Obvious Game of Thrones reference aside, Winter IS coming (one snowstorm already in October!), and with it the challenges it poses to our ability to be and exercise outside. Daunting in New England in the best of times, the continued presence and risks of Covid 19 make for a long, challenging, and potentially isolating Winter inside that will require creativity and perseverance to keep fit and active. We can complain and whine about it all, or we can take the bull by the horns, commit to our own fitness, and get a plan in place!
Here are my best tips for setting yourself up for fitness success!
Create a Routine
With nothing more than an intention “to work out 3-5 times this week”, it just somehow never seems to happen. Commit to you, to your fitness and health, and PLAN your workouts in advance for the week. Pick the days, times, type of workouts, pull out your calendar (every Sunday, say) and schedule them in! A balanced routine has a mix of cardio, strength, flexibility and core/balance. Don’t do the same thing everyday. Plan things that are fun and exciting and that you WANT to do, not that you feel you SHOULD do. Better yet, help cement the routine by signing up for classes in advance, or enlisting a friend to join you.
Give Excuses the Heave-Ho!
A great way to move beyond excuses and start kicking butt is to write them down. Grab a piece of paper and free-form write for 10-15 minutes all of the reasons why working out is challenging, hard to do, not able to happen, could be easier in the future, ect. Go ahead - for 15 minutes only! - whine, complain, go big in the “poor me” department, and get it on paper. Then look at the excuses in the proverbial cold light of day and write a rejoinder to each one. Ask yourself, is thinking “I don’t like to workout alone” or “I don't have the right equipment” bringing you any benefit, or is it causing you stress and keeping you sedentary? Truly ask yourself: “Am I willing to let my commitment to my health, well-being, and fitness be greater than my excuses?” You are a fountain of resolve and awesomeness - tap into THAT.
Buy What You Need
Invest in yourself by buying the clothes, gear, equipment, classes you need to keep moving and fit during these trying times. I know money is not flowing like it used to, but we’re not eating out or going on vacation like we used to either. Letting a mindset of scarcity keep you from giving yourself what you need to work out is just another excuse. Think outside the box. Search Craigslist or FaceBook Marketplace for “cheaper than new” cardio equipment (bikes, treadmills, ellipticals). See if you can swap with a friend (your unused dumb bells for her Jade yoga mat?) Think about how investing in one new tool like a Bosu Ball, Stability Ball, or TRX could change up your routine and ignite excitement. Give yourself an early holiday present by buying an online class package.
What CAN you continue to do outside?
Some of you may already have a Winter sport in your back pocket, or maybe this is the year to find one: downhill or cross country skiing? Snowshoeing? Winter Hiking? Ice skating? Pond Hockey? Sledding (especially if you run back up the hill)? Determine what you need to pop out the door the minute we get snow and BUY IT NOW. One of the cheapest things you can get are Ice Talons: little chainmail spikes you put on hiking shoes or boots which gives your existing footwear the traction to walk, hike or run in the ice or snow!
No Sport? Get creative: Shovel snow - for your elderly neighbor (or everyone on the block)! You will get awesome exercise (just be mindful to switch the side you shovel on to prevent an overuse injury), AND you will feel really good from the very real good you are doing. Chase your kids around the outside of the house 5 (or 10 or 20) times. Have an awesome socially-distancing snowball fight with friends, neighbors or the neighbor’s kids they are stuck homeschooling - everyone will love you!
No Snow? How long into the season can you bike, run or walk? What clothing and gear do you need to make that possible?
Can you use your Gym?
Assuming your gym is still in business and can stay open, is there a way you can use it that feels safe? If mask-wearing group fitness doesn't feel right, could you use the pool if there is one? Could you go super early or super late and just use a set or two of dumbbells that you carefully clean, and get a weight workout in? Does your gym have a virtual membership you could take advantage of?
What Can you Do Inside Your Home?
Online Classes - many of you are (and I hope will continue) to take live online yoga and/or fitness classes with me. But no one wants to eat off of the same menu every day. There are so many online offerings out there. All you need to do is google Online Yoga or Online Fitness classes to check out something new. In addition to live classes, there are also many subscription services that offer pre-recorded classes. Many offer a free class or free trial period, so you’ve got nothing to lose! If you don’t want to try a complete stranger, reach out to your gym, yoga studio you’ve used in the past, or instructors you’ve worked with and see what they are offering.
