There are 2 distinct mindsets or phases when it comes to fitness and exercise during a pandemic:
The “this is my time to get in shape” and the “it’s a pandemic, I’m not worrying about this” mindset. There are those who choose to run marathons in their back yards and those who have regular Netflix marathons on the sofa. The truth is that, over the last 7 months, many of us have been in both mindsets (in no particular order) with an indecisive transition phase in between.
Time to be healthy vs time to get comfy: Phases 1 & 2
Phase 1: typically identifiable by a sudden drive to perfect an exercise routine at home and get into or back into shape as a method of embracing the pandemic as the springboard for a healthier lifestyle. This may include purchasing some home equipment – maybe some light weights and resistance bands – or finally making use of the standing bike that that’s been collecting dust on the patio for the last few years. Signing up for online classes or scrolling the internet for the best ab and leg toning workouts.
Phase 2: resigned to the fact that the world is in the throes of madness and accepting that a perfect body and feeling guilty about exercise is low on the pandemic priority list. Minimal efforts are made to feign an interest in fitness or taking the opportunity to improve one’s physical health. May lead to extended periods on the sofa and time spent in the kitchen.
Starting with good intentions
The South African government decided on a hard lockdown for 21 days stating that we weren’t allowed outside our homes at all – other than for a quick grocery run. While I’m not a cyclist, road runner or gym-goer, I walk a lot with my daughter and my girlfriends and it’s a great way to clear my head and get in some extra cardio. I wasn’t sure how I’d keep it up without the open roads, but I knew – for my sanity – I had to do something.
I decided I would run up and down the very steep flight of stairs in the back driveway. Down and back up once for every day we were in lockdown, building on the previous day. I managed to get to 21 rounds– the number of days we were supposed to be in hard lockdown.
Needless to say, a presidential address and an extended lockdown later, I gave up on the stairs. Phase 1 transitioned to phase 2 relatively quickly.
Now, as a woman whose business focuses on making movement a fun and easy habit, you would think I have my routine perfected and that I am highly committed to movement and exercise. But often the world gets the better of me and I find myself sitting at my desk for hours without having moved an inch. By the end of the week I’m lucky if I’ve reached 10 000 steps. When this happens, I’m fully aware that I’m not doing myself any favours.
Balancing phase one and phase two
As I sit on my sofa, knowing full well that I haven’t moved more than a few metres all day, I battle with the guilt of ‘I know I should have’ and ‘I really can’t be bothered’ – the latter winning as I switch from the news to my favourite, Hawaii Five-0.
And it’s okay! The ‘new normal’ isn’t normal and we have to give ourselves time to adjust. Consistently motivating oneself is trying at the best of times – never mind when we’re dealing with the other emotional and physical tolls of a pandemic.
Cut yourself some slack but not too much
If you find yourself running laps across the garden in place of your park run, if you’re committed to doing an online movement class 3x a week, or you make a point to take long walks as often as possible, FANTASTIC!
In these wild times, harnessing the benefits of movement and exercise is crucial. The serotonin and dopamine release help combat feelings of depression and the blues. Exercise and movement also help maintain your immunity, and also help keep the systems (cardiovascular and respiratory) that are vulnerable to Covid-19 in better condition.
So, while lazing around, or running yourself into the ground, might seem like the right thing to do when the world is in disarray, it’s important to strike a balance between the two mindsets. Make a concerted effort to keep moving, but also give yourself a break when you need to – both are equally important.