Former athlete: starting over
Once upon a time I was an athlete. A lot of things in life changed and my priorities got rearranged. Then I had a baby. Then another baby. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve actually been an athlete, but whenever I go back to training, I still treat myself like one. It’s a recipe for disaster which often leads to giving up. This is not a good way to go about it because….well…my body is different than it was 11+ years ago. Duh. Right? I can’t start at 100% and expect to be able to do the same things I could years ago. I can’t have the mentality of “push harder. do more. go the extra mile.” Holding your former athlete but now normal person self to old standards is like I said, not a good recipe. Starting over is hard, but it can be done.
How many people have experienced something like this? Maybe you were an athlete who suffered a great injury and had to start from square one. Maybe you’re like me- had babies and didn’t continue at a rigorous pace during pregnancy and then felt like you had to start over and didn’t know how.
I used to to feel like a qualified person when it came to the subject of sports and physical fitness. But the past several years, I have felt like a novice and embarrassed about it and unsure of my new place in this fitness world. Wait, I’m normal? Wait, I can’t jump as high as I used to? Wait, I can’t run without stopping? Wait, where did my muscle mass go? Whose body shape is that?
It’s humbling to have to start over. But it can be done. Multiple times if necessary. What I have learned is that you can’t hold yourself to the same standard you used to. You have to give yourself grace and listen to your body. You might actually have to ignore that voice in your head that tells you to push farther which leads to injury if your body isn’t ready to.
That’s ok. Starting over isn’t easy. It’s embarrassing and humbling and hurts. But if I can do it, so can you! I’m still building back my inner athlete and I’m still a while away from it. I’ve found a pretty successful way to approach fitness while starting over. Here’s what I did/do….
1. Choose to move. It starts with making the choice.
2. Allow yourself a lot of grace. This will take time. Changes don’t happen overnight. You will have a different threshold than you used to.
3. Be positive and be nice to yourself. Don’t compare yourself with your former self or with others. Focus on the positive changes you are making. Don’t let the negative define you.
4. Choose the more active choices. AKA take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk the short distance instead of driving.
5. Get excited about eating healthy meals and normal-ish portions. Changing up your eating routine can be fun and allows for creativity to come through! Never focus on what you can’t eat- focus on what you CAN! Base your meals around those healthy things like yummy greens.
6. Start walking!! Walking is such a good form of exercise and is often under utilized in my opinion. Sometimes your body isn’t feeling a sweaty high intensity workout, but you can still use some muscles and get fresh air and sunshine and a little cardio by just going for a walk!
7. Listen to your body. This includes listening to it when it needs to rest or stretch instead of something harder you had planned.
8. Start small. You don’t have to be busting out hardcore 30-60-90 minute full body workouts 7 days a week. That’s just not a realistic starting place if you’re starting over. Start with 10-15 minutes a day. There are some great fitness apps and YouTube channels that feature shorter workouts. Some of my favorites are the 8fit website and and Tone It Up workouts on YouTube.
9. Modify. Most workouts have a modified move or option. USE IT! Don’t beat yourself up and think, I have to do this the official way or it’s not worth it. Moving is better than not moving. A modified push-up is better than sitting on the couch. Not doing the jump in the Plyo is better than watching Netflix with a pint of ice cream. Grace. Perspective.
10. Intervals. This is especially for running. You can’t run a 5k? Or a mile? Yeah that’s ok, I couldn’t either. (Still working on running a whole 5k actually.) Start like this- walk 2 minutes, run 30 seconds, walk 2 minutes, run 30 seconds… Do this for 20-30 minutes. Eventually you can increase your running time. I also now like to listen to a song on my iPhone and walk during the verse and run during the chorus. This can be done with sprints later. An app that helps with a similar setup is Couch to 5k. It tells you when to walk and when to run and gradually progresses you with each run.
11. Keep going. Don’t give up. Make this a part of your lifestyle. You don’t ever have to be a hardcore athlete again if you don’t want to, but consistently making healthy and active choices will set you up for a healthier and more comfortable life. You’ll also be setting a good example for your kids, friends, parents & coworkers. Be that positive role model!
12. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start. Start right now. Don’t say “I’ll diet tomorrow and this is my last delicious cheat meal.” Make the decision now to choose healthy options and to move.
I’m excited for you to start make healthy choices! You can do it! Seriously, if I can, so can you. Let me know some of the tips that help you!