Sportive man working out with fitness balls

After a period of inactivity, or simply when following an entirely different routine, the absolute last thing you want to do is to invite injury by being too ambitious. As with anything else, planning matters:

  1. Give it time.
    Plan to give yourself six workouts (or a week) to get back into the groove. That way you spread out your ‘comeback tour’ and defuse all that pent up ambition.
  2. Jot it down.
    Whether doing it for yourself or creating a program for others, sketch it. Write down the story arc of your next two weeks of workouts and distribute the progressive intensity across that span of time.
  3. Manage expectations.
    Whether you plan your workout the night before or immediately preceding an exercise, visualization is an important tool in seeing yourself ‘do the thing’. The only difference is that instead of the traditional imagery that helps to ‘pump you up’, this is intended to keep you thinking about form, breathing, and careful execution.
  4. Just go through the motions.
    Do the opposite. That careful execution is your spatial awareness of muscles and joints, contraction and extension, balance and imbalance.
  5. Check your status.
    As you progress through a workout, stretch key body parts and recover between sets, keeping an eye on your pain levels and any tightness you might be experiencing. A quick self-check can help prevent the need for a lengthy recovery.
  6. Add tension and intensity.
    Set your sights low, but aim high. Gradually ramp up your performance as you warm up and regain confidence. Just take it easy.
  7. Stick to the compound exercises.
    We won’t be going for our one-rep max anytime soon, but that’s no reason not to recruit as many friendly muscles as you can muster. Avoid isolation exercises, at least for the first couple of workouts.

Keeping these simple tips in mind will help you to successfully regain your strength, free of injuries and preventable setbacks.

For more tips, check out my article on managing a safe return to the gym, planning and performance.


Claudiu Popa, PTS, OAS, enjoys strength training and fitness conditioning, specializes in older adult fitness, appreciates working with exceptional clients and collaborating with outstanding professionals. Claudiu is the founder of Workout Smart and can be reached in confidence at  Be sure to follow him at and on