Get back in the fitness game
Start by aiming for three hours a week of exercise that offers a good balance between cardio and weights Image Credit: Getty

Thanks to searing temperatures, schools being closed and a generally slower business cycle, large numbers of UAE residents save their longest breaks for the summer. While it’s obviously great to escape to cooler climes, catch up with family and friends abroad and step back from the day-to-day office cycle, one casualty of this change tends to be fitness routines. Whether it’s due to not having access to the same high-tech facilities afforded by membership at a big gym in Dubai, a packed tourist itinerary or social schedule, or simply being unable to pack your trainers and other workout gear into an already overflowing suitcase, exercise often falls to the wayside while we’re on holiday.

“The best thing to do after taking time off from the gym is to ease yourself back into it,” says Ali Syed, Regional Fitness Manager at Fitness First. “Try not to worry too much. It’s ok to take a break and enjoy life. After all, it’s all about having a good balance. Remember, exercise is for life, not just for one day, a week or even a month.”

Three hours a week

Try 20-30 minutes of cardio and make sure to keep your heart rate between 65 and 80 per cent, then continue to 20-30 minutes of weight training.

- Ali Syed, Regional Fitness Manager, Fitness First

To get back in the saddle, Syed recommends initially aiming for three hours a week of exercise, which he says can add up to ten years of longevity, citing an American College of Sports Medicine study. “Try 20-30 minutes of cardio and make sure to keep your heart rate between 65 and 80 per cent, then continue to 20-30 minutes of weight training. When returning to weight training after time off, remember to gradually increase the weight you are lifting, as this well help to build up your strength safely. Whichever weight training you choose to do, start off with 12-15 reps.”

Weight worries?

If you’ve spent part of your holiday at someone’s wedding, visiting family in another country or as a tourist in a new destination, the chances are you’ll have come home a few pounds heavier. Those who were regular on heavy-weight squats and lunges prior to putting on a bit of holiday weight may be understandably apprehensive about the risks of lower body injury from jumping back in a little too keenly. “If you are feeling nervous about your weight gain, then low-intensity 30-minute cardio workouts are great for quick and extremely fast results,” explains Syed. “Swimming, for example, is perfect, as it provides you with a full-body workout and it doesn’t impact the joints. Swimming is also great for calming the mind and relieving any stress or anxiety that you might be feeling.”

Overcoming mental hurdles

To combat the rising psychological tide of lethargy wrought by the heat, humidity and an extended absence from exercise, it’s important to take a step back to remind yourself why you were working out in the first place, while also listing the benefits you’d like to reap from exercise. “Setting realistic goals and challenges are both great ways to keep you motivated,” adds Syed. “A personal trainer is a good way to get you back on track. A qualified trainer will create a workout programme specifically tailored for your needs and goals. Once you start seeing results from personal training, you will instantly feel motivated to continue your fitness journey.”

Buddy system

He also points out that studies have highlighted the benefits of having a workout partner. “Training with a friend can not only be fun and motivational but it can also activate a competitive streak, pushing you to lift heavier, run faster or squeeze in an extra rep or two.

“In fact, having the right workout buddy can often be the difference between failure and success.”