When I was in college, I used to pretty good at keeping up a decent workout schedule (three days a week during normal times, at least one day a week during extremely stressful exam weeks). My workouts would usually be one of the following:

  • Running ~3 miles;
  • ~45 minutes on the elliptical; or,
  • General weight lifting (all major body parts, 10-20 reps at average weight, 5-10 reps at very difficult weight).

This ended pretty much instantly when I got an internship which required a four hour total commute every day. I didn't have time for anything except driving, working, and sleeping, and I was basically living out of my car on fast food.

Since then, I've gotten a permanent position at the company and have relocated closer so that the commute is much better. But in the intervening nine months, I've gotten very, very out of shape (definitely the worst shape of my life). I've gained a lot of weight and my cardiovascular endurance is shot. I've tried to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and do my old routine, but all that this accomplishes is me getting angry and hating myself for not being able to do it anymore and letting myself go.

I'm not a trainer and I don't know all the math and science behind fitness; I always just went to the gym and worked out, no problem. Since my body just doesn't seem capable of doing what it once did, is there a good way I can ease back into it and get back to where I was? How can I start, and how should I pace myself?


1 Answer 1


Expect Less

You're detrained. That's to be expected. Don't try to get back where you were all at once.

Jim Wendler poses it this way:

The game of lifting isn‘t an 8-week pursuit. It doesn‘t last as long as your latest program does. Rather, it‘s a lifetime pursuit. If you understand this, then progressing slowly isn‘t a big deal. In fact, this can be a huge weight lifted off your back. Now you can focus on getting those 5 extra pounds rather than 50.

Don't worry about how hard you can run or what you can lift today. Worry about how you'll perform next year. Plan your workouts around that.


Take your running time and intensity and slash it in half or more. Make a mini-version of your old routine and start doing it regularly. Keep a workout log and note the distances, times, and how you feel. Focus on being consistent, even if sometimes you can't finish the workout, or you can't finish the set. You have more on your plate and a tougher schedule now that you're not in college. In six months you'll be surprised at how much progress you've made.

You can't lift as much as you used to. Fine. The fastest way to get back where you were is to cut the weights in half, or by two-thirds, and start progressing from there. Add five pounds every workout, and if you can't finish a set, drop it by twenty in your next workout.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. I guess you're right, that I need to just take it back up slowly, but... it just feels crippling and humiliating now, I guess, since I have pathetic endurance. Thanks for the specific tips on pacing scaling techniques.
    – asteri
    Feb 28, 2013 at 20:30
  • @Jeff You'll be back where you were soon enough. Keep your head up. Feb 28, 2013 at 20:54
  • 1
    @Jeff Join the club. Anybody who manages to maintain a good level of fitness as they get older have most-likely been through the same process many times before. If the anger/frustration of trying to return to your old routine becomes counter-productive, just switch to a different routine/activity for a while. I'm in a similar position but am completely bored/uninterested with working out at a typical gym so I joined a rock climbing gym and do beach runs for cardio. Fitness is a lifelong pursuit, don't let boredom and angst get in the way. Mar 1, 2013 at 0:43

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