Think of COVID as an extremely long “exam for your health” — an opportunity to show yourself and the world that you can, and will, survive!
Staying healthy is challenging in the best of times. During COVID, we all need to become “health ninjas” — we need to pull out all our health “tools.” The more rocks COVID throws at us, the more ninja health moves we need in our tool kits!
Yes, I know, easier said than done. When it comes to staying active in isolation, you must be creative, you have to have a “find solutions” attitude, and you have to intentionally schedule-in workouts. Make moving a priority. Then, guard that time.
Here are five ways to pass the “COVID exam” and become a health ninja:
1. Get your expectations in check. Pivot. Recalibrate. Tweak your mindset.
Your workouts will not be the same as pre-COVID. Fine. You still need to move. Pivot. Recalibrate. As I always tell my clients, “movement is nonnegotiable. How you move is up to you.”
Walk. Dance. Do yoga. Take up gardening. I don’t care. Just move.
Stop thinking that workouts “should be the same” and/or comparing “what is” to “what was.” Unrealistic expectations are the keys to discontent. Realistic expectations set the stage for happiness. Sure, you maybe can’t go to the gym or to your favorite barre or spin class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move!
You get the point. Your workouts during COVID will be different. Recalibrate expectations. Tweak your plan. Fit your plan to your personal life realities, your goals, what is convenient for you, and what you actually enjoy!
2. Make a schedule. Be intentional. Make a plan!
Yes, getting your mind “in order” is the crucial first step, but it is only the first step.
Next you need to be intentional. If you can’t consciously create a plan of action and schedule your workouts, chances are you will take the path of least resistance — a path likely filled with Netflix and wine!
Schedule your workouts. Block off time. Decide, in advance, the what, why, when, and how of your workouts.
What will you do? Dance around your living room? Run your condo stairs?
When will you do it? Morning? At lunch?
Where will you do it? Do you have a home gym in the garage? Can you follow online workouts on your computer?
How will you make it happen? What accommodations do you need to make? Does your spouse or significant other have to watch the kids? Do you need to block yourself out of Zoom meetings?
3. Be the person who creates solutions!
As my mom always said, “there is always a solution. When you can’t find a solution, create one.”
Here are a few sample solutions.
Gym closed? Set up an inexpensive home gym.
Use a foam roller for core, self-massage, and balance work ($30), a skipping rope for cardio ($10-$20), and resistance bands for strength. I particularly love bands. They are light and inexpensive — roughly $10 — and you can do everything with them, from squats and biceps curls, to lunges and lateral raises, to overhead triceps extensions. If you want to go wild, invest in a door frame attachment (also under $10) that lets you hook the band onto any door to create a makeshift cable machine. Then you can replicate any exercise traditionally performed on a cable machine, including wood chops, triceps press-downs, etc.
Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated? Find things you actually enjoy and/or get your family involved.
Be creative. Start a family challenge. Base the parameters of the challenge on the number and ages of your kids and their interests. Maybe each family member counts how many steps they take throughout day. Everyone must get creative to accrue steps — “forget” the things upstairs, playing video games, etc. Or try a family pushup or squat challenge. The winner gets to pick family movie night or have their favorite meal delivered.
Find things you enjoy — or at least that you don’t hate. This pandemic is hard enough; it might not be the time to make yourself suffer through exercises that you despise. Put on some music and dance around! Play semi-active games with your kids such as hide and seek. These types of games may not be a workout, but they require more activity than watching TV. Remember, all motion adds up! If you have a yard, consider skipping rope. Another option? Make “dates” with your family to do online workouts. There are so many free and fun options. Try The Fitness Marshall’s dance workouts or Yoga with Adriene.
4. Embrace the idea that “the worse your mood, the more important your workout.”
The thing is when life gets hard, staying active becomes more mission-critical, not less! The worse your mood, the more important your workout.
Navigating life in COVID is emotionally and physically exhausting. It is way too easy to “let COVID win” and to say, “I don’t have my gym and my life is thrown upside down … I will work out when this is all over.
Your future self will not be happy, or healthy, if you put your fitness on hold. When you want to skip a workout say, “Self, blah, blah, blah – Go WORKOUT! The only workout you regret is the workout you don’t do.
5. Try something new.
Boredom is the kiss of workout death! Use this opportunity to experiment and have a “fitventure.” Try a new online workout, a new walking or running route, and/or a new type of workout.
For example, try chorus pickups or word-cue pickups.
Chorus pickups: First, pick a song. When you hear the chorus, increase your intensity. If you are walking, move into a speed walk or a jog. If you are running, sprint.
Word-cue pickups: Again, the first item on the agenda is to pick a song. Second, pick a word that repeats in the song. For example, in Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby, One More Time,” I might pick “baby.” Third, pick a motion. Think high knees, bum kicks, or an increase in speed. Start walking, jogging, etc. When you hear your word, do your motion. If you can’t train with music, try using landmarks. For example, do high knees or a 10-second sprint each time you pass someone in black pants or each time you pass a certain landmark.
Your workouts do not have to be perfect, but they do have to happen! Find solutions. Be intentional. Blah, blah, blah – MOVE your body!
» Kathleen Trotter is a fitness expert, nutritionist, personal trainer, life coach, writer, and overall health enthusiast. She is author of “Finding Your Fit: A Compassionate Trainer's Guide to Making Fitness a Lifelong Habit” and “Your Fittest Future Self: Making Choices Today for a Happier, Healthier, Fitter Future You.” Kathleen holds a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of Toronto. She appears regularly in multiple TV segments in the U.S. and Canada. Kathleen’s private clients include athletes of all ages to individuals living with Parkinson's and osteoporosis. Her media work includes more than 50 online fitness videos. Find Kathleen at kathleentrotter.com, on Facebook and at Twitter @FITbyKathleenT.
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