New World… New Strategies!

It can be hard enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle at the best of times… and 2020 is anything but the “best of times.” If getting quality sleep, eating well, and/or making time for yourself was a struggle pre COVID, chances are these habits have not miraculously improved. The pandemic has a way of amplifying life’s stressors. It can feel almost impossible to make health and exercise a priority during the current craziness.

My suggestion? Acknowledge that our world has changed, then adapt your strategies to the new reality! Instead of trying to use solutions that may—or may not—have worked pre-pandemic, find new and innovative ways to reach your health and fitness goals. For example, use my “plug and play’ strategy!

“Plug and Play” Your Way to Better Health!

The plug and play solution is a tailored list of exercise options based on time and accessibility. Decide what activities you could realistically do in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. When you find yourself with a chunk of “found” time, instead of wasting that block of time on social media or thinking “what should I do?” look at the list and go!

Think of the plug and play list as “exercise snacking.” Sure, you might not be able to prioritize an hour workout—a full “exercise meal”—but you can always fit in 5 or 10 minutes. Ten minutes of exercise a day is 70 minutes a week, and 70 minutes a week is better than zero minutes. All motion adds up.

The key is to create the list in advance. Why? When you have to stop and think about what exercise to do, all too often you will end up doing nothing. The cognitive load of deciding is one thing too many. The list will help you take the guesswork out of fitness. That way you can make the best of all free moments!

Workout Mix

Have 5 minutes?

Dance around your living room.

Have 10 minutes?

Do two Tabata sets. First warm-up for 2 minutes by walking around your living room or doing some old school aerobics (think side steps and bum kicks). Then do two Tabata sets. Pick an exercise. Try jumping jacks. Alternate 20 seconds of hard work with 10 seconds of recovery for 4 minutes. Then pick another exercise. Maybe burpees. Again, alternate 20 seconds of hard work with 10 seconds of recovery. Other options include high knees, stairs, and mountain climbers.

Have 20 minutes?

Go for a fartlek walk. Fartlek intervals are unstructured intervals. Instead of keeping to prescribed work/rest times—as you would with traditional intervals—with fartlek training you simply pick random landmarks and speed up. Walk as fast as you can to the stop light, listen to music and do more intense jumping jacks until the end of the chorus, run the second half of the block.

How do you decide what to include on your list?

1. Think about what you find fun.

Find things you enjoy, or at least that you don’t hate. This pandemic is hard enough; it might not be the time to make yourself suffer through exercise that you despise. Put on some music and dance around. Jump rope. Order yourself a hula-hoop. Find a podcast you enjoy and listen as you walk. If yoga is your jam bookmark various lengthens of yoga classes.

2. Think about what is safe.

Consider your exercise and health history, the space available, and the amount of time you might “find”. If you know you will only ever have ten or fewer minutes don’t plan on an intense strength training session or an all-out sprint. An intense workout without a warm-up could cause injury. Instead, plan moderate activities – think gentle stretching, foam rolling, posture work, walking, etc.

3. Consider what is realistic.

Pick something you will actually do. Consistency is key. If you HATE running don’t plan to run. If you despise dancing don’t plan on cutting a rug. Have realistic expectations.

4. Think convenience.

Strategically store exercise equipment in easily accessible places, ideally in plain sight. Inexpensive options include free weights, the foam roller, the balance disk and/or the stability ball. I have a little trampoline. I bounce between my ZOOM training sessions. Place weights in your kitchen and do a few squats as your kettle boils. Stretch your chest by lying on the foam roller between work calls. Bounce on the ball as you help your kids with homework.

Exercise with Ball

5. Figure out what you find motivating.

Are you motivated by others? Consider getting your family and/or friends involved. Play semi-active games with your kids such as hide and seek—these types of games may not be a workout, but they require more activity than watching TV. Make “dates” with your family to do online workouts. There are so many free and fun options. Try the Fitness Marshall’s dance workouts or Yoga with Adriene. Create a family step challenge. Are you motivated by the “carrot” of alone time? Frame your time on the stationary bike as an opportunity to watch your favourite Tv time. “Sell” walking at lunch as an opportunity to be alone with your thoughts.

The net is, your workouts don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to happen. Think consistency—think daily, non-negotiable motion!

Concluding Thoughts

“Perfect” is always an unrealistic goal, but it is particularly unrealistic and unhelpful health goal during a global pandemic. “Perfect” is the enemy of getting sh*t done! Don’t let the goal of “perfect” eating keep you from doing the best you can in this current craziness. Get back to the basics. Move wherever and whenever possible. Drink water. Eat your vegetables. Limit sugar and processed foods. Sleep. Make choices your future self will be proud of!