Exercising and staying fit can be difficult at the best of times. It’s always easy to find something you’d rather be doing than working up a sweat in the gym or pounding the pavement during your daily jog. Now that the most common avenues of getting exercise are mostly cut off from us, with gyms, pools and sports groups being shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even harder to stay fit and healthy.
We’re spending more time indoors, online and physically inactive. Given that being fit and healthy can make you less likely to contract an illness due to a strong immune system, and being healthy allows you to fight off a virus more effectively, maintaining an exercise and fitness regime is extremely important.
The Way We Exercise Might Have To Change
One of the fundamental things about trying to keep fit and healthy while self-isolating is the fact that you may have to change the way you think about exercising. If you relied on a gym, the local pool or a regular sport or martial arts group for your fitness regime before the lockdown, you have to find other ways to stay active.
We spoke to two fitness experts about how we can go about staying fit and healthy during the lockdown.
Michael Janda , the owner and operator of Jandaplex Strength and Wellness Coaching has nearly 15 years of personal training and health coaching experience and specialises in motivating clients and helping them think differently about health and fitness.
Michael Janda: “Before lockdown, I had a very active lifestyle. Working in a gym, I was naturally on my feet for most of the day, as well as occasionally demonstrating exercises for clients. On a normal week I would also complete between 3-5 strength workouts, which usually involve any combination of squats, deadlifts, pressing (bench press or overhead press variations) and pulling (rows or pull-ups usually). I’m a “quality over quantity” sort of guy, so my strength workouts are never longer than about 45 minutes, and I choose exercises based on efficiency”.
Alex Trafton has had a long career in professional sports. Over the years he has been a college baseball player at University of California at Berkeley, a professional baseball player, Tampa Bay Rays organization and an amateur and professional boxer. In addition he is a Combat Submission Wrestling coach and trainer to boxers and MMA fighters.
Alex Trafton: “Prior to the lockdown I had a pretty regimented program for my life. At 6:30 am I would do cardio which would include hiking and trail running for 1.5 – 2 hours 3 days per week. On alternate days I would lift weights 3 days per week. Every evening at 6:30pm I would train 90 minutes of no gi Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Wrestling.”
Being fitness professionals you might think that Michael and Alex might have an easy time trying to remain healthy with the current restrictions on business and movement, but that is not at all the case.
MJ: “Being at home all day, I’m faced with two main challenges in regards to training. One is that I have limited equipment; only a single set of light kettlebells. And the other is that the nature of my work has become far more sedentary, as I’m now sitting at my computer instead of being on my feet.To combat this, I make sure to start each day with a long beach walk. This makes up for no longer being on my feet and active while working, and also gives me a healthy dose of daily sunlight which is one of the best ways to bolster the immune system and maintain positive mental health.My actual workouts have changed dramatically, too. Since I only have access to light kettlebells, I keep my training volume very high and complete high repetitions of strict, controlled technique. I use big movements, such as squat-presses, modified push-ups and lunge variations to make sure I’m spending lots of energy to keep my metabolism healthy.”
For Alex Trafton, the nature of his work and exercise makes maintaining his regular exercise all but impossible.
AT: “The bulk of my intense training was literally being face to face with another human being. Grappling and combat sports are probably the worst things you can do when there is a highly contagious virus going around. I have had to refocus my training from being competition focused, to being focused on more personal and esoteric goals. For instance, training to increase cardio performance on specific trails or runs, or weight loss goals. I think the biggest issue is managing the mental emotional deficit caused by a shift in training. For me, combat sports were a successful tool to manage my ADHD symptoms. Now I need to quickly do trial and error on my training routine to get similar benefits out of different workouts as the necessary outcomes for me go beyond simply physical fitness."
Discipline and Motivation
Being isolated makes a lot of things difficult. For those working from home, trying to resist the distractions and comforts of home can be a chore, and if you’re without work and stuck at home it can be difficult to find the motivation to do much at all. When you’re not regularly seeing people or getting out of the house it can be even harder to motivate yourself to either get or stay fit.
