With a new wave of COVID infections hitting the Netherlands, any kind of normal life seems miles away again. OK, the working from home part definitely doesn’t bother me much and I’m fortunate enough to be able to see family and friends from time to time at a safe physical distance. But what I really do miss is my pre-COVID fitness routine in the gym.
I want to share my experience with you, hoping to inspire you and show you that you don’t always have to be on top of your game in order to be fit. It’s okay to struggle and to lose motivation from time to time – completely normal even.
Fitness has been my mental outlet for a long time, so when gyms reopened in July I tried going back for a few weeks just to see what the situation was like. Only to quit immediately after…
I found that the need for making a reservation for my training, as well as part of people not really making an effort to keep their distance or properly clean materials, just made me more anxious.
Sharing a relatively closed space with a bunch of sweaty people who may or may not comply with COVID-measures (inside or outside of the gym), no thanks.
That’s why I quit my membership around and made the resolution to go back if towards the end of the year infections had not increased drastically. Fast forward to October 2020: infection numbers have been increasing and measures are becoming stricter again. So it seems like I won’t be going back to my precious (heavy) resistance training lifestyle just yet.
That doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing over the past few months, but it has been a struggle. Apart from the need to destress, I work out because I enjoy it. As for home workouts, not so much. It was very hard for me to stay (or even get) motivated and most of the time I only worked out sporadically. I’m sure many of you are in the same situation.
That is why I’ll take this chance and look back on how my fitness routine changed since COVID came to Europe and what ‘being fit’ even means to me anymore at this point.
A break from strength training
To be completely honest, being forced out of the gym was probably a good thing for me at first. 2019 had been a pretty intense year for me, with a lot going on in my personal life.
My body had not really been able to keep up with the extra stress, which led to light overtraining. I did take it a lot easier that year and around January I really started to feel ready to start my full strength routine again.
Then, the Coronavirus suddenly started spreading in Europe and more and more places were closed. Going to the gym was not an option anymore, and although I could’ve turned to doing home workouts immediately, I chose not to.
Even though I had felt ready to go back to the gym full beast-mode, maybe this was more mental then physical. In a way, lifting weights has been linked to (part of) my identity for a long time, and going back felt like the obvious thing to do.
But maybe a true break was actually exactly what I needed: to give my body complete permission to finally fully rest and recover. So, I decided to quit working out altogether for about a month. I did continue my routine of doing a few minutes of yoga in the morning, which I’d started about a year earlier, and I went on walks. The purpose, however, was not necessarily to “stay in shape”, but mostly to relax.
Relaxing forms of exercise
Not working out for an entire month, did wonders for me. With the extra stress that COVID generously provided, I had to be quite careful with the amount of pressure I put onto my body. After a few weeks, though, I knew that I could handle a bit more. On top on that, the weather started clearing up and it was very enjoyable for me to go outside.
So I started taking long walks, at least once and sometimes twice a day. The type of exercise I did was still mainly focused on enjoyment and relaxation, but I made an effort to become more active again.
I kept doing my morning yoga first thing every day, and I started doing some home workout challenges, which I stuck with for a while but lost motivation for not long after.
I usually did some more yoga in the afternoon. So my exercise routine would look something like this:
- Wake up and do some light yoga
- Do a short home workout around 11 AM
- Go for a walk after lunch
- Do (some more intense) yoga in the afternoon, around 16 PM
- Go for a walk after dinner
This routine worked very welll for a while. I maintained most of my strength and muscle by doing the home workouts and the afternoon yoga sessions, stayed active and did not overburden myself. It also helped me manage my weight, since I tend to stress eat.
Staying as active as possible made me deal with the stress in a different way, while at the same time burning some of the calories and allowing me less time to eat since I was busy moving my body.
Cardio & Flexibility training
I have to admit I could not stay motivated for home workouts for long. When going to the gym, on days that I didn’t feel motivated I would just tell myself to at least go there and if I still didn’t want to work out, I could leave.
And usually, already having taken the trouble to go to the gym, I would finish my workout and enjoy it, too. Obviously, this strategy didn’t really work as well anymore since working out from home. On top of that, I didn’t really enjoy home workouts (being used to more powerlifting inspired workouts with very heavy weights).
Instead, I thought it best to start focusing on what I enjoyed doing and what made me feel good, while trying to improve on skills that would benefit my strength training in the future, such as flexibility.
I knew I had to stay active, but it had to be enjoyable too. Apart from yoga and walking I did some cardio very sporadically in the form of cycling and roller skating, which I enjoyed especially with good weather. But afraid of losing a lot of muscle I didn’t want to burn too many calories either.
Back to strength training
Like I said, when gyms reopened I was excited to get back to my strength training routine.
However, I couldn’t really find my groove as I was mostly feeling anxious, popular equipment was frequently in use and on top of that, time was limited because I could only reserve an hour-long training window (and wanted to be out of the gym as quick as possible anyway).
So, instead I decided to quit my membership and instead invest in some more home equipment (resistance bands) and some outside bootcamps my friend had started organising, as well as taking Corona proof dance classes.
All in all, I’ve not been training very consistently for the better part of the year.
Still, I tried to:
(1) stay active,
(2) find something I enjoy,
(3) work on (neglected) skills that may be useful later, and
(4) listen to my body.
And I recommend this for you, too!
If you’re stuck or unmotivated with regard to your (home) workouts, don’t be too hard on yourself. It may take a while to figure out what works for you, and it’s okay to even take a complete break from training if that’s what you need.
What have been your main challenges in staying active during the pandemic? Comment below!