It’s not unusual for workout routines to get derailed in the winters with the festive season and the cold weather both acting as deterrents to any kind of discipline which involves physical activity. Cold months lead to breaks in diet and the need to stay in the house more than go out to the gym. There are some activities like running or playing a sport that could see an upswing, but the body could be more prone to injuries, and little aches and niggles in the joints are suddenly exposed. As it starts getting warmer though, it is time to get back into your fitness routine, but it is how you do so that could determine the rest of the year in terms of physical performance.
Set realistic expectations: If you were bench-pressing 100kg before your break, then it will be prudent to go only as far as 60-65kg, to begin with. While some people can go closer to peak levels, your body needs time to readjust to the stress you will put on muscles. “Our physical appearance, our perceived fitness, and our identity as an athlete or fit person are all part of who we are,” says Christina Frederick, a psychologist specialising in motivation for sport and exercise, in an interview to Healthline. She adds that there could be a gap in how fit we think we are, and how fit we actually are, and this could lead to athletes quickening their routine.
However, this means risking failure: especially if you get injured in your enthusiasm to push your body after a break. The solution would be to add exercises that aid your big lifts. In the case of a bench press, your body will thank you as much if you start with pushups, lighter dumbbell incline presses, and even banded exercises which kickstart the muscles back to life.
Work on mobility first: Yes, boring, but also necessary. “Before you do your first squat, do your hip mobility exercises. Do ankle mobility and glute activations. Make sure the knee is strong with some banded work,” says diet and fitness coach Priyanka Lahiri. Mobility and activation work are even more important when you are returning from a break. The muscles need to feel supple and ready before they can contract and stretch.
Choose a workout split and a weight carefully: The first few days can be spent with full-body workouts, home workouts like pilates and power yoga, and also add some running and sport. They key is to get ready for the coming weeks where you revert to your tried and tested methods.
“What split you choose depends on how many days you will be able to hit the gym over the next week. Make sure you add recovery as well on your return to a routine,” says Lahiri. But most importantly, she says, one needs to scale up activity, slowly. “If you don’t know how mobile and strong you are, start from the minimum possible weights and this could even be water bottles. Take time to revisit your form, and flexibility. People should just work the muscles—don’t think about the weights as much” she adds.
Schedule your workout times smartly: A lot of times, one workout skipped becomes two. And so on. Make sure you choose a time that is not dependent on other factors. For those with erratic office hours, get the workout out of the way in the morning. For those working remotely, find an hour that guarantees your availability. This is especially important when you’re making a comeback because consistency is the key.
Diet changes: Food habits will change as it get warmer. The cold weather brings with it nuts and fruits and hot samosas, but we usually choose the last option. Which is fine, but it has to eventually change. The lack of Vitamin D3 during the winter also means more lethargy. So get the best kind of sunshine, which in India, is usually February and March.
“If you’re adding enough protein in your diet and choices of carbs that take longer to metabolise, you won’t feel like eating for a while. On your return, start eating clean, control the calories, and make sure you don’t get hungry too fast. Carbs are good, but they metabolise faster. Fruits are great during this season. And do not forget to check your Vitamin D3 and B12 levels. This is a deficiency that can set you back on your road to recovery,” says Lahiri.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.