Fall Off the Exercise Wagon? 7 tips for getting back on track

Rebecca Hayden

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to exercise more consistently if there weren’t so many other things going on? If only we didn’t have to deal with nagging things like having a job and taking care of responsibilities. However, life is messy and sometimes that spills over into even the most carefully planned workout routine.

Even the most devoted exercisers sometimes have to abandon their routines. Many of us deal by thinking, “As soon as [this annoying situation] is over, I’ll get right back to exercise!” And then you find out that once that annoying situation is over, there’s a brand new one just waiting in the wings.

So, what do you do when you’ve gotten so far away from the old fitness routine you that you don’t even know where to begin? How do you get over the guilt and fear and just get moving again? The good news is, it’s easier than you think.

1. Admit where you went wrong

Take some time to think about what threw you off track and how you might have prevented it, if possible.

2. Stop kicking yourself

Guilt, when taken too far, can sometimes keep you from getting back to your healthy habits. (“I obviously can’t stick with a program, so why bother?”) Give yourself a time limit (say 20 minutes) for feeling guilty. When the time’s up, put it aside and move on.

3. Figure out your weak areas

Look back at common situations that tend to throw you off and notice any patterns. Do you ditch your workouts every time you leave town or have to work late a few nights in a row? Becoming aware of your weak areas and planning for them can help you stay on track.

4. Ease into it

Getting back to your routine doesn’t necessarily mean jumping right back into the same program you were following before. The biggest mistake many of us make when getting back to exercise is overdoing it, or what I call the “guilt response.” When we get off track, our first response is often to jump back in and do twice as much work to make up for what we have missed. This can lead to injury or make you dread your workout and want to quit again altogether.

5. Make it fun

You’ll have more success if you enjoy what you’re doing. Try new activities or enlist a friend. If you have kids, get them involved, too. Get silly together, play in the backyard, create games, or try fun outdoor activities.

6. Listen to your body

One frustration in returning to exercise is facing the loss of strength and endurance. Many of us try to push too hard, wanting to be where we were rather than starting out where we are. But whatever your mind wants, your body has its own agenda, and it’s important to act on your body’s cues to back off. This is especially true when coming back from an illness. If you had a nasty cold or flu, your body expended a lot of energy in fighting it and may be weaker than you think.

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Rebecca Hayden  author

Rebecca Hayden, community engagement and wellness coordinator, has been with Mayo Clinic Health System for seven years. She teaches a variety of classes including “Stepping On” Falls Prevention, Strong Bones, fitness classes, and babysitter training. She also hosts many youth and family wellness ...

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