How to Get in Shape Quick for Ex-Athletes

Start slowly and finish fast to get in shape quickly.
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If you need to get back in competitive shape quickly after a training layoff, the best method might be to start slowly. Trying to jump-start your training with intense, high-speed anaerobic exercise before you’ve restored your strength and endurance might put a cramp in your training program, as well as your muscles. Take two weeks to gradually build your strength and endurance, then begin adding speed and intensity exercises.

    Create a workout routine that includes training at least five days each week. Schedule two 30-minutes each day, or a one-hour workout that includes strength and cardio training. Avoid two-hour workouts the first week if you’re very much out of shape to prevent overtraining. Create workouts longer than 60 minutes if you’re in good, but not competitive shape, splitting them between resistance and cardio routines.

    Warm up before each workout with dynamic stretching, taking three to five minutes to put your muscles through a wide range of motion as you elevate your heart rate. Start with jogging in place, arm swings jumping jacks and butt kicks. Then vertical leap for 15 minutes or more. Avoid static stretching because holding stretches temporarily decreases power.

    Start each workout with strength training if you will only be working out once each day. This will begin to deplete the glycogen stores necessary for strength workouts, letting you burn more fat at the end of your workout when you perform aerobic exercise. Use an amount of weight to perform strength exercises that will fatigue you within 90 seconds if you keep performing reps. Perform eight to 12 reps of each resistance exercise. Take a 60-second break, then perform a different exercise. Perform each exercise one, two or three times during your workout, depending on how much time you have and how much you want to build a particular muscle or set of muscles. Perform your reps slowly to maximize the amount of effort you use and muscle you build.

    Perform cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes daily at the maximum speed you can maintain without stopping. Don’t raise your speed to any perceived target heart rate range you feel is optimal, such as 70 percent to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, if you can’t maintain that intensity for 30 minutes. Your goal is to build endurance, increasing your capacity in the coming weeks. Add 30- to 60-second sprints every five or 10 minutes, followed by two minutes of walking, to help build cardio capacity without fatiguing you to failure.

    Add more minutes to your workouts each week if you have the time, or raise your level of intensity if it won’t fatigue you to failure before the end of your workout. Add more weight or resistance to your strength workouts each week as you build strength.

    Begin adding more sprints to aerobic workouts in week three with a goal of moving toward more interval training than steady-state aerobic workouts. Move from 30-second sprints to 60-second sprints every five minutes, instead of every 10 minutes. Perform drills and exercises that use similar movements to your sport. Reduce the amount of weight you use to about 50 percent of the maximum you can lift for resistance exercises. Perform your reps more quickly to shift from strength training to muscular endurance training. Perform reps quickly for 30-seconds with only short breaks between sets to create a circuit-training routine.

    Finish weightlifting and aerobic exercise by the end of week three and focus on interval training. Create intervals on an exercise bike using a low resistance setting while you pedal fast. Run 30-second dashes close to your maximum speed, then walk for two minutes. Perform 30- to 60-second intervals on an elliptical, followed by two-minute recoveries. Perform 30 seconds of high-intensity footwork and agility exercises, such as ladder and spider drills.


    • Cool down with walking at the end of each workout and static stretch your muscles for improved flexibility. Eat roughly two-thirds complex carbohydrates and one-third lean protein each day, eating more lean protein shortly after workouts. Drink enough water to satisfy your thirst each workout.

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