It’s no secret that a good workout will get you feeling and looking beautiful. COVID-19 has impacted lives and livelihoods, but it has had a massive impact on lifestyles as well. The problem isn’t just about the gym closing, but about a disruption in routine. We’re here to help you recreate a new and improved exercise routine.
One of the most common behavior changes since the COVID-19 pandemic hit is a reduction in physical activity.1 We’re moving less and staying home more. We mostly know the benefits of exercise. It helps keep your heart, lungs, and mental health in good shape, and it has anti-aging effects as well. Specific hormones triggered by physical activity have been identified,2 and the evidence for the benefits of an active lifestyle continues to grow. Adding muscle volume and toning your body improves your health, appearance, and confidence. Physical activity is also vital for your skin health. Exercise makes your skin shine; it’s no illusion.3
Exercise, like other lifestyle factors, is a long-term proposition that demands consistency. It’s a marathon, so a burst of fleeting motivation rarely produces results, which is why most new year resolutions fail. Working out is hard for most people, and it’s entirely optional, which makes it a challenge. For consistent results, having a healthy routine is critical for all but the most dedicated and self-motivated.
Loss of Routine
Lockdowns of varying severity have impacted gyms and other indoor sporting facilities across Canada. Many of these businesses had to restrict their services, capacity, or close entirely. Some people started to work from home, and schedules are being shuffled around. If you had a workout partner or even just familiar faces at the gym, other people’s schedules are also in flux. There are many reasons as to why your exercise routine was disrupted:
- Loss of gym, group fitness classes, the usual time slot
- Loss of gym cohorts (people you happen to share space with due to schedule)
- Working from home
- Colder weather, rain, or snow
- Loss of motivational cues – encouraging instructors, friends, gym cohorts
Some people have gone from hero to zero in terms of exercise. If this is you, it’s important to recreate a routine. If you’ve never had an exercise routine, it’s a great time to make positive changes by creating one!
Creating New Routines
No magical number: 30 days to form a habit is a great title and sometimes a good motivator, but it’s not accurate. It’s not even useful as fiction as it can lead to demotivation. There is no one-size-fits-all.4
Write Out Your Schedule: Do you write down your schedule and to-do lists? If not, start now. If you use an online scheduler, it’s certainly better than having nothing, but writing helps your routines stick. It takes time to write, which, unlike typing, is not an automatic process, and this allows the brain to process it, increasing the likelihood that you will stick with it.5
Focus on small concrete tasks, not big goals: Break down oversized items into their digestible parts. “Lose X pounds” needs to be actionable. To accomplish that is a series of concrete everyday tasks like “drink water at 1 PM,” “make a salad for tomorrow morning,” and “HIIT at 8 PM.” Big goals are an accumulation of small mundane activities. If one workout doesn’t suit you, try another. An enjoyable exercise routine is easier to stick rather than one you dread doing.
Use cues: Cues support routines, both healthy and unhealthy. A moisturizer in the bathroom reminds you to moisturize after a shower. A sunscreen by the door reminds you to slap on sunscreen before you leave the house. A medicine ball in the living room reminds you to exercise when it’s time. When is it time? Create a schedule, write it out, and have a cue – it might be as simple as an alarm.
Involve others: With COVID-19 still around, you may need to get creative. If you live with someone, get them on board. Use video conferencing to connect with workout friends. It may seem silly at first, but it will be worth it. If your gym offers online classes, seriously consider it. Having others involved is a big part of the benefits of classes and gyms.
Choose mornings (if you can): Exercise boosts energy. It gets your endorphins running and stimulates the brain. If you work from home, this is a great way to get your day started.
Setup: YouTube can provide you with any number of classes. HIIT, Yoga, Spin, Zumba, Pilates, and anything else you might be interested in. If you have a carpeted area or own a mat that you can watch the monitor from, you’re good to go.
Equipment: Many programs like HIIT don’t require any equipment. Workouts like the Scientific 7-minute Workout are great to get started with just a mat and a chair. If you can, invest in a light (5 to 10 pound) dumbbell or kettlebell. The vast majority of exercises do not require the use of heavy weights. You can also use filled water bottles or cans from your pantry as makeshift weights.
Gamify: This will require more equipment, but you can make your workouts more interesting by racing against others. Apps like Zwift allow you to run or bike against other people at your level in a virtual race, and you can be as competitive or as casual as you like. It’s a great way to keep motivated and interested on a rainy day.
Hydrate: This doesn’t mean chugging liters of water immediately before the workout. It takes a few hours for your body to absorb water properly, so be prepared before training and make sure that you are adequately hydrated.
Pass on the makeup (even if you still go to the gym): If you start to sweat, the makeup will settle in as the pores close. Nobody likes this feeling, and in some cases, it can clog the pores, making it more likely to trigger acne.
Bring a towel and toner: If you’re still going to a gym, a quick wipedown with a toner or face wipe after the workout can help refreshen your skin. A towel is a must unless your gym provides it. Even if it does, you may still want to bring your towel to ensure that it’s clean and doesn’t have any substances that you are allergic to. If you are working out from home, hit the shower immediately after the workout to clean your skin, and you’ll feel great.
Don’t go out if you’re feeling ill: With COVID-19 in play, this common-sense advice takes on even more importance. Check yourself for symptoms like coughing, wheezing, or even exhaustion. Be respectful of others, and follow all of the COVID-19 protocols that the facility has in place. Even if you’re working out at home, take a rest day if you feel a bit off.
Don’t forget to live clean: When you are restarting a new routine, this is important. One aspect of lifestyle carries over into others. It’s hard to feel the energy to exercise when you are short on sleep or healthy fuel.
Shower as soon as possible: Many changing rooms are closed at facilities, so showering may not be possible or even advisable depending on how they are maintained. Be prepared, and bring a toner, a towel, and a change of clothes with you. Shower as soon as possible once you get home.
Wipe down: If you go to a gym, remember to wipe down the equipment before and after use. Unfortunately, not every gym-goer wipes down the machines, and free weights are even worse.
Hair and Face: If you have long hair, keep it tied back if possible. Hair is oily. Don’t touch your face. Even without the Coronavirus, touching your face is a nono. You don’t know what kinds of grime, virus, or bacteria are on the surfaces you touch.
Drink Water: Sweating is good, but it’s also dehydrating. The average person sweats a liter of water during an hour of vigorous exercise. Some may sweat less, and some significantly more. You need to replace the lost water before you go about your day. For most activities, drink regular water to replace water that is lost through sweat. If you sweat a ton or go through a long workout, add a fruit or a splash of lemon to your water to replace some lost electrolytes as well.
Moisturize: When you lose water through sweat, your skin will feel different. You can drink fluids to replace the water loss, but it will take some time before your skin absorbs the water back. Slathering on a moisturizer (after you shower off the grime and sweat) can help counteract this temporary loss of moisture in the skin and keep your skin looking and feeling fresh.
Apply Sunscreen: Maybe you’re out for a run outside instead. Great stuff, but don’t forget the sunscreen! Avid runners are at higher risk of developing skin cancers, particularly on the legs.