At some point we all need to take time away from the gym for one reason or another.
Maybe it’s vacation time or you’re going out of town for work. Maybe you’re sick or something unexpected comes up.
Whatever the reason, one thing seems to be fairly universal: getting back in the saddle can be a daunting task.
I’m used to giving little pep talks to gym members on a regular basis. It’s part of my job as a coach and I’m happy to do it.
There is no occasion that more frequently results in such conversations than when people return to the gym after taking time off. Some people just want to punish themselves mentally!
I’ve heard members talk about how weak they feel coming back, and tell me that they feel like they’ve lost everything. As if months or even years of hard work are completely gone after two weeks in Mexico!
They become discouraged and frustrated. I’d even go so far in some cases to say embarassed and ashamed. As a result, getting motivated to come to class gets harder and harder, while finding excuses to avoid the gym seem to easier.
This is an example of all-or-nothing thinking that is rooted in fear of failure.
We are capable of doing all sorts of things to “protect” ourselves from failure, including inventing failure where it doesn’t exist.
In other words, if you’re looking for failure, you’re going to find it. If you tell yourself you’ve lost progress and that you feel weak, you’re going to notice every situation where you’re lifting a few pounds lighter than you once did.
I’ve seen people come back after time away and set themselves up for failure right from the start.
When it comes time to sensibly set realistic expectations for workouts, they stubbornly cling to what they think they “should” be able to do, rather than gradually easing themselves back in.
When the workout inevitably destroys them, or they fail and have to reduce weight, it proves to them that what they feared is true – they’ve backtracked.
So how do you avoid this psychological trap? Like many things, it all comes down to how you approach the situation.
I like to see it as another opportunity to remind yourself why you’re actually coming to the gym. Is it to do something good for yourself? Or is it to ust get a PR?
PR’s are exciting and making progress toward your goals is important but it doesn’t need to be a “gaining or losing” race.
If you’re here because it feels good to be doing something healthy and positive for yourself, taking a little time off is not earth-shattering.
When you come back you can expect things may feel harder than you remember. It’s all part of a bigger cycle, and progress comes back around again – probably much sooner than you expected it to!
I’ve witnessed people bounce back from long periods of time away by approaching their return from this angle. With a few modifications to the “RX” for a few weeks, you leave each class feeling successful and encouraged rather than defeated.
So the next time you find yourself coming back after a break, consider that there is a benefit to easing yourself back in not only physically, but mentally as well. It’s an important part of setting yourself up for success and getting back into a routine.
As always, feel free to contact me if you find yourself struggling with the transition and in need of some encouragement or fresh perspective.