11 tips to help re-build your fitness!

Written by Johanna Galea;

Johanna is an athlete who has recently recovered from a mysterious chronic illness which left her housebound for several months. Her blog, Road to Zest is aimed at raising awareness about such illnesses and the available treatment. Through hard work, patience, perseverance and determination this beautiful woman has managed to re-build her fitness and is passionate about helping others do the same …


After having been a runner and triathlete for about 14 years, I suddenly found myself running again in January this year after months of doing virtually no exercise.

I hadn’t stopped out of choice but because my chronic illness had made it too difficult to do anything – even walking the few steps from the sofa to the kitchen used to feel like a marathon.

And as I struggled to finish my 1 minute intervals of running on that first day, my perspective changed completely. I was no longer Johanna the athlete. And I knew that rebuilding my fitness wasn’t going to be easy.

So as I crossed the finish line of my first 5 km race 6 months later I remembered that first day and I also thought about the things I had done to get there.

Here are the 11 tips I would give anyone wishing to rebuild fitness:


  1. Find something you enjoy. I know not everyone considers exercise to be particularly fun. But there are so many different ways to keep fit (walking, jogging, going to a gym, joining any exercise class that appeals to you, working out in the comfort of your own home, swimming, tennis, basketball, dancing, skipping….the sky’s the limit – I could literally go on and on here) if you try hard enough I’m convinced you’ll find at least one thing you enjoy.
  1. And just as importantly, find time in your schedule for it. I know that might sound impossible when you think about your crazy schedule. But I really believe that we can find time for anything we prioritize. And fitness should definitely be one of those things. Contrary to what we sometimes mistakenly think, exercise will actually supercharge our energy to face the rest of the day (especially as we become fitter). And in today’s busy world, it’s important to reserve some ‘you time’ as that will then make it easier for you to be more available for the people you need to be available for throughout the day without feeling burned out.
  1. Invest in the right equipment – even if all that means is a good pair of walking or running shoes. Replacing my running shoes was the first thing I did before starting to run again. Having the right equipment doesn’t mean you need to go on a fitness shopping spree (though if you can and want to, why not?). But what’s important is that you have the basic things which will keep you injury free and comfortable in whatever activity you choose to take up.
  1. Start slowly and build it up very gradually. When I started, it was tempting to just start with 20 minutes of straight running. But I knew I had lost so much strength and fitness that it would backfire. So I started with 1 minute intervals and built it up really slowly. In fact it was a full 8 weeks from the day I started again before I ran 20 minutes straight. That way I avoided injuries or other setbacks and managed to keep building things up slowly but consistently.
  1. Set a goal which excites you enough to get you out of bed in the morning. Starting slowly doesn’t mean you can’t dream big. Even that first day when the 1 minute intervals seemed really long, I was already dreaming about the day when I would be able to take part in a 5 km race again. And thinking about that made it easier for me to get up in the morning to run on the days when remaining in bed was so tempting.
  1. Be accountable to someone – even if that someone is yourself. Some people enjoy training with a friend. Others do best when they have a personal trainer or coach. And some others prefer to train on their own and set their own goals and schedules. Whatever works best for you, I think it’s always best to be accountable to someone, even if that someone is yourself.


  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session. We all know that sometimes life happens. Your child is sick. You have a huge deadline at work and can’t leave the office on time. Or maybe you just wake up feeling under the weather. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about it. The best thing you can do is put it behind you and bounce back as quickly as you can. One missed session won’t stall your progress – beating yourself up about it will.
  1. Don’t fall into the trap of pressing on regardless of how you’re feeling and ignoring any aches or pains. The age-old advice to listen to your body and avoid burning the candle at both ends is really important. Also check any aches or pains out and try to incorporate stretching, strengthening and conditioning exercises and massage into your routine.
  1. Don’t be alarmed if some days your workout isn’t as good as other days. Like with anything else in life, some sessions are going to be great but not all will be. Don’t be alarmed. I would be very surprised to hear of anyone – even elite athletes – whose sessions are always great. It doesn’t mean you’re not making progress though: the progress just isn’t always linear.
  1. Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to others – except maybe the people at home on the couch. Whatever you’re doing, it’s great that you’re doing it. If you’re rebuilding fitness through jogging, what does it matter how fast your friend can run 5 km? The important thing is that you’re jogging, you’re enjoying it and you’re getting fitter.
  1. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. Big or small, you worked for them and you should celebrate each and every milestone on the fun – though sometimes bumpy – road to rebuilding fitness.

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