People, even the most dedicated ones, fall off the exercise wagon regularly. Work, travel, illness and other commitments could all conspire to keep you from exercising for prolonged periods of time. While gaining fitness, strength and endurance requires a lot of time, de-training is much quicker. It takes about three weeks of not working out to start losing your gains. If the break stretches beyond four weeks, the losses become quicker. However, this shouldn’t bother you much.
If you are among those for whom exercise is a part of life, or are dedicated and motivated to return to it, regaining half decent levels of fitness would take only about three to four weeks at the most, say trainers and coaches. Also, short breaks from exercise and training is always a good idea as too much of a good thing can also be bad. Even professional athletes — the best and fittest among us — take planned breaks and let their minds and bodies recover.
If you are among those returning from a break from strength training or running, turning to full body and high intensity workouts is the quickest way to regain your fitness. Yes, these five exercises will leave you sore, but as they say pain is but weakness leaving the body.
This is among the toughest and the best full body exercise complex out there. The bear complex is a combination of multiple basic weight lifting movements performed in a single flow. You start with a deadlift, progress to a hang clean, followed by front squat, push-press, back squat and end with a behind-the-neck press. Performing this combination seven times makes up one count of the bear complex. Bear complex is performed with a barbell and even the most experienced people use lighter weights because not only does it work your muscles, it also sends your heart rate climbing very quickly. The beauty of the bear complex is that it recruits almost all the major muscle groups in your body, and is the quickest way to prepare yourself for tougher workouts that you are likely to turn to as you regain your strength and conditioning. This is also a great workout for those days when you find yourself slightly short on time.
Suggested workout: Try performing five bear complexes and note the time taken and weight used. As you improve, your time will drop and the weights used will increase as would your strength and fitness levels. Take breaks after finishing each block of seven.
For runners returning to training after a long gap, running itself is not a problem as they tend to have muscle memory in their legs to perform the movement itself. The biggest challenge is getting the heart familiar with those levels of work once again. Also, speed doesn’t come back immediately. Since speed and heart are the most de-trained areas, the best way to start is by addressing these two. Fartlek, another HIIT exercise, is excellent for this. Fartlek is a Swedish concept that alternates running fast with jogging. The most popular Fartlek routine is running at a high speed for a minute followed by a minute of jogging or slow running. This workout helps you with speed and heart rate and is among the quickest way to regain your cardio fitness levels as well as some speed.
Suggested workout: After a 10-minute warm-up, do 15 sets of 1-minute fast run, 1-minute slow run or jog. Cool down with a walk.
Another complex weight training movement, devil press is also a full-body workout that combines multiple movements to create one challenging and effective exercise. You will require dumbbells for this one. Devil press starts with a burpee followed by a double dumbbell snatch. This complex exercise also recruits all the large muscle groups (some muscles such as chest, lower back and shoulders more than others) and also gets the heart rate up. It is an excellent way to get yourself used to the rigours of exercise after a break.
Suggested workout: Perform 50 devil presses with a moderately challenging weight.
Who doesn’t desire the swimmer’s perfectly V-shaped body with broad shoulders and lean muscles? There’s a reason swimmer’s body is so popular among the fitness world. It’s because swimming makes you strong and no matter what stroke you use, it is a full body workout that also ensures your core is always activated. Swimming is a great, low impact workout for anyone looking to get back into exercise but doesn’t want to start with pounding the streets or lifting heavy right away. Swimming can help you ease back into your fitness routine and it also provides a welcome change from all the sweat and dust that come with running or strength training. It also doesn’t leave you as sore as strength training or running.
Suggested workout: 1,000m non-stop of a stroke of your choice. Focus on completing the distance before you start concentrating on speed.
The list fittingly wraps up with a strength training complex. Another one that requires dumbbells and combines multiple basic movements to form a very effective exercise that is a workout in itself. For man makers, you start with a push-up on dumbbells, perform a renegade row on each side, do a burpee, followed by a double dumbbell clean and finish with a thruster. Repeat. Since the complex recruits all large muscle groups and the focus is on form and speed, it will set you on a path for great gains quickly and effectively.
Suggested workout: 30 man makers with a moderately challenging weight.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.