Start slow: Calgary’s Ali Ghani on 5 rules to follow when easing back into exercise
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If you’re like many people, you might have let this summer go by without participating in your favorite physical activities. Or maybe you did, but not to a satisfying extent. After all, in the wake of the COVID-19, many gyms and other fitness facilities closed for a time, and many swimming pools never opened.
If you’re dependent on weights, exercise machines, ellipticals, and other gym amenities for keeping yourself healthy and toned, you’ve likely experienced a gap in your training schedule. And as many facilities gingerly begin to reopen, you can’t wait to get back and start stretching your legs, pumping iron, and taking part in other fitness activities.
Not so fast, advises Ali Ghani. The Calgary business leader and fitness enthusiast love to work up a good sweat at the gym. But he’s talking good sense when he suggests starting up again slowly rather than plunging headfirst into an aggressive workout.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is how important it is to ease yourself back into your fitness regimen,” he says. “It’s easy to inadvertently hurt yourself when you start up again too quickly by lifting heavier weights than you should or overdoing it on the stair climber or treadmill. The last thing you want to do is go from cold to hot.”
Based on his own experience, Ali Ghani offers the following 5 tips for getting back into the exercise groove.
Start with one or two workouts a week:
If you’ve been away from your routine for several weeks or a few months, it’s a good idea to do what you believe you can comfortably do when you return to exercise. It might be that exercising one or two times a week, in the beginning, is manageable for you. Sure, you used to hit the gym several times a week, but if you’ve been inactive you run the risk of hurting yourself if you do too much too soon. Add a little more to your routine each week, and in a matter of just a few weeks, you’ll hopefully be back where you were before. Also, don’t forget to give your body ample opportunity to rest and heal.
Do a balanced workout:
“Many doctors will tell you,” says Ali Ghani, “that an effective exercise plan ideally includes three different types of components. These are cardiovascular endurance, resistance training, and flexibility.” When you do a balanced workout, you’re helping your body in three different ways. Maybe you’ve been walking or running outdoors during the summer, which is great for cardio, but resistance training is equally important, especially as you get older and your muscle tone is reduced. And flexibility is always a good thing to keep yourself limber.
Be sure to take some time to warm up and cool down:
Rather than shock your system by jumping right into exercise, take a few minutes to warm up first, then give yourself a cool-down period afterward. Warming up gets your body ready for the exercises you’ll be doing and cooling down gives your heart rate to ease back to a normal resting rate. “If you haven’t worked out in some time,” says Ghani, “it’s likely that you’re going to experience some soreness after you start up again. This is normal and expected, and your body will get used to increase inactivity. But you always want to start and finish smartly.”
Watch for any warning signs from your body:
If you try to press a weight that’s too heavy, for example, and it’s not going up as easily as it used to, it means that your body isn’t ready to attack that amount of weight yet. Take a plate or two off the bar or pick up a lighter set of dumbbells. You’ll get back to your former weight eventually, but the one thing you don’t want at this stage is a rotator cuff strain or other injuries from being too eager. “Sure it’s frustrating to not work out like Superman or Wonder Woman right away, but even more frustrating to hurt yourself and have to avoid the gym for a time because you’re waiting for your body to heal,” says Ghani.
Drink lots of water. No matter what your exercise regimen is, it’s always smart to keep your body hydrated. Carry a bottle with you as you do your workout and drink as needed. You don’t need fancy, expensive water, either. Plain tap water is often just fine. The important thing is that you keep the water flowing in.