Personal Training - many Personal Trainers (yes, including me) are now training online via Zoom. This is a great option if a regular appointment will keep your motivation high and your fitness on track, or if you want to use a series of sessions to develop a routine that you can then do on your own.
Your Own Workout or Yoga Practice - I agree, it’s more fun in a group with someone “telling you what to do” so you don’t have to think about it! But consider doing your own workout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, perfect, or anything like you do in class. Here's How:
Yoga. Way before I taught yoga, I learned to practice at home by putting my mat down and letting the magic happen. Honestly. I didn’t know yet how to flow or cue, so I didn't try to make it anything like class. No rules. No full hour. No structured vinyasa. Just enjoying doing exactly what my body wanted to do in the moment. You really know enough to get started (forward fold, down dog, tree pose, pigeon ....) It does not matter if you don’t know your Warrior I from your Warrior II. Get your body in a shape that feels good and inspiring and just let it come to you - no one is watching!
For Cardio, put on music that inspires you, or curate your own playlist for extra motivation, and do what’s available: Use a treadmill, elliptical, spin or stationary bike if you have one. Run or walk fast up and down the stairs in your home and intersperse with sets of jumping jacks, high knees, speed skaters - anything that gets your heart rate up. Make it a little circuit and go for 20 or 30 minutes. You can also dance! Yup, I do this too, with the full understanding that NO ONE is watching! It does not have to be “proper” dance. Move your body to the music in a way that feels good, and get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes.
For Strength, if you’re not using a trainer and aren’t sure of proper alignment, keep the weight light and the moves simple. Google “weight exercises” and read about proper alignment or look carefully at the pictures so you are safe. Or do moves that you’ve done in a class before and feel confident in. Body weight exercises count as strength building, so don’t overlook planks, pushups, triceps dips (you can use your stairs), side planks, squats, lunges, ect. For an easy, quick way to create an at home strength workout try this: Choose one from each category and don’t worry about counting reps or sets (it evens itself out in the end): Chest (e.g, chest press or push ups); Back (e.g., back rows or back flies); Biceps (hammer or regular curls); Triceps (extensions or dips); Squat (wide leg or narrow); lunge (forward, backward, or lateral); Core (crunches or bicycles). Voila! Repeat as many times through as you like.
Consider a Workout Buddy
Consider enlisting a friend as a Workout Buddy. Make sure you choose someone who is capable of tough love (“let’s get this going even though we’re tired!”) and not an enabler (“why don’t we skip it tonight and have a virtual happy hour instead?) Two fun ways to inspire each other are:
Share the workout. Using the easy/peasy chest/back/bi’s/tri’s ect. guideline above, each of you picks 1 exercise in each category to “teach” the other. You don’t have to make it complicated or perform the perfect squat thrust. FaceTime or Zoom each other. One of you then simply calls the shots one round at a time. Take turns going through and for the last round together mix and match your shared faves.
New Class Challenge. Agree to "meet online" and do a series of (say) 8 online classes together at a mutually convenient time. Each of you picks four classes and the other promises to do them. Go out of your comfort zone - Thai Chi? Belly dancing? If it’s movement, it counts. Then perhaps FaceTime each other after class and compare notes. At the end of the series, have a fun prize: you each buy yourself a new workout outfit; you put a set amount of money in your own “buy new workout equipment jars"; meet for a run/walk/hike.
Still Get Your Steps
While not as easy as it once was, still strive to get in those “steps”. The idea is to have as much movement in your life IN ADDITION TO regular workouts. Try:
Actually mailing a bill and walking as far away as possible to a post box.
Walking to a store rather than driving
Parking WAY far away from the entrance if you have to drive, even if it’s cold!
Going up and down the stairs in your house as much as possible. This is an overlooked and awesome workout tool most of us are living with! Try:
leaving your paper towels, toilet paper and canned goods in the basement so you have to walk down to get them.
Make a game out of making more trips than you have to (e.g, bring the laundry upstairs in thirds; bring cleaning materials up/down one at a time, rather than carrying all you can)
After every text you send, email you look at, or social media outlet you check, run up and down the stairs (you’ll either get nice and fit, or decide all that screen time isn’t worth it! 😂)
Got an inspiring idea to share? Please post a comment below!