It’s a day we all dread. You’ve let yourself get sucked into excuses. You’re too busy. It’s too early. A million excuses and then the day comes when you realize you have to get back at it. No more excuses. You push through those doors and take a deep breath. Unfamiliar faces greet you. Cold metal equipment seems unwelcoming and brutal just on site. You’ve got to do it. You made it this far. You step up to that treadmill. A few minutes into it you realize how bad you suck. It would be too embarrassing to quit now so you sweat and puff and push yourself. When you are done just want to get out of there.
Not everyone feels this way that first day back at the gym after a long hiatus but it is typical for many. There’s really no way around it other than a) don’t quit in the first place and b) suffer through it until it gets better. Here’s some advice for that first day.
1) Wear comfortable clothing
Squeezing into that compression gear that looked so great when you were there every day probably isn’t the thing to do. Suck it up and wear the baggy sweat pants with a plain tee shirt. You won’t be so self conscious and you’ll remember you are there to work hard not impress people. Don’t buy new shoes. Wear your old ones for a couple of weeks until you are back on track. There’s nothing worse than suffering through a workout and developing blisters in the same day.
2) Go Alone
It’s nice that your buddy wants to go with you but seriously the danger of that is you may both talk each other out of working hard. Misery loves company and there have been many times that the good intention of consoling each other turns into excuses for quitting early. Go alone for the first few weeks and just concentrate on working hard, pushing through, and sucking it up. You don’t need any distractions. If you go alone you have a better chance of succeeding.
3) Stay Focused
Walk through the door. Sign in. Put your head phones on. Step up to the cardio equipment. Do the work. Don’t talk to other people. Put the cell phone away. Don’t fidget with your clothing or gear. Just decide to get it done. It’s pretty simple.
4) Don’t compare yourself to others
There’s a huge temptation to look around the gym and compare yourself to others. Human nature makes us check out the competition. We are most likely to pick the most fit person in the room to compare ourselves to. If you do this the first day you are setting yourself up for failure. Your mind will play tricks on you and tell you that you’ll never make it. Why try? Remember that the only competition should be yourself for the moment. You can get competitive later on. Right now you are here to do a job and that is to lay the foundation for better health. You don’t need to be pretty. You don’t need to have the best body. At the end of the day you just want to be able to say that you accomplished your goals and you didn’t quit.
5) Make a plan before you go
Chances are you have a pretty good idea of how back you are going to suck the first day back at the gym. You know that you aren’t your ideal weight, body mass, or muscle mass. You know that you are going to get winded. Before you go, write down a reasonable goal to work towards. 30 minutes on the treadmill, an upper body workout and x amount of sit-ups is pretty reasonable for anyone. From this you can judge what your future goals should be. Always have a workout plan before you go to the gym and keep a workout log so that you can look back and see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. It’s also helpful if you get off track to use the log to estimate your goals. Of course if you use a log and a goal plan on a regular basis you probably are less likely to be in the situation of that sucky first day back at the gym.
6) Get enough sleep the night before
We advocate early morning workouts because you are less likely to have an excuse not to skip a workout if you get it done first thing in the morning. Even if you don’t buy into this theory or you have to work out at a later time it is still important to get enough sleep. This is true for any training situation. A big part of getting fit is the valuable recovery time. If you go full tilt and don’t get enough rest your chances of burning out fast and losing muscle are increased. Turn out the lights.
7) Know that you can only go up from here
When you are on that elliptical every muscle is aching, and you can’t catch your breath, know that it can only get better from here. You have to do the work. I repeat. YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK. There’s no magic pill or secret to getting back to fit. You are either constantly moving forward or sliding back but there is no just maintaining without any effort. Sorry folks that’s just for the story books. You put in your time every day or every other day and it becomes a habit. Next thing you know you feel better and you’ve made progress. There are no shortcuts.
8) Just suck it up
Seriously there is no one that is really going to hold your hand through this first day or any day. Even if you hire a trainer, a good trainer, they can’t make you feel better. You’ve done this to yourself. There’s no way to sugarcoat that . Now you have to pay the price. The longer you’ve been away, the higher the price and the longer it will take to get back on track.. Suck it up. How bad do you want this? How much are you worth? Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself. Just do the work.
There are all kinds of obstacles in life. Most of them we build ourselves. You have to have a Marine mentality to be able to deal with adversity. Adapt or die. You have a choice. You can either accept the consequences of your actions and take steps asap to correct your mistakes or you can blame everyone and everything else, make excuses, and lay down and give up. Giving up creates a lot of unnecessary misery. You aren’t always going to be comfortable but you can sacrifice from the start and have something to show for it or you can still be uncomfortable and have little accomplished. Anything that is worth having take effort. The things that come easy slip away and have much less meaning. Which do you choose?