When the seriousness of a sudden global pandemic stopped the world in its tracks around mid-March, many people also found that their normal workout routines went right out the window. We were suddenly faced with an unprecedented level of uncertainty that shook the human race to the core and put us all in survival mode, above all else. We were all buried in our cell phones, scrolling for news and updates more than usual, just trying to make sense of it all.
Fitness and weight loss especially took a back seat, as no one really knew just how to process what was happening. Binging Netflix while overindulging on snacks and online shopping became the new norm, and gyms everywhere were closed for months while people were left to their own devices (literally). After extreme boredom took its toll, some became restless from hanging out at home 24/7 and began to venture outdoors or opt for in-home virtual workouts to stay on track.
Though fitness trainers and health enthusiasts know all too well the importance of staying active, it was tough for many people to keep up their usual level of motivation to move. Research has long supported that exercise is an essential component to our overall health; not only our physical state of wellbeing, but also our mental wellbeing. Adding to that, what we put on our plates, how we treat ourselves, each other, and cope with stress are also determining factors in how healthy we really can be. Practicing a holistic-centered approach to wellness is now even more essential, especially now that we’ve seen firsthand what crisis mode looks like.
Now that some gyms are slowly opening back up at lower capacities, it may start to feel like things are returning to normal again, but are they? For those who are still struggling to get back to that motivational mindset and get back into pre-quarantine shape, I’ve got some good news: it’s totally doable. If you aren’t able (or ready) to return to your exact routine, or if you’re just looking for a jumpstart, I’m going to share some ideas to help you get back to that pre-quarantine body and what you can do right now to feel even better than before.
The Quarantine Fifteen
So, you may have gained some weight during quarantine due to inactivity and stress eating, but I’m here to tell you that this is totally normal and you shouldn’t feel ashamed. The ‘quarantine 15’ became a new point of contention for many people who likely thought that the pandemic may be our ‘end of days.’ Our bodies are naturally designed to slow down (especially in a crisis) to protect us from danger and prepare us for when food may become scarce. Stress eating is also very common, but that doesn’t mean this pattern is permanent. Placing the blame on ourselves for overindulging isn’t helpful nor is it productive, so first things first: You don’t have time for shame in your game, so don’t beat yourself up about undone progress. You can always pick up right where you left off before the lockdown and start with a clean slate.
Take It Slow
If you were in a more sedentary state for much of the quarantine without regular physical activity, it’s best to start out slowly so you don’t risk injury. When we take a few days or even a week or two off from regular exercise, we usually bounce right back. But if it’s been a few months or more, you’ll want to ease back into your usual routine. If you don’t feel comfortable heading back into a gym or fitness studio yet, there are plenty of activities you can do outdoors or at home to get your groove back.
Walking is a great place to start because it’s something you naturally do anyway, and you can pick it back up at any time. If you live in a cooler climate where fall is already making an appearance, even better! Walking can also be a great way to reconnect with a friend, partner, or yourself. If you’re used to more strenuous physical activity, start off at half the capacity of what you’re used to just to prime your body for the more intense stuff that’s still to come.
Now that experts have drawn more attention to the importance of taking care of our mental wellbeing during the pandemic, we’re beginning to understand why it’s necessary to pause and take time for ourselves. If you have a partner and kids around you 24/7, self-care is especially important for you. It’s something that many health experts preach, yet we don’t always take the time to fit it into our busy lives. Self-care can be practiced in a number of ways, and it’s important to find something that speaks to you. Maybe yoga is your thing, or meditation with intentional breathwork helps get you calm and centered. Spending time reconnecting with loved ones who aren’t nearby or being out in nature are just a few other ways to practice self-care.
Forest bathing (known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese) has been shown to aid in relaxation, heighten our senses, and provide a much-needed escape from technology and the stresses of daily life according to this Time Magazine article.
Unplugged: Detoxing from Digital
One of the best things you can do for yourself right now is to unplug. This goes hand in hand with the concept of forest bathing because the idea of disconnecting from technology (even if only for a few days) has shown to be an effective way to relieve stress and reconnect with what’s really important. So, what if you feel like you absolutely can’t turn off or put away your phone completely due to work or other obligations? Turn off your notifications. Every time you receive a notification on your phone or tablet, the pleasure center of your brain lights up and it feels like you’re being rewarded. It becomes addicting, as the brain seeks more and more of this feeling. Limiting your time spent on social media to one hour per day can also help with productivity and help ease you out of that state of constant phone dependency.
On that note, social media can also have a very negative effect on us. Scrolling through news articles about world issues can be all-consuming, it can make us feel undue stress, and raises our cortisol levels. When we are exposed to almost constant negativity rather than positivity, it can make us want to turn inward and even lead to depression. Our bodies are not meant to be in a constant state of alert, and this may affect how quickly a person is able to lose weight and may even lead to increased belly fat. When in doubt, mute or unfollow people who are posting more negative than positive content. These settings exist in social media platforms for a reason, so if something causes you more stress than peace, let.it.go.
You Are What You Eat
This doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and throw out every bad morsel in your pantry right this minute, but if you loaded up on junk food when lockdown started, it’s best to start clearing the junk out of your kitchen and out of your life now. Start fresh: make it a point to search for some new recipes online or dust off that new cookbook you bought at the beginning of the year and choose a new dish to make each week. You could even do a recipe exchange with friends or family and share photos of your creations to keep everyone hyped about eating healthier. Eating healthy is something that can become a gradual transition, so don’t feel like it’s all or nothing.
If you’re struggling to get back on track, or you’ve decided you want to start a new fitness regimen, hire a trainer. With so many fitness pros now going virtual, it’s even easier to gain access to someone whose job it is to motivate clients and keep them accountable. Maybe you feel like you need an extra nudge to get moving, and investing in your own long-term health can be worth its weight in gold.
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