From Deconditioning to RE-conditioning: Things to keep in mind when taking up workouts we left behind

January is always a time of taking up new habits and new workouts. But January 2022 is not just about taking up something new. For many of us it is time to take back up something we put down in the past. As covid shifts from a pandemic to an endemic we are returning to gyms, sports, classes and activities that we may not have done in two years! For me it’s been longer, the body I am entering 2022 with is NOT the same body I had when I hit pause on my athletic world. (having become a mom, turned 40 and having Covid halt my usual workout forms)

When we go an extended period without our usual activities, we go from conditioned for those activities to deconditioned. When we are conditioned, our body is used to the activities we are doing. When we stop those activities, we do not stay where we are. So it is important to take this into account when we return to those activities. From our physical selves, to how we workout, to how we handle blood sugars are all going to need to adapt. It is important to be realistic and accepting of our body’s needs in this regard to give us a quicker and more successful return not only to where we left off, but to a new exciting level of performance.


Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

First, tag in with your healthcare team. Make sure that you don’t have any areas to be mindful of to avoid injury or illness. Have your medications, diagnoses, or lab values changed since you last did this activity? Will anything need to change as you increase activity, build muscle or lose weight?

Longevity over transformation

A major mistake that we make when reconditioning is that we go too hard too soon. We are often determined and maybe even a little angry at not being able to achieve what we could before. Pride and drive can push us to push our current bodies to a place that our former bodies may have easily surpassed, but that leads to injury to our current selves. Work with the body you have, don’t punish it for not being what it used to be. This only leads to injury. Often we start out with a lot of determination, but we hit an early injury and our motivation quickly dies while we heal. We can also start out angry that we are not in the body we used to have, and then the injury confirms that negativity and can become something of a downward spiral that saps energy and confidence. Remember that it took years to achieve your past athletic goals, even if that goal is just walking around the block (those who raised you could tell you stories about the months and years it took for you to walk steadily). Do not expect that skill, strength, balance, flexibility, or power to just come back when called upon. It will take time to rebuild like it took to build. But be encouraged that the reconditioning time is typically far shorter than the time it took to initially build.

Take time to focus on slowly increasing each area of fitness: Flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, and power. Don’t over-focus on any one area or the one you are not focusing on will likely be the source of your injury.

So, when you feel that push of energy to go hard, adapt that energy, funnel it into the drive for longevity, and to make it through the season, not the Tik Tok-able transformation moment.

Recall past strategies but go way back! 

The diet, hydration, energy, and blood sugar management strategies you left off using may not be what you need for your restart. When we do a thing a lot our bodies become used to it, and more efficient at doing it. We don’t get as out of breath because we use less oxygen and use what we take in more efficiently. We don’t need as much fuel, it takes less energy, and yes we see less blood sugar impact for much the same reasons. Our body is more efficient and so the metabolic impact is lesser. So the adjustments you’ll need when taking that activity back up may be much larger than when you left off.

You might be able to think back to how you began the activity and adjustments you made then. However, you may have been a teenager or young adult when you started that activity and now you’re significantly older, an entirely different size or hormonally in a whole other stage of life.  So, if an activity used to drop your blood sugar a little, be prepared for a much larger drop now. If an activity used to push blood sugars up, be ready for a larger rise. However, also be ready for the unexpected. A workout that used to have a gradual drop when you were conditioned, may stress your body, and cause some rise as you recondition. If you were a competitive athlete, the adrenaline of the activity may have pushed blood sugars up but reconditioning on your own may not have the same drive (And adrenaline levels tend to reduce as we age) so you might see a drop where you used to rise.  Keep safety first with both glucose and glucagon handy as you get back into the swing of things. Take a look back at your data 6 hours after a workout to see its effects and how you can make adjustments. And when in need, reach out for an appointment with our experienced team to work through adjustment strategies as well as workout strategies to make the most of your efforts.

Check-in with what’s different, and appreciate that.

What has changed in your world since you hit pause? Have you changed your diabetes regimen? Going into a workout with a hybrid closed loop system is a leap and bound from going into a workout on injected insulin. Were you even using a CGM back then? How and when you adjust your insulin, meals or workouts may be very different from what you used to do. That is ok, it’s not a barrier, it’s just another step in your amazing return to action!

Were you eating differently? Do you have new injuries or retaining weight differently? What’s driving your reconditioning? From your daily life, to your body, to your motivations, chances are you’re a very different person today than you were back then. Don’t try to get back to that person. They’re a past self and the self that is in the future could be so much better than you can even remember that person being back then! Appreciate your new journey as its own amazing adventure. Don’t get down on it not “being like it used to be” because what it is today is amazing, the challenge of it, the journey through it to become something that will not be the same as it used to be is what it’s all about. You won’t be who or what you were, you’ll be more! Savor that limitless possibility!

Picking up where we left off is not a reality, but reconditioning is a skill that is extremely valuable in all areas of life. If you need assistance in building this skill set reach out. Our team of exercise physiologists, dieticians, nurses, and even mental health support are here to help you reach your goals in all areas of life too. We live life with diabetes, so our advice and strategies are nonjudgmental and built for real life. Here at IDS we also build community to support one another. IDS Connections is a social connection point for our clients to engage with one another for advice, tips, camaraderie, and support, because talking to people with some common challenges can make us stronger.