First Steps Towards Fitness Now That Your Health Club Is Closed
Advice to start an at home workout from a 25 year veteran personal trainer
The 2 health clubs I have worked at for 20 years closed their doors due to the COVID-19 virus threat, yesterday March 16th, 2020.
The days leading up to this decision were fraught with confusion, frustration, anger and apprehension, and members expressed these emotions through as many behaviors as there are opinions and feelings about “working out”. During training sessions with clients, news of the viral threat began to hover over us and light conversations turned serious. Most of my clients kept working with me toward their goals.
Those who were immuno-compromised were the first to recognize the severity of the situation, and apologetically cancelled training sessions for a few weeks. Others began to question if coming to the club for a workout might end up doing more harm than good.
As the news reports of confirmed cases turned states from yellow to orange to red, we became anxious and out of sorts. During a time of unprecedented anxiety about the future, the one place people were able to work off stress and feel better was ironically, taken from them (whether you enjoy working out or not). That tiny invisible terrorist has turned our lives upside down.
I personal train and teach to over 100 people per week, and have been in the fitness industry for 25 years. My clients are mostly in their 40s-70s.
I am a Boomer myself. Our generation has experienced wars, multiple financial crises, 911 and except for an occasional, extreme snow storm, our health club doors have remained open. Today we are facing one of the most frightening global health and financial crises in history. I can’t control any of that. But I can use my years of experience to help some of you begin to reclaim an important part of your life.
My clients will tell you how many times I listened patiently while they told me how they couldn’t work out on their own at home. I would laugh and tell them “I understand. When you’re at your house, read a book, eat dinner with your family, entertain guests and clean your bathroom.” I would point to the gym we were in. “Then when you’re in my house, work out”.
I learned this lesson about myself in grad school when I unsuccessfully tried to study in my small apartment. All of the sudden the dishes in the sink were so important I would interrupt my studies to wash them. I learned I needed to study in the library and do the dishes (or not) at home. I realized that blocking out specific times and locations to accomplish specific things helped me achieve my goals more efficiently.
So your health club is closed. Now what?
1. Stay in touch
The first thing I have reassured my clients is that we will stay in touch.
If you have people you share the love (or hate) of fitness with, put time aside to keep in touch with them. Text, call, FaceTime, whatever works for you.
2. Put specific time and space aside to care for your body and mind
Deep breathing is a great way to start. Stress management is an important part of health and wellness, especially in times like these. Deep breathing can help relieve emotional stress, relax muscles, improve mood and lung function, lower blood pressure and bring you into the present moment.
A yoga or exercise mat is a great, simple way to designate a block of time and space for fitness. If you can, go outside into the fresh air. Upon waking, after a trip to the bathroom and before exposing yourself to the news, start your day with a minute (or longer) of deep breathing. I use my Applewatch or a timer for 1–3 minutes which helps me start my day calm and focus on gratitude.
3. Drink water
This is a simple, healthy behavior you can control, and will help you maintain your health. I suggest starting the day drinking 8–16oz of water before consuming anything else (unless you have a medical reason not to). Continue drinking water throughout the day.
4. Stay active and on schedule
Runners, walkers, cyclists, roller bladders'- if the weather is good, the area is safe, and you can practice social distancing, you’re good to go. Encourage others to meet you. If you have equipment in your home, clean it up and get it ready. If you can, schedule a workout on your calendar as you would a class. Better yet, schedule activities on the same day and time you had previously taken a class at your health club. Part of the enjoyment of a fitness membership are scheduled classes and interactions with other members.
5. Be creative
I sent my husband out the door with a basketball this morning. He is missing his weekly game, but can certainly stay active working on his layups. There are apps and videos online, which some of you are comfortable using. For people who consider themselves technologically challenged, stick with the basics like walking, gentle stretching and deep breathing or meditation to start with. My mom, 84, is missing her warm water workouts and social interaction. Now she plays some music and does her exercises every morning for 20 minutes in their spare bedroom.
I hope this helps
Just like starting a fitness program seems overwhelming at first, each of us can take small steps to manage our lives during these difficult times. For now, social distance fitness can be achieved with a few, simple behavioral changes, a willingness to remain calm and open minded, staying in healthy contact with each other for support and following the CDC guidelines. I am hopeful we will get through this together and the doors will open to a new, healthy life soon.