We have been talking about this Pandemic and COVID-19 for months. However, the more potentially dangerous issue long term is what happened during the Safer at Home orders.
Some have termed it the “COVID 15”
- Alcohol consumption is substantially higher than years past.¹
- Travel for work isn’t as necessary so non-exercise activity is down.
- The kitchen is closer than ever to your home office, making that delicious cake WAY too easy to devour.
Now, I’m not saying that putting on a few pounds is MORE dangerous than the actual COVID-19 virus.
However, let’s look at some stats…
The prevalence of obesity has TRIPLED from 1975 to 2016²
– A 2016 study found that despite the average height of Americans not changing since the late 80s/early 90s, our average weight has increased – 15 lbs, which could easily take someone from normal weight to overweight or overweight to obese.³
– Diabetes, ischaemic heart disease and certain cancers are attributable to being overweight or obese.
– At least 2.8 million people die every year as a result of being overweight or obese²
And the reality of the last 3+ months is irrefutable: people were forced to stay at home. Those that either are or felt compromised were VERY uncomfortable going outside or going out in public to purchase fresh food.
Restaurant delivery became the go to option for many people – and you can generally assume that something you order out will not be as healthy as if you cooked it yourself at home.
The result: when you over consume food and minimize physical activity, it lends itself to depressive symptoms and makes those already in a vulnerable state worse. Thus, the marked rise in alcohol consumption.
Bottom line, we were forced into a more sedentary lifestyle where in-home alcohol consumption and ordering take out was not only OK, but considered the safer option.
We need to get out of the downward spiral. It is fast moving and hard to reverse. But that’s what I’m here for. The mission for today is simple, find a way to turn the “COVID 15” into a COVID Fit YOU!
Start by Finding Joy Daily!
This one seems simple, but for many, it can be quite challenging.
Happiness is often expressed: “happy wife, happy life,” “the key to happiness is learning to let go,” “many friends are the key to happiness” and so on….
Joy, on the other hand, is something that is more internal. “It is a deep rooted, inspired happiness.”4
Money, material goods or accumulating friends can’t provide you joy.
In fact, I definitely can’t tell you what is going to make YOU joyful.
So, instead, I want to offer up some tips to figure it out for yourself.
1) Get outside and explore nature.
I encourage you to do this by yourself. No one, even your spouse, can tell you what gives you joy. But often, you can find beauty in nature that will put a smile on your face and provide you with a calm that is hard to replicate. That is joy.
2) Get yourself slap happy
Think back to a time when you were laughing so hard, you couldn’t stop. Something sparked inside you that was true joy.
Or, think about a time when you were smiling so vigorously that no slap in the face could remove the smile. The person or event that caused that smile, that was probably something that provides you joy and likely could on a regular basis.
3) Express deep emotions
Oftentimes, people will say, “that really tugs on my heart strings.” Pay attention to that. When something causes you to feel and express emotions out of your norm, that could be a trigger. For example, let’s say a story about a young cancer patient brings a tear to your eye. Spending some time volunteering at a local youth hospital could spark feelings of joy. Seek out those opportunities.
Finding joy is one of the best ways to combat the immense feelings of stress and overwhelming anxiety that can be associated not only with the Pandemic but also with the increased awareness of systemic racism these last few weeks.
As I stated, the process to get out of the downward spiral is NOT easy and will generally be uncomfortable. But finding joy in YOUR life will help start the reversal. Then it’s time to get physical!
Find Your Stamina Again
Everywhere you look, more people are out walking. And it was prevalent more so in March and April as well, so it’s not just the weather. People are trying to find ways to stay active and I love it! We need stress relief and low level, steady state cardio like walking, light jogging and biking are great ways to go about this.
However, the stamina required to complete an hour long training session full of high intensity multi-joint lifts and supersets is NOT the same.
So, if you haven’t trained in the last 3 months and want to go back to your gym, what the heck do you do?
The answer is simple, just not easy 🙂 I know, shocking.
1) Get your feet back under you
Find opportunities, now that some things have opened up a little more, to do more stamina intensive activities: go play ultimate frisbee, climb some challenging trails, get out and mountain bike, do some hill runs (start easier before jumping right to Elver’s hill). Choose whatever you want to build back up your stamina but make sure to find some level of uncomfort in it. It’s time to remember what it feels like to think, “I can’t do this,” and then tell yourself, “yes I can!” The reward will be felt afterwards, I promise.
2) Start working movements back in
If you haven’t already, get back to doing the basic movements associated with your training. For most people, that means something as simple as bodyweight squats, push ups, hip hinges, lunges and picking something heavy up and carrying it.
It could look like this:
1a) Bodyweight Squats 3 sets of 10 reps
1b) Push Ups 3 sets of 10 reps
1c) Reaching RDL 3 sets of 10 reps
1d) Reverse Lunges 3 sets of 10/side
1e) Bear Hug Carry (hug something, carry it!) 3 sets of 100 feet
As you progress through more workouts, increase sets and decrease reps with the intention of making the reps more explosive. Explosive movement will help re-develop the stamina to handle the intensity of a training session at the gym.
