A great deal of success lends itself to how you prepare for a process. In this article, learn how to prepare for your return to fitness after taking some time off.

Living a fitness-based lifestyle can be incredible. There are many people that can attest to this. Sometimes life gets in the way, and an extended absence from the gym or weight room is necessary. Injuries, illness, business, or burnout could all be factors that result in us taking time to decompress and reset. Depending on the situation, this time could be weeks or months.

Then the moment you’ve waited for so long is here. It’s time to get back after it. You’re ready to rise and grind. That motivation to get back to doing what you do can reach an all-time high. However, it can also lead to your eyes being bigger than the muscles. In other words, you get ambitious, do more than you should, and suffer the consequences.

A great deal of success lends itself to how you prepare for a process. And when it comes to recommitting to the fitness lifestyle, beginning again requires focusing more on the goals you have, the mindset you need to be in, and the first steps that need to be taken. All of which should be carefully considered and planned out before even thinking about the weight room.

Part two of this mini-series will focus on the training itself. But for now, we’ll focus on getting your headspace right, establishing goals, and setting yourself up for success.  

The following strategies should be implemented around one week before the comeback begins.

Are you ready to do the work? Let’s get started.

Related: 2-Week Workout Plan to Jumpstart Your Return to the Gym

Athletic female doing ab workouts in the gym.

Determine Your Goals

In order to be successful, you have to know where you’re going. Without a tangible and achievable goal to measure yourself up against, you’re just going to be revving up the engine and spinning your wheels. Do you need to lose weight, get stronger, or build muscle? Or is your goal, for now, to simply get to where you were before life got in the way? Determine what the overall goal should be.

When considering how long it will take you to reach your goals, remember to remain realistic. This appears to be common sense, but understand that many people make the mistake of jumping right in where they left off without understanding that the body isn’t prepared for that workload. The reality is that you will likely not be able to squat or deadlift what you did in the past. And your cardiovascular shape will probably not be to be what it was. That’s okay!

Here’s a simple equation that will help keep your timeline realistic while also holding yourself accountable: 

[Amount of time that you took off] + 2 weeks = Timeline of goal

Take the amount of time that you took off, and add two weeks to that as the deadline to get back to where you were. So if you were out of action for a month, give yourself six weeks. If you missed eight weeks, give yourself ten. This is a very realistic timeline that you can take full advantage of.  

Next, write out what your specific goals are. Punch them into your phone, keep them on the fridge, in the car, or wherever you’re going to see them a lot. This will help you keep those goals fresh on the mind and channel that drive and ambition in a certain direction. You’re not just going back to the gym. You’re going to specifically hit a target.

Now, what if your goals are completely different than they were before you took the time off? Then approach it as if you were a beginner again, only this time you have the knowledge and experience. Study everything that you can get your hands on, and determine what those new goals would be for yourself. Then set an initial goal with that same timeline that I mentioned before, the equivalent of the time you took away plus two weeks.

Get Your Mind Right

While you were away, your mind may have traveled in different directions. Your focus may have gone to other tasks, or you may be feeling doubts or a lack of confidence. The recent past could be affecting your mindset now in a negative way.

First comes the hard part, addressing the negativity. Cramming it down into a small box and trying to avoid it won’t help you in the long run, and that is why you’re reading this, to begin with. Find a way to address what is bothering you. Write it out, talk to someone personally or professionally, or take the time to process the feelings that are associated with whatever the issue is. There is no blanket solution. You’ll have to find the way that can best help you move past it. Then commit to yourself that it is behind you now. There is no changing those circumstances. All you have now is the present and controlling how you try to move forward.

Next, find photos or videos of yourself on social media when you were in a better position or at your best. You looked good, you were strong, and dominating the weights. Look at them a lot. Remember how you felt physically and mentally. Remind yourself of those feelings so you can start feeling them again. 

This can be the first step in getting reacquainted with being successful. You’ve been there before, and you will be again. Read that last sentence again, and then believe it. Nothing else you read here will matter if you don’t.

Last but not least, reevaluate social media and ask yourself the following questions: Are you following a community of individuals that inspire or motivate you? Where is there room to mute or unfollow negative content that doesn’t serve you well? That screen can either help you or hurt you. Now is the time that you need as much confidence-boosting and positive reinforcement as possible. 

Front view of man reaching inside the refrigerator for meal prep containers.

Find a Solid Nutrition Plan

So the goals are set, the deadline is established, and you have the belief that you can do it. Now let’s focus on the infrastructure, the actual plan to prepare the body. Committing to a solid nutrition plan is a pivotal building block for your continued success.

The program you choose should be focused on helping you achieve your new goals. Whether your goal is to build muscle or burn fat, there are tons of options to help you get started. Find the one that you feel will be the best for you to follow, and get ready to go grocery shopping

For the next seven days, follow the nutrition plan as if you were training. This is helping you create that routine that can help you stay on track. It’s also providing the proper nutrients that the body will need to take on the training that will come.

Related: Fat Loss Grocery Shopping on a Budget ($50, $75, and $100)

Set a Daily Training Schedule

Next, look at your schedule. When are you going to train? This is another time that the brain can be a factor in your decision-making. Do you need to start the day off on the right foot by crushing the workout, or would it be better to have the workday behind you so you can focus on the training with no distractions? 

Determine when the training is going to benefit you most and set that time in stone. Nothing outside of a major issue is going to keep you from making that workout. Start following this schedule before you actually start training. So for that week before the actual workouts begin, go for a walk or perform bodyweight movements and stretches. This is introducing the body to some activity and helping reinforce that schedule you set for yourself.

Related: Pre-Workout Nutrition 101: Fuel Your Training Any Time of Day


Beginning again is less about the weight room, and more about establishing your goals, shifting your mindset, following a solid nutrition plan, and setting up a daily training schedule.

In part two, we will share the first workouts you should do to get the body reacquainted with the weights and making the most out of the time devoted to training.

In the meantime, if you’ve been forced to take a sabbatical from training and successfully reclaimed glory, share your experience in the comments so others can learn from your experience.

Posted on: Mon, 08/16/2021 - 12:10

Been following Rock's works for over a decade now and I've tried his workouts. Plain and simple, they work. I've needed an article like this since life had lead me to a multiple month layoff from training. Excited to see the next part of this article.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 09/02/2021 - 12:56

Jonathan, I greatly appreciate the support and the kind words. The workout is now up on the site, and I hope you and everyone reading it enjoys it.


Marjan Ferdous
Posted on: Thu, 02/09/2023 - 18:59

Ok, thank you