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Call It a Comeback

You're the Man. Rough, tough and buff, baby. Everything's falling in place: the job, the girl, the car, the body. Life couldn't be better. Until, of course, it all falls apart.

It starts with something small. Maybe the girlfriend dumps you. Or the job becomes a lot more stressful. Or the car gets totaled. Whatever the reason, certain parts of your life-workout schedule included-begin to hit the skids. Before you know it, you've been away from the gym for almost a year, and one day you wake up to realize your physique has gotten softer than the Washington Redskins' front seven. You can't play owner Daniel Snyder and fire your lagging body parts at will, so you tell yourself that something has to be done, and fast. 

Problem is, you're not exactly sure where to start. Getting yourself back on track after a layoff isn't as easy as walking into the gym and picking up where you left off. Well, you could, but you'd just be risking injury and demoralization by attacking your new routine with a full head of steam.

"You've got to start light," says Mark Avens, C.P.T. "It's tough because everybody wants to do as much as they have in the past." Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither is the ideal body. But if you follow these guidelines, you'll get to where you need to go a lot more efficiently-and a lot less painfully-than you ever thought possible.

Everybody who trains takes layoffs at one time or another. Not everybody, however, comes back from them. Remember, though, the longer you stay away from any exercise program, the easier it is to make excuses for putting off your comeback another day. Thing is, beginning is the hardest part-after the first week, it's all downhill. Once you establish your routine, it'll be that much easier to stick to it.

One solution? "Write down your workout and what you're going to do the next day," Avens says. "Tell people you're back in the gym. It's a huge plus for motivation. It's like telling people you're doing a marathon. That pressure is good."

This is a comeback workout, so soreness is included. There are ways, however, to minimize it. First and foremost, keep your ego in check. Being Mr. Macho doesn't do you any good if it forces you to be Mr. I Can't Get Out of Bed for the week after your first appearance in the gym. 

"Build up the amount of time you're spending on the weights, aside from the amount of weight," Avens says. "At first, set a specific amount of time that you're going to spend in the gym. If you used to lift for an hour, cut that in half for the first few weeks."

We recommend training three days per week for the first few months of your comeback, with at least one day of rest between workouts. You'll be lifting upper body (back/shoulders) for Workout 1; lower body (legs, calves) for Workout 2; and upper body (chest/arms) for Workout 3. 

If you're doing Workout 1 on Monday, you'll have plenty of time-three days-to get over the upper-body soreness you'll feel at first. After you complete the cycle, take two days off before beginning again. The program calls for three sets with most exercises, but start out doing one or two. You don't want to burn out after the first week. 


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