workouts help me appreciate the good ones.

  27. I had ankle surgery about 2 years ago now. I was on crutches for 5 weeks, then in a walking boot for 4.5 weeks, and then was only allowed to walk for the next 2 months (1 month with a brace on). After that I was allowed to jog, mixed with walking, and only on a treadmill. At 6 months post-op, I was finally given 100% clearance to do everything (yay finally being allowed to jump!).

    I totally agree on being grateful for what you can do. And taking note of small incremental improvements definitely helps. Sometimes the big picture gets so overwhelming that focusing on something you accomplished or improved on in each workout is helpful.

    Also just pushing through the crappy workouts was key for me. When I was getting back into everything, every workout felt kind of sh*tty. Just gotta keep grinding it out. Eventually it got better.

    1. Totally agree about pushing through the tough workouts. I wanted to quit yesterday because I was so frustrated, but didn’t let myself and now I’m really glad that I finished it.

  28. Peanut M&Ms are the BEST kind! And the hardest to stop eating once you’ve started. I could seriously finish off an entire 2-lb bag of them!…. And I might have in some point during my college career. But shhh, don’t tell anyone 🙂

  29. I exercised throughout my entire pregnancy. In fact my last crossfit workout before the baby came was on my due date. Then I ended up having to have a c-section and it was 6 weeks before I could do anything. Getting back to crossfit was slow having 9 months of not being able to go as hard and heavy as normal followed by six weeks of not doing anything physical at all. My son will be 8 months old and I finally feel like I’m back to where I was before I got pregnant.

  30. That cucumber sandwich sounds amazing! I been looking for easy lunches to bring to work…

    Last week Monday- Friday I totally took off from running for a couple reasons I was working my part time job Monday and Wednesday night and then the Bruins were on other nights! I am a die-heart bruins fan and these playoffs are making it tough because I normally run at night…Anyway I also have runners knee so it was excuse that made me feel like it was acceptable because its been bothering me a lot lately. During the weekend I got back on the horse and its tough. I wear the Jawbone Up bracelet and last night I was totally going to throw in the towel of working out. BUT I saw I had only moved 4,000 steps that day (when your suppose to have 10,000) and that was my motivation to get back at it! I find tracking your steps really helps when you feel unmotivated especially after a break.

  31. Great advice for coming back from an exercise break! It’s a hard thing to do but I think it’s also important to remember to ease back into it. You can’t start where you were before and expect to come back at the same intensity and with the same results, especially if you stopped because you were injured. That’s usually my downfall and requires me to take MORE time before I learn my lesson.

  32. I’m in the same boat you are. I hurt my back being completely dumb and catching a snatch wrong (lesson learned) and was out for a week and a half then had a family emergency where I went out of the country for 2 weeks. So after a month of nothing, I worked out yesterday for the first time (OHS, deadlifts, row, overhead press, front squats).

    The hard thing for me now is how incredibly sore I am today. It makes it really hard to get out of bed and work out. When you consistently exercise, you don’t get THAT sore. So now I’m just trying to push through. Did that happen to you?

    The other thing that’s really hard about getting back to it is getting into the habit of waking up early to get the gym. Waking up at 5:15am yesterday was tough.

  33. It’s been 4+ years now – no exercise.
    Some people are chronically injured or sick….and miss their former athletic self every single day.

    Put. It. In. Perspective. Please.

  34. Great timing with this post! I didn’t have a significant amount of time off but being sick for a couple of weeks and coming back has been hard! Mentally and physically. I’m just trying to remember that living a fit and healthy life is for life – it’s a marathon not a sprint and I will get it back. 🙂

  35. When I am trying to get back in the mood to exercise and revive my motivation, I generally start looking at fitness magazines and sites I have neglected. I look at other women that are in shape and I find images that I want to one day look like. Depending on how much of a funk I am in, I may buy a new sports bra, pair of shoes, shorts, ect to get myself motivated because I always love wearing new clothes immediately. I think think about how great I will feel post workout and then I just do it. I know it sounds easier than it is but it is like all procrastination. At some point you just have to stand up and do it or you never will because not exercising will become your habit instead of exercising.

  36. I haven’t taken time off from exercising but I have been so focused on triathlon training that I haven’t been to CrossFit in a few weeks. I need to get my butt to my box!

  37. I was just off for two weeks b/c I tweaked my back in some weird way and every time I worked out I wouldn’t be able to move for an entire day. After two weeks off I am easing back into it and icing and stretching really well after work outs/runs and I seem to be okay. It’s hard taking time off and I think it’s hard when you go back and you need to take it easy or if you’ve lost some of your fitness.

  38. this has definitely happened to me. i had a shoulder injury for about 4 months and i had to totally rest it. no bench press, no push ups, no overhead press, no dips. it was mentally tough on me, because those are some of my favorites! what worked for me was exactly what you said – focusing on what i could do. in this case, what i could do was deadlift, lunge, squat, run, etc. it really helped to stay positive, even though there were lots of days when it was hard. now, i’m feeling better and i’m slowly adding those things back in, but damn my strength has weakened! haha.

  39. Every winter I take time off from running – I hate treadmills and it is much too cold to run in the winter in Minnesota. I feel like it is a struggle for me every spring but with some dedication, positive attitude and an understanding that I am going to have to work my way back up again, I stay motivated!

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