As the rain pours outside and summer starts fading out, many people are revisiting their New Year's resolutions that were modified, placed on hold, or shoved to the back of the sock drawer with the pandemic. Gyms have opened up and people are attempting to peel themselves off their couches, away from their home-office computers, and into the socially distanced, mask-wearing fitness centers, trying to reclaim the last three months of the year as a success for said resolution.
Much of the last few months have been an exercise in doing the best we can, as kids try to return to some form of school, teachers return to some ever-changing form of teaching, parents try to figure out what boundaries they will place and follow for their kids, and health care workers try to fight the spread by helping to break down the barriers to good common-sense risk reduction practices.
Exercise and personal fitness and wellbeing are no exception. When asking women about their exercise routine during their annual well-woman exams, responses vary from “what exercise?” to “chasing children” to a pained rolling of the eyes or patting of their midriff as they detail how much they were doing pre- and post-pandemic. With the communal slowing down of our lives, it's as if our metabolism has slowed as well. We are planning comfort foods and desserts at our house almost as much as we are planning actual meals. In honesty, what had started as a nice break for reflection has started to feel a bit more like a slow pull into hibernation well before the High Country winter has started.
So, how do we combat the gravitational lethargy that has taken hold of our collective consciousness and physical bodies? First, consider making realistic goals with bonus rewards. Do you have a guilty pleasure of a Netflix show that is too much of a chick-flick to watch with the family? Twenty to thirty minutes on the elliptical just bought that guilty pleasure to cancel out the Snickers bar. How about bribing yourself to exercise to some new music that you discovered? It may be the music that no one else in the car wants to listen to, but when you hear it it triggers the urge to drive fast, road trip or sing out loud like the punk rock princess that you are? That music can wake you up and drive your feet forward.
The next step in creating a successful pandemic exercise routine is to learn how to remove barriers to meeting some realistic goals. If you are too tired at the end of the day, lay your clothes out the night before for exercise and commit to putting them on as soon as you pull your tired body from your bed and before you grab the cup of coffee or breakfast food. If the clothes are on, it can feel like a waste to not wear them for their intended purpose of working out.
Third, remind yourself (more than once, if necessary) that you will feel better if you exercise and get your blood pumping. Even when your muscles ache and bones groan a bit from lack of use, the endorphins from raising your heart rate and breaking a sweat are some of the best proven medicine for anxiety and depression, which so many people are battling right now.
Lastly, as you make your exercise plan, remind yourself that it doesn't have to be the level or amount or intensity that you were at pre-coronavirus. It just has to be something that builds into something more. In the end, the increased intensity, duration, weight or metabolic rate will come in time as you feel better. To be sure, there may still be the internal mental battle of “Yes, you are going to get up and ___ (run, walk, stair-climb, burpee, cycle)” and “No, the bed feels too good” that can seem like a losing battle, but sometimes getting it done is giving yourself the expectation to get it done, one day at a time.
I believe you can do it. So, go do it and just do the best you can. It is enough in these crazy pandemic times.