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How to beat the exercise slump

After you’ve fallen off the exercise treadmill a long time ago, it gets harder to get and stay active. Sometimes, a spell of illness deprives us of the chance to stick to an exercise plan. Here’s how to hop on again.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 21, 2009 21:29 IST
Mignonne Dsouza

ExerciseWe all know that we need a balanced diet and a healthy ration of exercise to stay healthy. But the lure of junk food and the easy life makes us lazy about choosing healthier food options and pushing ourselves to work out. And after we’ve gone six or nine months (or longer) without strapping on our gym shoes, it gets harder to get and stay active. Sometimes, a spell of illness deprives us of the chance to stick to an exercise plan. So here’s how to beat the exercise slump.

Start slow
Experts always advise starting slow before beginning any exercise programme after a long break. Says Dr Altaf Patel, a retired professor of medicine at Jaslok Hospital, “Don’t start working out at the same level at which you had stopped if you have not stuck to an exercise regimen for a long while. Start at a lower level and gradually increase your tempo, duration and fitness levels.” Brunch columnist Dr Shikha Sharma explains, “Before beginning any exercise programme, listen to your body signals. Move ahead slowly and don’t push yourself too much.”

She adds, “Remember that the first three weeks of any regimen are the toughest – this is the breaking-in period. You will experience aches and feel the urge to quit. So be prepared to stay the course.”

Satyajit Chourasia, the owner of Barbarian gym in Mumbai, advises, “If you are restarting an exercise programme after an illness, discuss your situation with your trainer and make sure you get personal attention. Otherwise, start off with two weeks of stretching, yoga, and half an hour on the treadmill. Also, lift light to moderate weights for 25 minutes.” He also recommends the treadmill or the cycle, “since they are suitable for all ages.”

Prepare yourself
Before beginning any exercise programme, ensure you are well kitted out, says Dr Sharma. “Check to see if your exercise clothes and gym shoes still fit you,” she says. “Otherwise, buy yourself a new kit (or a pedometer). That will motivate you to stick to your regimen.” Dr Sharma also advises watching out for certain symptoms. “It is common to feel an itching or prickling sensation when you start exercising again after a break,” she explains. “This is because when we exercise, our blood circulation increases, opening up small networks of capillaries and veins. This leads to an itching or prickling sensation, which decreases with regular exercise. Some people also report headaches, hypoglycaemia and backaches after starting an exercise regimen.”

Reward yourself
According to Dr Sharma, once you have begun an exercise regime, it is important to reward yourself. “Have a day of rest every fifth day,” she advises. “This is because you need to give your body time to recover.” Chourasia advises: “In addition, do things you love – games, swimming or golf – related to fitness.”

Set real goals
Don’t worry if you fall off the wagon, says Dr Sharma. “Occasions like a wedding or travel could lead to a break in your programme. But don’t feel disheartened.” Dr Patel adds, “Also, stop exercising if you feel any pain or discomfort. Take your body signals seriously.”