By Kyle Anderson, assistant director for the Department of Recreation and Wellness
I’ll say it. I miss the gym. I am that guy pumping out a workout in the weight room or drowning a spin bike in sweat. But since COVID-19 hit, I’ve been spending more time in slippers than a pair of running shoes. It has messed up my balance of exercise and relaxation. I love the gym, and being at home is the hardest challenge I’ve faced to stay fit.
We all are all trying to stay safe during the pandemic. It’s where our focus should be. But by being stuck in our house (or our parents’ house), our physical health is struggling to maintain any type of normalcy, and there are major benefits to staying active. Beyond the obvious benefit of burning calories, physical activity fortifies the immune system and improves mood and energy while boosting concentration.
So kick off those slippers and lace up the sneakers. Here are six tips to help keep you physically active:
Being cooped up may hurt your step count, especially if you walk or bike to classes, but it doesn’t have to. Use that time you would normally spend in transit to walk, run, or just move before your Zoom class or virtual meeting. During this pandemic, the great outdoors is one of the safest places – as long as you maintain your social-distancing six-foot radius. Not only will you get fresh air and some exercise benefits, you will be more awake and attentive in class (and patient when a classmate doesn’t mute their microphone).
Take advantage of online resources.
“Okay, okay, fine – I’ll exercise! But I am not running, and I don’t have any equipment. What do I do?”
Do what we always do when we don’t have an answer – Google it. The fitness world knows the struggle we are having, and they have really stepped up to help by offering free home workouts that use little or no equipment. I recommend Wellbeats, a streaming service that has more than 500 workout classes, from kickboxing to yoga. This service is now free for the entire UNCG community.
Don’t take exercise too seriously.
For many, there may already be multiple stressors in this new reality, and the idea of exercise as a “hard” or “painful” task doesn’t need to be one. You only need 10 minutes of moderate exercise for it to have a benefit on your health. It increases heart strength, general fitness, and brain activity.
Find something that you’ll have fun with. While I love a hard HIIT workout, I cannot help but laugh at myself trying to dance with Nina Dobrev in the free BODYJAM dance class from Les Mills.
If you’re social distancing, you might as well dance like no one is watching.
Set a schedule.
If I don’t work out in the morning, it’s not happening. This was true well before this pandemic, and it will be true well after. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Put it in your calendar that you will exercise right after lunch, after breakfast, or after schoolwork. It’s like my fortune cookie from dinner last night: “A goal without a plan is just a wish. Your lucky numbers are 7, 14, 35.”
Stay social by staying connected.
If there is one thing I miss about hitting the gym, it’s the people. If I am next to you on a treadmill, we’re racing. I just didn’t tell you yet. It’s a motivator. A gym is an escape from the stressors of school and work. It’s a community of like minded people with the shared goal of becoming better individuals. We celebrate our successes and support each other on our tough days. We talk to each other.
It really is no wonder that individuals who exercise regularly have a strong social network. It increases adherence and just makes it fun.But during this pandemic, that community is fractured–but not broken. Call up your buddy for a Zoom workout, or call your mom while you are running around the neighborhood. It won’t be the same, but there is a sense of normalcy in working out with another person in earshot.
If that’s not quite scratching the itch, try logging your activity to Facebook, Strava, Instagram, or anywhere else where your peers can celebrate your activity.
Cut yourself some slack.
We are in a pandemic, so don’t be so hard on yourself. You won’t suddenly lose all the hard work you put in. It takes a good three to four weeks of very little activity to decrease strength gains and cardio fitness. Use this time to recover and recharge. Your body will thank you when you are able to get back to your normal routine.
We have a lot of new challenges in these new circumstances. Exercise, online learning, remote work – even finding toilet paper. But we are all in this together.
You can also check out UNCG Recreation and Wellness’ list of resources to help stay healthy during this pandemic.
Now if you’ll excuse me, after all this physical activity, I have a date with a pair of slippers.
Story by Kyle Anderson, UNCG Department of Recreation and Wellness
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications