There are nine straight rainy-day icons on your weather app. There’s a permanent you-sized dent in your spot on the couch — and it seems to be growing. There might be crumbs on your shirt. Don’t look.
Welcome to the coronavirus fitness plan, where pushing ourselves off the couch and into a standing position is about all we have the juice for these days. We’re here to help, however. There’s a little bit more daylight every day as we move toward spring (minutes!), COVID-19 vaccines are on the way (eventually!) and there’s no better way to improve your mood than by taking baby steps toward a state of physical and mental well-being (it’s true!).
“I think what we’re seeing is a decrease in activity because people had their routines before the pandemic and those routines were quickly changed without much warning,” said Dr. Jessie Fudge, a sports medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente Washington. “And it’s hard to find a new routine and to make it a part of your daily schedule.”
Following is a list of easy-peasy things you can do to get motivated and get moving if you’re struggling with … well, lots of things: your weight, your brain, your happiness, your anxiety level and the overwhelming fear that the End Times have arrived.
Visualize success: It all starts not with physical exercise but with a mental exercise.
“I think the first step of motivating to become physically active is to really set a goal for yourself as to what you want to achieve with a physical activity program,” Fudge said. “And it’s also really important to have a reason why you’re trying to achieve that goal. And that’s really going to drive the motivation to continue an exercise program.”
The most important thing, she said, is finding the fun: “It’s really identifying something that you’re going to enjoy doing. I often ask people to look back to what they liked to do when they were a kid or in high school, or at a time when physical activity was easy, then use that to find exercise programs that work through your life.”
Of course, the easiest thing to do is take …
The first step: There may be no better way to shake the doldrums than to go for a walk. It’s best to try to hit 30 minutes on the hoof, but don’t worry if you’re not up to it: There’s plenty of evidence that any amount of walking is good for you — even parking at the far edge of the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
“Everybody’s more sedentary now than they ever have been,” said Matt Holland, owner of NW Fitness Project in Fremont. “I talk to people that don’t even leave their house at all. So walking is going to have a big effect. My dad was one of those people and I told him, ‘Take a walk and go to a house that’s a block away. The next day, take a walk to the next house, and just step-by-step incrementally build up like that.”
But if the thought of leaving the house gives you the willies …
There’s no need to leave the house: There are plenty of ways to achieve fitness without ever breeching the front door, especially if you’re able to afford something like a treadmill or elliptical machine. But even a small investment in a set of exercise bands or a 10- to 25-pound kettlebell can make a real difference.
“You can get a resistance band kit on Amazon for like $35,” Holland said. “There’s lots of different exercises that you can do with that. Also, a single kettlebell. We do a lot of virtual stuff and we have all of our clients buy one kettlebell, and with one kettlebell you can do hundreds of exercises. Those are probably two of our best bang-for-your-buck tools.”
Don’t bother looking for dumbbells, though: “They’re really hard to find right now. Almost impossible.”
If you’re feeling pretty meh about spending money on equipment, don’t let that be an impediment. Holland and Fudge suggested a variety of household items that can play a role in fitness, from cans of soup to milk jugs filled with different levels of water. A chair can be used to launch a dozen exercises. Even a single step can become a stair-stepping machine.
“Some of our clients even use backpacks,” Holland said.
Still need a little help with motivation? You should …
Seek community: We’ve never been more alone, but it’s also never been easier to find yourself a bit of companionship online, whether it’s using a fitness app to help keep you motivated or signing up for an online fitness, yoga or dance class.
“A class really provides the community that some people need to get a routine going — maybe at a scheduled time with people that are expecting you to be there and hold you accountable,” Fudge said. “The class atmosphere really works for some people.”
And if you’re still not feeling it after all these tips, there are a couple of ways to …
Boost your mood: When Fudge is feeling blue, she follows the lead of the plant world and turns her face to the light.
“I watch the weather and I jump outside the second sun peaks out,” she said.
The sun is a little miraculous this time of year and helps you with vitamin D. Another tip is to seek an endorphin high, which could kick in after just 30 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise.
“And it’s really those endorphins that improve your sensation of well-being and happiness,” Fudge said.
Hopefully, you’re so inspired, you’re headed out the door right now, but first …
A warning: Fudge has seen a marked increase in stress-related injuries as people jump into the deep end of the fitness routine or take long breaks between more-than-moderate workouts. Take it easy out there, folks.
“It’s important to set reasonable goals and expectations and start slow with the new routine and ramp up gradually to prevent injury and also promote long-term success,” Fudge said. “Jumping in too fast can have the potential to increase injury and frustration and decrease motivation.”