Resuming Training: A Gentle Approach for Older Hikers After Setbacks

Life has a way of throwing unexpected curveballs our way. One moment, we’re filled with determination, discipline, and motivation, making great strides in our workout plan. But then, out of nowhere, we find ourselves confined to a hospital bed, surrounded by pain, fever, and a flurry of medical professionals. Fear takes hold, and our next workout session is the last thing on our minds. However, as time passes, healing begins, fear subsides, and eventually, we’re discharged and back in the comfort of our own home.

In our eagerness to resume training, we hastily pick up where we left off, only to end up injured. As we grow older, the likelihood of such setbacks increases exponentially. It is crucial to exercise patience during this delicate phase. So, how should we adapt our training plan after a forced break? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The nature of the illness or injury and the duration of the training hiatus play significant roles. Additionally, it is essential to consult with a doctor and obtain clearance before resuming training.

Fortunately, for most of us, the prospects are not as grim as they may seem. A study revealed that older adults require less than eight weeks to regain their previous fitness level after a 12-week break. Allow me to share my own experience and the approach I took to craft a transition training plan after a 45-day training hiatus.

Gradual training approach for older hikers

Transitioning Back into Strength Training:

To provide some context, my training regimen revolves around kettlebells (KB). Typically, I engage in strength training with kettlebells three times a week, complemented by two days of aerobic activities. One day is dedicated to a 45-60 minute run, while another day is spent briskly hiking for approximately two hours. I reserve one day each week for rest and recovery.

Strength Training Transition Plan:

Let’s delve into the adjustments I made to my strength training routine during the transitional period. First, let me outline how one of my strength workouts appeared prior to the break:

Warmup: 10 minutes

Single arm KB swings (16 kg): 10 sets of 15 reps EMOM (every minute on the minute)

Single arm KB thruster squat (16 kg): 10 sets of 5 reps per side

Cool down

Now, let’s explore how I modified this routine to ease myself back into peak form. Initially, I selected the lightest kettlebell I had available, which was 12 kg. Ideally, a 50% reduction in weight is recommended. Consequently, I decreased the number of sets by 50% as well. Instead of 10 sets of swings, I performed only 5 sets, and during the first week, I reduced the repetitions to 10. Additionally, I switched from one-handed swings to two-handed swings to ensure a controlled and cautious approach.

Similarly, I limited myself to 5 sets of squats, performing 3 repetitions per side during the first week. By adopting this incremental method, my workout during the initial transition week looked as follows:

Transition Week 1:

Warmup: 10 minutes

Single arm KB swings (12 kg): 5 sets of 10 reps EMOM

Single arm KB squat (no thruster) (12 kg): 5 sets of 3 reps per side

Cool down

My primary objective was to minimize the risk of injury by starting slowly. Thankfully, the first week proceeded smoothly. From there, I implemented a gradual progression to reclaim my former strength:

Second week: Reverted to the pre-break workout in terms of repetition count (15 two-handed swings and 5 squats per side) and maintained 5 sets for each exercise.

Third week: Added two additional sets for each exercise.

Fourth week: Introduced two more sets, totaling 9 sets.

Fifth week: Maintained the same volume as the previous week.

Sixth week: Performed 10 sets for each exercise.

Seventh week: Returned to the initial plan but reduced the sets by 30%, resulting in 7 sets of single-arm swings and 7 sets of squat thrusters with a 16kg KB.

Eighth week: Restored the original workout, maintaining the same number of sets for an additional 2 weeks, until week 10, and subsequently resumed my initial training plan.

The progression could have been faster, but as a reminder to myself, I am no longer in my thirties. Thus, I sought a cautious and foolproof plan to prevent injuries, and it proved effective for me.

Now, let’s shift our focus to the aerobic component of my training. In this aspect, progress occurred at a slightly faster pace.

Gradual training approach for older hikers

Transitioning Back into Aerobic Training:

Aerobic Training Transition Plan:

I commenced by reducing my run time by 50%. During the first week, I alternated between 5 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking, completing a 30-minute session. In the second week, I adjusted the ratio to 10 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking for the same 30-minute duration. By the third week, I successfully ran continuously for the full 30 minutes without any breaks. Throughout this period, my runs remained within zone 2, ensuring they stayed below my aerobic threshold. Subsequently, starting from the fourth week, I added 10 minutes to my run, progressively working my way back to my initial plan by the end of the sixth week.

Regarding the hiking day, I initially reduced the hiking time to 1 hour (50% reduction) and adopted a slower pace during the first week. In the following week, I returned to my regular pace, and starting from the third week, I added 20 minutes to the total hiking time. By the end of the sixth week, I fully resumed my initial plan from where I left off prior to the break.

In summary, let’s recap my approach to training after a forced break:

1. Start by reducing the volume and intensity of your workouts. The longer the pause, the lower the new base should be. Volume refers to the total amount of work performed during a training session, while intensity pertains to the level of effort or difficulty involved. Take into account factors such as the number of sets, repetitions, and weight used.

2. Begin with a slow and mindful approach, attentively listening to your body. Gradually increase the volume by 10-20% each week based on how you feel, avoiding the urge to force progress. Once you reach your previous baseline in terms of volume, gradually introduce intensity.

3. Incorporate recovery weeks every third week, during which no additional volume or intensity is added. Consider implementing a reduction of up to 20% during these weeks.

4. Once both volume and intensity have returned to pre-break levels, continue with your initial training plan.

5. These principles are also applicable to aerobic training. Begin with reduced effort and time, gradually building them up over time.

Gradual training approach for older hikers


In conclusion, returning to normalcy after illness, injury, or any other break demands careful consideration. Hastening the process will only invite further injuries. As we age, our muscles and, particularly, our ligaments require additional time to regain their strength. While muscles tend to recover more swiftly, overburdening the ligaments with excessive weight too soon can heighten the risk of injury. By following a gradual and progressive approach, adjusting both volume and intensity, and attentively listening to our bodies, we can safely transition back into training after a forced break. Remember to incorporate recovery weeks and gradually increase both volume and intensity until you reach your previous baseline. These principles extend to aerobic training as well

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