Thanks Pandemic...

What an upheaval the past year has been! The loss of almost all in-person social interaction is probably the biggest. The closure of all physical fitness venues - gyms, boot camps, sports arenas - has taken a heavy mental and physical toll on us. So what are we doing to protect our mental wellness?

If you’re like me, staying physically active is about many things - strength, body shape, heart health and maybe most importantly my state of mind. I must tell you I have never ever been a “home” workout person. Hated it. I’ve been a loyal gym rat since the age of 20. It was the ONLY place I felt motivated to exercise. There were occasional lapses that sometimes snowballed into weeks away, but I always found my way back. The absence of physical activity eventually led me to feel somehow slower, foggier and just downright blah. Of course I walked often but strength training was always important and that meant the gym.

Fast forward to March 2020 and suddenly there was negative, scary news everywhere I turned. The newly declared pandemic - unthinkable even 6 months prior- was the topic of every conversation. We could no longer see peoples’ facial expressions because of masks and nobody at the grocery store was making eye contact. Some store shelves were empty for the first time that I’d ever seen. I felt the cloud of uncertainty, hopelessness and fear descend on me. We were all staying home, I was at one point afraid to even venture out for a walk. The gym was no longer an option.“Hmm, this could be a problem” I remember thinking.

Once I realized it was going to be a much longer closure than I could have imagined, it was time to figure out a plan. And fast, because another thing that happened at the start of Covid? Baking and cooking. All. The. Time.

So, after a lot of internal resistance and excuses, one morning I ventured down to our basement where we had a couple of sets of dumbbells, a treadmill and a stability ball. Thank goodness for these because fitness equipment of any sort has been sold out almost everywhere for months!

With almost zero motivation, I managed a half-hearted workout while watching Netflix to at least get me moving a little. It helped break up the day a bit but I was still feeling really negative. Watching endless news loops and worrying about getting sick or worse, one of my loved ones getting “it”.

After a few weeks of keeping up the effort but not really enjoying it, I decided to look for some help on YouTube. That’s when my exercise experience changed.

As you know you can find a multitude of videos on pretty much anything that exists and exercise is no different. After a few tries, I stumbled upon a certified fitness instructor whose workouts I came to love - and crave. They are all encompassing - cardio and strength and golly they’re tough! Sometimes I’m left lying in a puddle of sweat on the floor. The workouts are pushing me to exercise at a higher level of intensity than ever before and I LOVE it. And since I seem to need a friend to work out with, it’s been perfect. But she also takes a very well rounded approach that includes guidance on nutrition, general wellness and mental health. So I get a lot more than just a daily workout session.

Since August, I’ve been faithfully and enthusiastically heading downstairs to my new “gym” 5 times a week. I use the word loosely because all I’ve added in equipment are another 2 sets of dumbbells and a yoga mat. Oh and a couple of bands. I’ve barely used the treadmill because combined with outdoor walks in nature several times a week, it’s all I need.

But, the transformation in my attitude and mood have been the best reward. I no longer wake up with a sense of dread and whatever the current situation is, lockdown, stay-at-home, gradual opening etc, it no longer consumes me. Now my view is that the pandemic will end when it ends. Me obsessing over vaccines and variants isn’t going to speed that up. I’ll continue to follow Public Health protocols like staying home as much as possible, washing hands and wearing a mask. In the meantime I’ll get a good sweat going daily because I know I will feel mentally and emotionally refreshed afterwards. The physical benefits are almost a bonus at this point.

I’m happy to say it’s been 6 months of working out at home with no lapses 🙂

This pandemic will end -hopefully sooner rather than later. Gyms will reopen and many happy members will return and it will be awesome for people to get back into their fitness routines. I have decided though, that no membership can “make” me stay fit and healthy. I’ve found the motivation internally to adapt to a new way of doing things. After 30 years of membership, no more gyms for me. If the pandemic hadn’t forced me to make this change, I may never have challenged myself to turn up the volume on my physical activity. For that, I’m grateful.

I’d love to hear about things you’ve done to help yourself this past year. What changes did you have to make under the cloud of the pandemic, that turned out to be silver linings?

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