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So you're chugging along at a nice clip, running or skating or strength training or whatever you like to do, and then BAM! You catch the flu or pull a hamstring or just get totally enveloped in holiday craziness—and then you're forced to hit the pause button on your workout routine. When you're finally good to go once again, actually getting back into your routine seems as daunting as scaling Everest. Sound familiar?

It does to me. I recently had minor surgery on one toe; that put me out for a week. Then I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, upping my time on the sidelines to two weeks. Once I finally returned to fighting form, it was absurdly hard to get back into the groove—and I'm a fitness editor. I like working out!

It all comes down to Newton's First Law of Motion, which says, in part, that "a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it." (Who knew Mr. Newton was so exercise-savvy?)

Here's the "outside force" that finally got me going again: Promising myself a reward. I vowed that if I could get back on my regular weekly schedule (four cardio sessions, three strength sessions, one yoga class) and stay on it for two weeks, I'd treat myself to lunch at my favorite sushi joint. It worked like a charm, and things finally fell back into place.

Now I realize that self-bribery doesn't work for everyone. So I put the question to some of my co-workers: What do you do when you've fallen off the exercise wagon? What they had to say just might help you get your groove back the next time you're forced to take a workout hiatus. (Just think of us as your personal exercise Sherpas.)

  • "Before I got in shape a few years back, one of my friends convinced me to take photos of myself from all angles wearing nothing but a sports bra and underwear. Anytime I fall off the wagon I look at the pics—and that's all the motivation I need!" — Rozalynn S. Frazier, Assistant Editor
  • "I try to take it easy my first few times back—I don’t force myself to use the heaviest weights I can while strength training, or don’t push myself to the limit in Zumba class. I just get slowly back in the rhythm of going to the gym again, so I don’t get frustrated and give up. Then, once I’m back in the routine, I start to push myself harder." — Camille Chatterjee, Deputy Editor
  • "I do three things to get myself back on track: Go to a class I look forward to, promise to meet someone at the gym or track, and send my exercise log to someone who will hold me accountable." — Shaun A. Chavis, Associate Editor
  • "Instead of planning after-work drink dates with my friends, I plan “run dates” with my friends. We catch up, laugh, and it keeps me locked into working out." — Leslie Barrie, Editorial Assistant
  • "I start scheduling workouts in my Outlook calendar. I’m much more likely to actually go to the gym at lunchtime if it’s planned into my day." — Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, Senior Food & Nutrition Editor