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Call it a Comeback: How to Get Back in the Gym After Time Off

By October 10, 2019 No Comments

Comeback stories make the most inspirational, memorable, stories. And the truth is that most great success stories have painful, sometimes even tragic failure, prior to being the awesome stories of triumph that inspire the masses.

Maybe you have heard that Micheal Jordan started his career in high school as a 5’10’ freshman who was cut from the team. Bill Gates’s first attempt in the technology business never even got off the ground. Walt Disney went bankrupt and had very few people believing in his vision. The list goes on and the obvious common thread is that the best in the world were at the bottom facing a decision to even continue before they ever got to the top.

Well, what does that have to do with you? Glad you asked because there is a good chance that you have found yourself at some point experiencing setbacks or straight up halting stops on your fitness journey. But you are in good company because a comeback is always preceded by a setback.

We have all been there. The fitness journey is going well. ‘I got my first double unders, my run times are improving, I am going down a band on my pull-ups, my deadlift went up 3 times this month! Burpees…well burpees still suck but woohoo anyways, I am getting into the best shape of my life!’ Then life takes a turn. Your schedule changes, you go on vacation, you get sick, the kids’ schedule takes over life, and before you know it you haven’t been to class in weeks. The weeks turn into months, and then you get those daunting thoughts;

“I am going to have to start all over again.” “I am going to be soooo sore!”
“I want to get back, but I am scared.”
“I am embarrassed to show up again.”

Obviously, mindset plays a big part in the equation. But even if the excuses are only half true they can kill the hero of the story from continuing on the triumphant path to fitness victory! The hero of your fitness story is you! Here is some ammunition to fight through those setbacks and turn them into comebacks.

Refocusing

Like most times we get turned around in our thinking, we may be focusing on the wrong thing. Focus determines how we feel about something. How we feel about it determines what actions we take. What actions I take to determine what results/reality I get. Those results reinforce the process, and momentum creates the epic comeback story after the ball gets rolling.

That is just a universal law.  So if I focus on comparing my past self to my current self, specifically how much fitter I used to be, or how sore I might be, I could get discouraged. It may lead to thoughts like, ‘Well I can’t do it anymore so I am not going to bother.” No action is taken and of course, I get zero results.

What to Focus On

Ask yourself this simple question: What would a great comeback story look like? What does my Rocky 4 montage look like? Ok, now that you are thinking about punching sides of beef and running through hip-deep snowdrifts with a 50lb log on your back, I have good news and bad news. There are no slaughterhouses and very little punching. But good news, we do have barbells, music, and if you want the occasional dance-off, in your comeback montage.

It is ok to start from where you are, to get to where you want to be. Doing nothing is not an option. Yes, the good news is that you have more choices than, all, or nothing.

Ease in. Don’t worry, it still counts.

Setting the ego aside is not easy but it is the only way to get what you want. The truth is that for the first 2-4 months scaling by 50% is a great idea and way more effective than doing nothing or going all in as if there were no need to scale.
This is great for a few reasons:

  1. You can focus on mechanics. There is no point in going heavy with rusty form, so it is the most effective approach for the first month to practice perfect movement with lighter weight as you build back in. You will appreciate the groundwork down the line.
  2. You will be less sore. You will still be sore. But good sore. The ‘laugh about surprise difficulties getting up and downstairs, and on and off toilets’ kinda soreness. The kind that goes away after a couple of days. Going too hot out of the gate can leave you way too sore. Too much is too much. But finding the sweet spot with the help of a coach that knows where you are at, will make it way better.
  1. It is still fun! All the laughs with friends, the sense of accomplishment, and the sweat and endorphins are still just as great when you are forging the comeback trail as they are when you are riding high on accomplishment. At the end of the day, it’s not the numbers that you put up that matter most. They are just a bonus along the way.
  2. Everyone is happy you are there! I promise every coach, and I believe every athlete, are rooting for each other. Everyone wants to see you succeed! Being surrounded by a supportive staff and community is vital. If thoughts that don’t line up with that truth keep dogging you, prove them wrong, outlast them and replace them with the facts when you experience the nature of the Pendulum community live and in person.
  3. You are going to learn a lot. A great example of this is on percentage days. The old 1 rm isn’t much help but that’s no problem. Now you can simply take the percentage and apply the level of effort to the workout. If I am supposed to use 90% I go with what feels like a 9 out of 10. If I am looking for 50% I find out what 50% feels like. I don’t need to get hung up on not having all my numbers. Just play, learn, and get better.
  4. Everything you learned before is still really valuable, so use it! You are not starting from square one. You have a knowledge of the movements and vocabulary of the program that will come in really handy. Put them to use!

Like Jordan, Gates, Disney and countless others, you will be glad you didn’t let the setbacks hold you back. A few months from now you will be glad you started.

You have a desire to be fit. You know you feel great when you workout consistently and all sorts of positive things happen. Swole is the goal, fit is legit! Just take it in tiny pieces. Show up, work with your coach and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You took action toward what you really want! If you are refocusing, restarting, and refreshing your program, you are making progress. Now set some goals, get in the gym, and crush them!