3) Time is your friend
Interval training (now popularized as HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training) is a truly effective way to approach improving your stamina. There are many ways to go about using interval training, so I want to give you a simple strategy you can use for any movement or equipment available to you
Positive work to rest ratio (exp: 40 on : 20 off or 30 on : 30 off) – most people love this because pacing is something we understand and feel safe doing. So doing basic movements with less skill and more balance requirements are great in this ratio. Think lunges, single arm work, bodyweight squats or light loaded squat/deadlift variations. Even loaded carries work great in these ratios.
Negative work to rest ratio (exp: 20 on : 40 off) – this requires the right mindset. It’s full on full bore so the longer rest is required due to your physical exhaustion. That could come because you are doing higher skilled exercises like jumps, throws and sprints OR heavier loaded movements so heavy squats, deadlifts or presses for YOU.
Most will choose option 1 and that is totally fine. Sometimes, to really get into the fight mode and get the most out of negative work ratios, you need a community there to challenge you and a coach teaching you how to get out of your own way.
Either way, go hard and earn your stamina so you can prepare for training again!
Build up Your Body Armor
There are plenty of programs out there on bulletproofing your body or creating body armor. Each will have their own spin on how the program should look but there will be one commonality throughout: if you plan to build some lean muscle mass, you need enough training volume to create a physical response.
For building your body armor back up, it definitely helps to have a virtual program or be training where you have access to at least some resistance bands, if not weights of some sort.
1) Turn the volume back up
You need to add training volume back into your weekly routine. For some, that means starting out with 2-3 days of training for 30-45 minutes. These sessions should be full body and having resistance bands allows you to make the movement quality crisp while protecting the joints.
However, we also have clients who have taken advantage of being at home and gotten used to doing something EVERY day. For those individuals, we need to make sure their structure is there to handle that demand on the body. Thus, an upper body / lower body split works better to teach them how volume accumulation helps sustain a high intensity of training for longer!
2) Be a helpy helperton
DIY projects are everywhere right now. We are designed to be builders. Some of the best body armor work you can do involves carrying random objects (think mulch bags, wheelbarrows full of gravel or trays of plants). Help your spouse out or help your neighbor friend out with a yard project. It provides you time in the sun, physical labor that will develop all-around strength and a sense of satisfaction when the project is done.
And, of course, wash your hands when you are done!
3) Focus on back strength
Speaking of DIY projects, I imagine chiropractors are CRAZY busy right now with people coming in complaining that they picked up one measly plant and their whole back went into spasm.
Low backs are a bitch.
However, we often treat them differently than other areas of our body. It’s great to be so sore in your biceps that washing your hair is next to impossible.
But, if the low back cramps up from doing a bear hug carry, we instantly drop it and wonder when our back is going to give out.
Muscles need to be trained or they atrophy in size as the body will conserve energy with the best of them.
Additionally, no one has ever said, “my core is strong enough, let’s focus on other areas.”
And, in breaking news, the low back is VERY MUCH a part of the core. So we need to train it along with the rest of the abs, obliques and pelvic floor.
One of the best ways is doing any rowing pattern you can find: bent over rows, seated rows, single arm rows, landmine rows, etc. They are excellent to not only develop the back strength necessary for most heavy movements but also for core strength that wraps around to the front of the body and involves the crucial low back muscles necessary to keep us upright!
If you are adding rows in, pick two variations with differing grips: neutral grip (palms facing each other), pronated (palms facing down) or supinated (palms facing up) and superset them, doing the first variation followed by the second variation. Rest and repeat 3-8 million times (just kidding but I don’t believe I know anyone that does too much back work).
Additionally, one of the simplest loaded carries is ideal for low back strength: the Farmer’s Walk. Take two heavy objects and walk with them until you can’t hold on. Rest until you catch your breath (once you are able to nasal breath in and out) then pick them up and walk again! Do that for 5-10 rounds and you will torch your back, shoulders and of course, your core 🙂
Wrapping It Up
I truly hope that you can take this information and apply it as life starts to slowly return to normalcy or our “new normal.”
And, as you are able to incorporate training back into your regime or actually get back into your gym, developing that passion and joy for it along with building the stamina and structure to handle it, will be the key for you to come out of this Pandemic COVID Fit!
CPG, FMCG & Retail. “Rebalancing the ‘COVID-19 effect’ on alcohol sales.” Nielsen Retail Measurement Services. Nielsen Insights May 7th, 2020. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/rebalancing-the-covid-19-effect-on-alcohol-sales/. Accessed June 8th, 2020
“10 Facts on Obesity.” World Health Organization. Updated October 2017.https://www.who.int/features/factfiles/obesity/en/#. Accessed June 8th, 2020.
Dotinga, Randy. “The average Americans’ weight change since the 1980s is startling.” Healthday. CBS News, August 3rd, 2016. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-weight-gain-since-1980s-startling/. Accessed June 8th, 2020.
“The Healing Power of Joy.” Christian Science Monitor Website. Christian Science Monitor August 5th, 1998. https://www.csmonitor.com/1998/0805/080598.home.relarticle.1.html. Accessed June 8th, 2020