Working Out at Home: “The New Normal”
Back in February, none of us had a clue that our lives were going to drastically change within a short period of time. We were not prepared for these changes. Losing our jobs or having to work from home, taking care of kids fulltime, lining up outside of grocery stores, dealing with a toilet paper shortage (I STILL don’t understand). Changes like not being able to hang out with friends or family that are not within the same household, and losing access to our favourite hang out spots, including the gym, a place where many people go to work on themselves physically and mentally.
The gym is not considered an “essential service” even though long term, working out and strength training is associated with a decreased risk for many chronic health conditions. Long term, preventative health care is not deemed “essential” right now. Okay. I have accepted it and moved on. All the gyms are closed. I am not going to lie, this absolutely sucks. This sucks for people and their fitness/health goals, for their community, for personal trainers/coaches and their careers, and for gym owners. So many people are being affected by this. And with all the crazy that has been going on, closing gyms (where so many people have created routines and worked on improving both their mental and physical health) really does not help.
Yea, this is hard. BUT this does not mean this is the end. Just because the gym is closed, does not mean you need to give up on continuing to work on yourself. You just need to shift your mindset and re-evaluate your priorities. Let’s take a look at how you can get active during this crazy ass time.
Step 1 – Re-evaluate your current situation.
You may need to temporarily re-evaluate previous fitness goals for the time being for various reasons. Examples; you don’t have access to the same equipment, the same amount of weights, the same support (hands on personal training, fitness classes, ect.), you might have to spend all day taking care of your kids. You either work more which increases your stress levels and also messes up with your previous schedule/ routine, or you work less and you’re still trying to figure out a routine. Or maybe you don’t work at all and you’re feeling lost/unmotivated/having a hard time getting yourself together to develop any kind of routine/discipline (And hey, that is okay in the short term, take your time. This is a normal reaction. But get back on that horse when you’re feeling better, reach out for help.) You might not have access to the same environment (like a gym), and working out from home makes it hard to stay focused on the task at hand and get into the groove of a workout (especially with children running around). There are so many reasons why you might need to shift your perspective. Acknowledge that your goals might need to change in accordance with your ‘new normal’ and what you have available.
Step 2 – Identify NEW goals
Setting goals can help us stay consistent and focused. Right now, a lot of people might have troubles reaching the goals they set back in January (Example: my goal was to squat 300lbs for 1, and I got all the way up to 230lbs for 5 reps, but clearly this goal of mine cannot be a focus right now because I don’t have access to the equipment that I need to make this goal possible). THIS IS PERFECTLY OKAY. Life changes, it is never a straight line. Sure, this is a setback but that does not mean I will never get there! Right now, it’s important to change our goals to make them more realistic in our current situation. First and foremost – before setting more specific goas, here are 2 things to focus on with your training: maintenance, and mental health.
Instead of feeling helpless and concerned about no longer being able to reach your previous goals, focus on what you currently HAVE and acknowledge how far you’ve come, and make it a goal to minimize loss/maintain the progress you’ve made, be it strength, muscle mass, or weight loss. Train smart with ‘maintenance’ in mind.
Make your mental health a priority. Get to the roots of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why do you need to workout? How does it affect you? What do you really need right now and how can physical activity help with that? Mental health is especially important right now, and doing something active can really help us FEEL better, so making it a goal to be active to help yourself not only physically but mentally as well, this can help you stay more consistent and really create an impact on your overall health. From there, you can create new and fun ways to stay active and keep yourself accountable. Set some new goals using what you have access to at home! The next few paragraphs highlight some ideas for new goals from running, to mastering bodyweight movements, to focusing on a muscle building or and endurance block.
Have you always wanted to start running? This is the perfect opportunity to do so. The weather is even getting warmer! Do you enjoy nature? Get outside and go for daily walks and enjoy the fresh air! There are a lot of running and walking programs that you can find online, or even reach out to a professional to get something created for you according to your current needs. This is a really good time to enjoy some outdoor activities.
Have you always wanted to be able to do push-ups? You can find a lot of progressions online to get started on that as well. This is a time where we can focus on mastering bodyweight movements and challenging ourselves to get better at things like squats, lunges (and all the amazing variations that come with them), push-ups, planks, and even pullups! (Pullup bars are sold at Walmart for like 20$! A solid investment). Challenge yourself, if you can already do these movements really well, set a goal to be able to do more reps with quality movement, like 20 or 50 or 100 push-ups in a row, or a 60 second or 3 minute plank (or even 10 minutes, like one of our members, Guy), or 5 or 25 pullups. Having a challenge like that can help you stay focused towards something, stay consistent and track progress.
