You may remember a time when you were in pretty good shape. You did all the right things. You exercised a few times a week. You ate right. You got enough rest. You felt great. But then life got in the way. Maybe work got overwhelming. Maybe you got sick or injured. Maybe you had your first child. Maybe everything happened all at once, squeezing exercise out of the picture.

Regardless, now that things have settled down a bit, you suddenly find yourself pining over the days when you felt good about your health. You want to build the habit of getting regular exercise again, but it’s been so long. How do you begin? Below are four important tips for getting back into the swing of things without overdoing it or making it more difficult than it needs to be.


1. Long Warm-ups and Cooldowns

It’s easy to just get into the heart of a workout by rushing through the warm-up, and it’s just as easy to skip the five minutes it takes to cool down once you’re done. However, warming up and cooling down is essential for injury prevention and to reduce the amount of soreness you will feel the next day, especially when you’re just starting up exercising again. So take that extra few minutes to gradually get your heart rate up and to stretch your muscles out. Your body will thank you the next day.

2. Ease Your Way Back In

We all have fitness standards, whether it’s how many minutes we used to exercise each week or how intensely we would ideally like to work out. We tend to want to start off strong and meet our standards right away. This, however, can lead to burnouts and a loss of the desire to exercise. So start at a comfortable pace, even if it means exercising only once a week. Start with short medium-intensity workouts, and increase the duration and intensity as your body adjusts to the new level of activity.

3. Challenge a Friend

It’s easy to say that we’re going to exercise, but it’s even easier to back out at the last minute. So find a friend who’s willing to go for runs, take classes, or go to the gym with you. That way you can keep each other motivated. On days when you really feel like staying at home, you’re much less likely to back out because you don’t want to leave your friend hanging.

4. Remember the Benefits

We all know the discomfort of exercising and pushing ourselves to get fit after taking a long break from working out, but it’s easy to forget the benefits that come along with regular exercise. Better sleep, stronger muscles, higher metabolism, and a lower risk of sickness and disease are just a few of these benefits. Try to remember how you felt when you were at your highest fitness level and think about how much you would like to feel like that again. This might just be all the motivation you need to start working out again and keeping at it.

Building a habit of regular workouts is easier when you keep it fun, safe, and goal-oriented. Good luck!