For Michael Janda, motivation is unimportant as it comes and goes. Discipline is the key to exercising in isolation.
MJ: “Being constantly at home day-in and day-out can make it hard to stay motivated. But like I’ve always said, motivation is largely a myth. What I mean by that, is that motivation is something you can’t really control. It comes and goes. What you CAN control is discipline. Discipline comes with consistent repetition of certain habits. Imagine a sled going down a snowy hill. As it slides down the hill, it cuts a path in the snow. The next sled to come down the hill will naturally follow the same path as the previous sled. The more worn the path gets, the harder it becomes to deviate and carve a new path. Our nervous system works the same way. The more you practice a habit, the more automatic it becomes, because the “pathway” has been well established, and there’s less resistance each time. So, if you make yourself work out at the same time every day, for example, the more you do it, the easier more natural it becomes. Instead of looking for “motivation”, work on building your discipline by repeating good habits at the same time every day.”
For Alex Trafton, both discipline and motivation are important factors.
AT: “Motivation is key, but motivation is also fleeting. A lot of performance comes down to discipline and routine. But on the motivation side, I view physical fitness as a part of my professional career development. The dopamine I get from working out is effective in focusing me, it gives me drive and purpose for my day. I also do my cardio with a friend who is similarly professionally motivated (keeping 6 feet apart of course). Having someone who is also disciplined and motivated will really help keep me motivated myself.
I am currently juggling a full-time job as a senior business leader while studying for career advancement in the form of remote courses and industry certifications. Ironically the more I can squeeze into a day, the more effective I am at structuring that day. I come from a very competitive sports background, so I also view this as a competitive issue. When my heart rate is at 190 and my hands are shaking, I think about how the rest of my potential competition down the road is at home, comfortable. Being comfortable with discomfort is a useful skill professionally.”
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Keeping Healthy at Home
When it comes to exercise at home, there is no one size fits all solution. Depending on the availability of equipment, the size of the area, physical limitations and time constraints, everyone’s workout will be different. THat doesn’t mean that our experts don’t have some advice to give, however.
MJ: “My best advice is to learn how to take proper care of yourself. Now is a more important time than ever to do this. Most people are ignorant of how their body works, and what it needs to stay healthy. This is the time to learn how to cook healthy food, to take time each day to get some sunlight and fresh air, and to learn how to exercise properly. During this time people are at home more, and moving less. So it’s important to make time each day to exercise in a way that’s safe and effective. If you don’t know how to do this, hire a coach to teach you.
Set yourself a schedule, and stick to it. Get up at the same time each morning, and start the day caring for yourself in some way. A morning workout is a great example of one way that you can start the day with a “win”! And once it’s done, it’s done!
Remember: You only get one body. You’d better look after it, because you don’t get another one!”
AT: “I think the best thing you can do is prioritize it. Make it a central piece of your day. My entire day is always structured around my exercise, because I know that is a pillar of all my other success. I schedule international conference calls around my workouts! Find something you enjoy doing, if you don’t like CrossFit, don’t do it, do something else to keep fit, but make sure you do something and prioritize that! Find others who are motivated, disciplined, and accountable. We are often the sum total of those we surround ourselves with, and although we can’t be in physical proximity, we have countless virtual tools to allow for connection and coordination (just make sure you exercise good cyber security hygiene!).”
Staying fit and healthy during lockdown means more than just exercising and eating right. It also means taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing. If you need to see a doctor , or t alk to a mental health professional to help you cope with the stress of life, MyHealth1st is the easiest and most efficient way to book an appointment online. If you don’t want to break your isolation, never fear - telehealth services are now available to all Australians. To find and book a telehealth appointment, head to telehealthclinics.com.au . Our booking service is available 24/7, so you can find the help you need when you need it.