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Exercise and Quarantine: Start Small and Go Slow for Big Results

Whether you were a regular exerciser before the pandemic or simply squeezed in occasional weekend warrior-style workouts, there’s no doubt that being quarantined  has impacted how you move your body in a big way.

For you gym-goers, it was a game-changer when the community YMCAs, CrossFit warehouses, indoor cycling spaces, and yoga studios were shut down overnight.  It may have been one of the first serious ‘jangles’ to your health routine that no one could have predicted just a few short months ago. We’ve all been left to figure out how to work out from home, and for many, that has been an upsetting shift.

For others, it’s been a boon of sorts. With work-from-home protocols in place, the commute was suddenly gone, leaving many with extra hours on their hands. While we may have slept in for a few weeks, many of us have realized that those extra morning and evening hours are a ripe time for exercise.

And for those with families who’ve spent hour upon hour in the car driving kids to athletic practices and extracurricular activities, we’re now available for family walks around the neighborhood, backyard games, and exploration of local trails and sights that we may have overlooked during busier times. 

So it hasn’t been all bad.

In fact for many, the great outdoors have become a new retreat, a quiet place to both reflect and sweat. Even as public outdoor spaces remained closed, creative individuals have been able to find trails and streets for running and cycling where they can remain safely socially distanced. In fact, bike sales are on the rise –  as people are desperate to get out of the house and move their bodies – and find new and creative ways to get to and from the store.  

So while we’ve lost some of our favorite habits or have become temporarily less motivated to engage in our traditional exercise routine,  we have adapted. Some gyms are coming back online with lower capacity, pools are slowly opening, and trailheads are teeming with new visitors.

As we begin to recover from a 100% quarantined life and start to discover what’s going to be our new normal, we can take this time to look at our wellbeing as a whole. We all know that physical fitness goes hand-in-hand with mental health and nutrition. Each element keeps our baseline metabolic health in check and supports our body’s natural immune system and ability to ward off foreign invaders. We need to find a way to balance it all in order to feel well and maintain our resiliency. And that’s entirely possible. It just requires a little perspective. 

Quarantine: Exercise Habits You Can Build Starting Now

It’s a great time to reflect on what we can be doing differently to stay healthy when the rest of the world still feels a little topsy-turvy. Can we eat smarter? Move more creatively? Build wholesome habits now that will carry us into the future? Here are a few places to begin your post-pandemic (wishful thinking) exercise evaluation.

Small habits equal big change.

If you are not naturally a big exerciser but want to begin, or you’ve had to dramatically shift your workout routine during the pandemic, start small. You don’t have to overhaul your life to build base health. The key is routine. Being able to stick with something attainable at first will give you the motivation and encouragement to continue.

You can’t jump into running a marathon before you can pace around the block steadily. Be patient with yourself. Set one small goal and really go for it, rather than expecting to achieve a dramatic result when you don’t even know what the world will look like tomorrow. Your goal could be as small as getting an exercise app and following a 10-15 minute workout session twice a week. Or exploring one new hiking trail each weekend. It could be getting a weight set and starting with a few reps and pushups three times a week. Only you know what’s doable for you.

Get creative to get in motion.

Instead of harboring nostalgia for what was, whether it’s your favorite treadmill with a view at the gym or your vinyasa yoga sweat fest with friends, let it go. Those may come back one day, but for now you need to take your exercise routine into your own capable hands. And for that, getting creative just makes it more fun.

While some of us are lucky enough to live near trails and open spaces where we can hike, bike and run to our heart’s delight, others need to get extra creative to make their home, yards, urban parks and neighborhoods the heart of their workout life. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive ways to make that happen.

Get a set of weights or bands and keep them by your mirror. Combine some simple reps with body-weight exercises like pushups, sit-ups and chair dips. Even a few minutes every other day will work wonders. Seeing results will keep you motivated.

Set up a backyard obstacle course. The whole family can get in on a ninja-warrior style setup, and you might be surprised by how much rope, wood and homemade features you already have in your garage. Just Google a plan and get going.

Yoga wherever you can. It’s amazing how this practice can transform your body, supporting other weight-bearing activities by giving you the strength, flexibility and grace to perform them better. But if it’s getting old to downward dog indoors, go outside while it’s still summer. Set up your mat on the deck at sunrise, in the park with a few friends at sunset, or even on a backyard trampoline for an extra ab workout.

Add exercise to vacay. If you are planning a road trip or visit with family, build exercise into your time away. “Vacation” doesn’t always have to mean sitting on the beach all day. Even small bits of movement throughout a “down” day can keep you on your exercise track. For example, I’m at a family cabin right now where I can swim in the lake in the morning, take a cruiser ride with my son in the afternoon, and play some yard games in the evening to keep my body in motion.

Combine exercise with eating.

Because movement and food work synergistically, you can’t truly maximize your health potential with only one. While I like riding my bike hard and enjoying a beer and pizza after, I know this has to be an occasional treat. Throughout the week I need to stick with a solid nutrition plan to keep my weight in check, heart healthy, and immune system in tip-top shape.

Only you know what habit- forming initiatives will work for you, but my routine includes intermittent fasting during the week, choosing seasonal fruits and vegetables for a plant-based diet, taking supplements where I know I’m deficient, and walking away when I know I’m eating my emotions. Nutrition is very personal, but when you can settle into an eating and exercising routine, you’ll find that they feed off of one another.

As you begin to emerge from pandemic isolation, we hope that each day you find motivation to move more, eat better, sleep soundly, and manage mood and stress. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs where we’ll dig a little deeper on toxic load, metabolic health, and immune resiliency for a healthy future.

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