Do you have access to weights? Set a goal to do more unilateral strength stuff, work on imbalances, add mobility and rehab exercises that you’ve been putting off because you felt like you didn’t have the time. If you only have access to a few weight options like the majority of the population, and if you were previously focused on gaining strength, maybe switch gears and try out a muscular hypertrophy (muscle building) block, with higher reps and tempo work – playing with the time it takes to do a rep. This could really help maintain the muscle you’ve gained during your strength phase and might even set you up well for when this is all over. Or work on muscular endurance, high reps with minimal rest between sets. Get some cardiovascular benefits as well.
The whole point is finding something that you can do with what you have. Creating a goal that you can track progress on or even something that keeps you having fun. Right now, staying active is important, in whatever way you can. Mentally it can get hard to get things done but if we stay consistent now we will feel so much better in a few months when we can all go back to the gym and we will have a newfound appreciation for what we have access to.
Step 3 – Create a Plan
Once you’ve figured out your why and your what (why you need to be active and what you’re new goals are for the next few months), you’ve got to come up with a sensible plan that keeps you consistent, tracks your progress, and continues to challenge you. There are a lot of plans online right now, and a lot are free. I would personally recommend reaching out to a fitness professional that you trust and that you have had conversations with in the past, someone who you think could help create structure for you and keep you consistent and accountable. Usually this costs money, but it’s worth every penny in my opinion. Smart programming, accountability, and having someone you can go to and ask questions is so useful and makes a huge difference. They can help you assess your current fitness level, your equipment, your goals, and create a workout from there!
Step 4 – Execution
The number one thing that will get in your way right now is a lack of motivation. Some days are going to be tough, but the goal here is to make sure that more often than not, you get your workouts in. You are a sum of what you do on a regular basis, not what you do occasionally. Once you’ve got your goals and your plan all set up, it’s time to create an execution plan. Schedule in your workouts like a doctor’s appointment. Create a routine and plan to do your workouts/activities around the same time each day to help stay consistent. Treat it like a priority and remember that moving will help you FEEL BETTER. Then, just start!
Step 5 – Tracking your progress
Whatever your new goals might be, tracking progress can help you stay on focused, and make changes as needed. As things get easier, you need to continue to challenge yourself by adding more stimulus. It’s also motivating to see the progress you make and a great way to do that is you get a starting point and track it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Example; you want to get to 10 push-ups and at the start you can only do 3. Every week or every second week, test out how many push-ups you can do. If the number increases, you’re improving! If it isn’t, and the workouts are getting easier, then you know you need to challenge yourself more by adding more sets, reps, or increasing the difficulty. My favourite way to track progress is by writing everything down in a book. My goals, my workout plan, and then how I did each workout. This also keeps you accountable to yourself.
Step 6 – Acknowledge that nothing is perfect
It is totally okay to be unmotivated or have a bad workout. We are human beings. We are not perfect. You will probably lose a bit of muscle mass if you were previously working out 5x/week at a gym with lots of weights and you no longer have access to anything but bodyweight exercises. That is OKAY. That does not mean that you cannot do anything at all to help offset how much you will lose. Shifting gears to focus more on working out for your mental health can really help combat the fear of ‘losing gains.’ It’s about your long-term health. Right now, doing what you can with what you have is okay. And if you have a day where you just do NOT want to get out of bed, that is okay too. But if it’s a week or more, and you are really struggling, get help. Call a friend or go online to seek counselling. It’s okay to feel off right now, but if you’re experiencing frequent and constant feelings of depression and loneliness and you cannot get yourself together, after 4+ weeks of being isolated, get help. It’s okay to do that.
There you have it! Some information on how to stay active during this quarantine, how to shift your mindset and make sure you are still taking care of yourself with all of the changes that have occurred within such a short timeframe. Remember; you only get ONE body. So, treat it with respect. Limit the endless snacking, drinking, and binge-watching Netflix, and go outside, play with your kids, maybe even take a bath, or read a book or draw. It does not always have to be activity, but make sure you get that in too. You will feel better. Take it one week, one day at a time. And appreciate moments. Because you will never get them back.
This post was composed by Mercedes W. She is a trainer at One Family Fitness Centre, she graduated with a Bachelors in Kinesiology and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Stay tuned for more posts from her in the future! She is currently accepting online personal training clients and she will also be taking clients again in person when we reopen.