It’s easy to lose your way on a wellness journey. But fall is a great time to regroup and return to the gym. Here is Trainer Mike Salamon’s best advice for getting back at it – without overdoing it.

Personal Trainer Mike photo“The first thing you need to do before you come back is analyze the reasons you were gone to begin with,” says Trainer Mike. “If you get a good understanding of why you fell out of a routine, it will make it easier to come back and avoid the same pitfalls. If the reason you left was lack of motivation, find something new that is going to motivate you again. Create a goal – a SMART goal.”

Mike’s SMART goal philosophy is an introspective approach focused on setting realistic, achievable goals that are behavior-based rather than tied to a particular result. For example, vowing to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year for most people isn’t realistic. But aiming to come to Club Julian three times a week and starting to feel healthier is. He says that once you recommit, start back slow and ramp up gradually. No 90-minute killer workout the first day back to prove you’re committed. “The most important thing you can do is listen to your body,” advises Mike. “If you are really tired or excessively sore after the first day, you know that you’ve overdone it. But there is no upside for anyone to come back too fast, even if your body can handle it.”

Trainer Mike believes that after an extended layoff the best thing to do is emphasize light to moderate cardio at a “conversational pace” in your initial session back at the Club. It is a great time to try something new, like a class or a different piece of equipment. He says that you can mix in strength training with lighter weights soon afterward, but most people will lose their cardio conditioning before significantly losing strength. “When you first come back, you never want to walk in cold and be struggling with heavy weights. Get your cardio back, and that will help you find your workout rhythm faster.”

Trainer Mike advises anyone who is re-entering a workout program to first meet with a trainer. “Talk to your trainer about the issues that kept you away, your goals, and what motivated you to return,” says Mike. He also believes that making a training appointment or scheduling your workouts with a partner or small group makes you more accountable. “Ask the trainer if there are any classes that might be good for you, or if they know anyone who would be a good workout buddy.”

Training Session with Mike photoMike says the same SMART goal approach you use for exercise carries over to diet. Instead of totally swearing off of dessert for six months, make small changes like substituting healthy foods for ice cream in the evening. For many individuals, however, long layoffs from regular exercise translate directly into significant weight gain. “The first thing to remember if this happens to you is don’t be too hard on yourself,” says Mike. “The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up because it serves no purpose. I am not a fan of the scale. I like to focus on the journey instead. If you are enjoying what you are doing and you feel better, that is a great result in itself. Slow and steady always wins the race.”