Four years ago, I was suffering from lyme disease and chronic fatigue. Suddenly, simple tasks like showering left me exhausted. And before I knew it, exercise didn't even make it to my to-do list. As I started to recover, I craved the sweaty, soul-satisfying benefits of regular exercise again—but I knew I had to be taken slowly, or I would crash. And yes, I crashed. I crashed a lot. I soon found that there were workouts I could do throughout my illness, but I never got weights or the gym involved. My workouts were of the gentler variety. They included leg exercises in bed, short walks, and the occasional lunge and calf raise. But come April 2017, I was ready to make the plunge and head back to the gym.
My first day back was April 3, 2017. I hadn't worked out in a gym for over four years. I did absolutely no cardio, used very light weights, and worked all major muscle groups. Trying to do at least eight to 12 reps—which I was once able to do easily—went straight out the window.
For some exercises, just two to three reps had to do. It was a little embarrassing, but I let it go. No one knew me in the gym, right? I went straight to sleep afterward. Two days later, every muscle in my body hurt, and I had to spend even more time in bed. Muscle soreness was inevitable, but I welcomed it with open arms. I didn't have the energy to exercise again for six days, equating to five days of rest.
A few days later, I tried again. I repeated what I had done six days earlier, but this time I added 15 minutes of cardio. After that I did a full-body workout, using very light weights, for about 45 minutes. Again, it wan't my best workout. But I was able to reach at least eight to 12 reps with some exercises. So this, too, was progress.
Two days later, I had the energy to try again! I did 20 minutes of cardio and 45 minutes of weights. That afternoon, I was still tired, but I didn't crash into bed. I'm now aiming for two days per week.
It has taken me over four years to find my way back to the gym, and I am exceedingly grateful for the progress I have made. If you, too, are returning to the gym after a long hiatus, here's what I advise: