We are all of us beginners in some aspects of life and quite advanced in others. With respect to useful knowledge in a specific subject area or meaningful practical expertise as related to a specific skill or competency, most of us could accurately assess our particular level of ability. But when exercise is the skill or subject under consideration, many of us are at a loss to evaluate precisely where we are or how we should be classified.1
For example, yoga classes might be offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. If you’re a basic beginner with no prior yoga experience, you would easily know that you should sign up for the beginner class. If you’ve participated in yoga consistently for five years and have recently missed two months owing to personal circumstances, you would likely take a few beginner classes to get back in shape, and then could readily rejoin an intermediate or advanced class, depending on your prior level. But if you’ve taken yoga for several years on an in intermittent basis and have been away from class for quite a while, it may be difficult to know how to restart your yoga practice.
A similar difficulty is present for experienced exercisers who have not done any type of exercise for some time, regardless of whether the specific exercise involves, for example, running, walking, biking, or strength training. One primary problem in returning to exercise after an absence is we want to be sure the time and resources we invest in exercise will yield an appropriate benefit. We are aware of how much weight we used to lift or how fast we used to run or walk and we may imagine that, if we do less than that or exert less effort, we won’t get the results we’re looking for.
But doing too much too soon will likely result in injury. Aside from the pain incurred by muscle and ligament strains and sprains, an injury will typically set back one’s exercise activities by weeks or even months. It’s important to recall that engaging in exercise is a lifestyle choice and represents a long-term commitment and course of action. Coming back slowly and steadily after taking time off from exercise will help ensure your return is safe and accomplished successfully. The best approach to exercise when beginning something new or after an absence is always to start at a beginner’s level. If you’re experienced, you can move up quickly, but beginning at the beginning will always lead to greater rewards.2,3
1Warburton DE, Bredin SS: Reflections on Physical Activity and Health: What Should We Recommend? Can J Cardiol 2016 Feb 26. pii: S0828-282X(16)00064-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2016.01.024. [Epub ahead of print] 2Kofotolis N, et al: Effects of Pilates and trunk strengthening exercises on health-related quality of life in women with chronic low back pain. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil 2016 Feb 16. [Epub ahead of print] 3Ciolac EG, Rodrigues-da-Silva JM: Resistance Training as a Tool for Preventing and Treating Musculoskeletal Disorders. Sports Med 2016 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]