If it’s been a little longer than you care to admit, that’s OK—even with the best intentions, it’s surprisingly easy to get derailed from your workout routine. A couple skipped days turns into a few weeks, and before you know it, a full season (or three) has passed you by. Of course, when you add a global pandemic and gym closures into the mix, all bets are off.
But exercise in the midst of COVID-19 is especially crucial to your mental and physical well-being.
“Our country is facing a new way of living and lack of social interaction with our family and friends have led to an increase in depression and anxiety,” says Arnit K. Demesmin, MS, a NASM-certified personal and group trainer who has a master’s degree in psychology. “Fitness is a great outlet for anxiety and depression because it allows us to design a schedule and give us a sense of purpose when our lives seem all out of whack.” Aside from elevating your mood, consistent moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to boost the immune system, maintain heart health, combat Type 2 diabetes, and boost energy.
Whether you were previously a fitness junkie or you only worked out sporadically, it’s now more important than ever to prioritize physical activity. Let go of any negative feelings associated with “quitting” your past routine and instead look for ways to overcome the obstacles that got you there.
Obstacle 1: The Gym Is Closed
Solution: If you’re used to visiting a Pilates studio or gym, your whole routine may be thrown off thanks to COVID-19-related gym closures. Thankfully, working out from home has never been easier. There’s no shortage of on-demand programs you can download onto your smart phone or tablet — from dance and yoga to HIIT routines and cardio. Some are free (search on Amazon Prime and YouTube for thousands of free fitness classes), while others charge a monthly subscription fee. You can also hire a personal trainer to create a personalized in-person or virtual fitness program based on your goals or join their group classes.
Obstacle 2: Can’t Find Time
Solution: For most people working from home for the first time, the line between personal and professional can be a tough one to navigate—where does your makeshift office end and kitchen table even begin? Without a commute and change of scenery to help shift you out of business mode at the end of the day, it can be hard to set boundaries. “Work-life balance has a different meaning now,” says Demesmin. “So, it’s vital to block off your ‘you’ time right in your calendar before the week starts. When you have it written out, you are more likely to follow through. Plus, establishing a routine helps us feel a sense of control.”
Obstacle 3: The Kids Are Getting in the Way
Solution: Back in January, when you flipped the calendar to 2020, you probably had no idea you’d suddenly become a full-time schoolteacher and daycare center this year. But math and science aren’t the only subjects you can school them on—how about using this time together to provide a foundation of fitness and nutrition habits they’ll carry through life? “Involve your children in your workouts and your nutritious lifestyle,” suggests Demesmin. “Pick a day a week where you all will cook something nutritious together. For example, Rachel Ray offered a free Zoom cooking camp. For fitness, many on-demand programs offer family-style workouts to engage every member of your household.” If both you and your partner are working from home, setting a fitness schedule with your other half can be helpful: while you train, your spouse can watch the kids, and vice versa.
Obstacle 4: Lack of Motivation
Solution: With all the stress everyone’s been under the past few months, it’s no wonder a Netflix binge on the couch sounds so much more appealing than lacing up your sneakers. The good news is that motivation doesn’t have to come only from within. “Find an accountability group that fits your lifestyle—where you are held accountable, but you don’t feel overly pressured,” says Demesmin. “Friends make the best accountability partners, so ask them if they want to create a group.” And before you start making a pact to climb Mount Everest or run a marathon, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy—sometimes, the smallest goals can have the most impact. For instance, join a group whose challenge is to fill the Activity Rings on their Apple watch for the entire month. Or commit to three workouts a week. Or just start a Facebook group chat to discuss your workouts, your challenges, and ask for support when you’re struggling.
Obstacle 5: Short on Funds
Solution: Spoiler alert: You don’t need fancy equipment (here’s looking at you, Peloton) to break a sweat. Many fitness apps and personal trainer programs easily make do with a lot less, such as sliders, a jump rope, bands, and a few dumbbells. For a zero-cost alternative, get creative with household products—use bottles of detergent as dumbbells, towels as sliders, chairs as a stepper, and stairs as your cardio equipment.
3 Steps to Set Yourself Up for Success
1. Start Simply
Looking to lose a substantial amount of weight or achieve a large fitness goal that could take months or years? Break it down into bite-sized chunks that lead to the bigger goal: Lose eight pounds, workout three times a week, walk two miles a day, prep all lunches and dinners on Sunday afternoons, or drink eight glasses of water a day. Now they seem much more manageable.
2. Plan for Success
Use Sunday evenings to write out your training and nutrition plan for the coming week—block off time on your calendar for workouts (including what exercises you’ll be doing) so they don’t fall by the wayside when your schedule changes.
3. Rely on Support
Let your support system and accountability partners know that you’re kickstarting a new lifestyle program and will need their encouragement and understanding. Explain what you expect from them (maybe it’s telling your girlfriends to not invite you to happy hours during the week so you can hit the gym after work or having your spouse take the kids outside to play for an hour so you can do yoga in peace) and be sure to show your appreciation for their support.