How to take control and get stronger and healthier during COVID-19.
Over the last few weeks, the COVID-19 virus has left many of us feeling overwhelmed by change. Between transitioning into working from home, isolating ourselves from family and friends, and taking on the responsibility of caretaker or homeschool teacher, we’re sitting and consuming far more yet moving and sleeping far less.
With so many lifestyle risks building up in social isolation, relationships, support and accountability are more important than ever and there has never been a better time to seek out help to stay on track with your mental and physical health.
The goal of this article is to guide you in the right direction as to how regular exercise influences your health and wellbeing during this time and to get clear on the opportunity you have right now to start on a positive trajectory of improving strength and building effective, healthy habits at home.
Why we need exercise now more than ever
We know that regular exercise is crucial to building strength, improving fitness and maintaining a healthy immune system, but we often forget how much of an impact it also has on our emotional wellbeing.
Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly feel more energized throughout the day, sleep better at night, are more resilient to challenging situations and feel calmer and more positive about themselves and their lives. Exercise can also have a profound impact on many common mental-health challenges, including anxiety, depression and ADHD – and best of all, you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap these benefits. Even modest amounts of activity can make a big difference, making exercise an indispensable resource in the era of COVID-19.
How to get active at home
The ways in which we’re able to stay active has drastically changed over the past few weeks. The days of heading to the gym have been put on pause and many of us are wondering how to adjust for life at home. Is it still possible to get in a good workout in our living room without any equipment? Is it even worth it to shift to a home routine or should I just wait this out?
If you’re holding off on exercise until life to returns to “normal”, the ever-changing state of this pandemic means you could be waiting a while. In a time like this, any activity is better than no activity so don’t put your health on hold simply because of a logistic roadblock. You can absolutely still get in a good, challenging workout at home with nothing more than your bodyweight and the right mindset so it’s important to find ways to make this situation work for you.
To help you manage your fitness during these times of self-isolation, we have 4 tips that will keep you benefiting from all the mental and physical benefits of regular activity at home:
Good intentions are a great start, but they don’t get us very far without a plan of how we’re actually going to fit those changes into our current lifestyle. Effectively creating a new habit of exercise isn’t about relying on willpower or hoping it will just happen, it’s about building a set of systems that will put getting started on auto-pilot and make it easy to stay on track.
Here are a few systems you can try to start implementing healthier habits at home:
Start habit-stacking your workouts with another activity you’re already doing around the same time each day. This could include foam rolling every morning after you brush your teeth or going through a yoga flow before your morning shower. By pairing the activity with an already-ingrained trigger, you reduce the need to motivate yourself to get started.
Set parameters around certain activities that naturally present themselves in the day. For instance, if you live in an apartment building, set an expectation that you’ll take the stairs rather than the elevator when you take the garbage down.
It’s easy to fall into the misconception that at-home workouts can’t be challenging, but this is all relative to how much you’re willing to push yourself. To make a seemingly-easy workout more difficult and reap better and faster results, try incorporating the following little tweaks:
Press just a bit further than you normally would into the range of motion of each exercise. If you’re always stopping at the point that feels comfortable, you aren’t going to see much in the way of change. This could mean lowering half-an-inch further on your pushups or drawing the back knee slightly further toward the floor during a lunge. Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean pushing through pain – always listen to your body when it comes to pain.
Focus on activating the right muscles during each rep. This will allow you to gain more control during the movement and get a better result from the muscles you’re trying to work in each exercise. Try squeezing your glutes before pressing into a step-up or drawing your belly button up toward your spine during a plank.
Reduce the rest intervals between exercises. This keeps your heart rate up throughout the workout to give you an added cardio-boost. Try pairing exercises that work different muscle groups in your program then perform them back-to-back. This allows you to rest the one group during the next exercise without the need for a break. A quick example could be a circuit of squats followed by pushups then back extensions.
While there are plenty of workout options available online through YouTube videos or large-scale Facebook Live workouts, they tend to lack the personalization factor. While some people may benefit from the one-size-fits-all approach, most of us would better benefit from a more personalized program.
If you’re new to exercise, experience pain or limitation with certain movements, or are looking to achieve something specific through exercise, it may be a better fit to seek out the support of a coach who can design a program that’s customized to your body and your goals.
The last piece of the puzzle is to simply stay consistent with whatever type of activity you choose to participate in. There will always be times in your life when the stars align and it will feel easier to be active…then there will be other times when it will feel much harder. The intention here is to scale your workouts up in frequency and intensity during those simpler times and back down to a more manageable state when life gets busy or you start to feel like your regimen is unsustainable.
The important take-away here is that exercise should be on a sliding scale, not an all-or-nothing endeavour. By finding ways to increase or decrease the intensity of your program to match these fluctuations instead of starting and stopping as life changes, you’re setting yourself up for success over the long-term and going to see much better results.
Getting started with an at-home exercise program
If you’re looking for help getting into gear and starting your at-home workout program, we have all the tools to get you moving and seeing real results. Test out our free trial week of online personal training sessions to see how we can help you!