So let’s face it. COVID-19 pretty much threw a wrench into everyone’s plans for 2020, and that’s just the way it is. However, for some people, their daily routines have been impacted in different ways, and this is particularly true for those of us who like to spend a few hours in the gym at least five days a week.
Yeah… that’s not happening right now.
So what is a gym rat, or for that matter, anyone concerned with trying to maintain a level of physical fitness supposed to do without the resources they’ve come to rely on from their home gym? I spoke with a Planet Fitness trainer, Yulisa, and she graciously agreed to address 10 of the most common concerns or questions some of us have had regarding fitness during the time of COVID. (Full disclosure, I’ve personally worked with Yulisa in a trainer capacity for several months and she’s helped me regularly with workout planning during gym shutdowns. I’m not going to run to a rando and ask them fitness questions without knowing their qualifications! Y’all know me better than that!)
Common Fitness Concerns and Questions
My gym has been closed for months, and I’m beginning to panic that I’m going to lose all my progress! Is this set back going to be permanent?
Yulisa: No need to panic! Our bodies are in a constant metabolic state which means we are burning calories when we aren’t even working. Once we are back at the gym muscle memory will aid in bringing our previous progress back and then some. Just like the progress you previously made may have taken some time, give yourself a month to bounce back from this quarantine break. Make sure to at least do 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as body weight or resistance exercises 3- 5 days out of the week. Also, keep the calorie count low and do not overindulge in those quarantine snacks.
I don’t have at-home equipment or a budget for buying any right now. Are there any exercises I can do in the meantime?
Yulisa: Yes of course! Our body’s weight is enough to get in a good workout. The National Institutes of Health recommends 150 minutes per week of exercise for the average adult. Mimicking your favorite weight or resistance exercises with your body is enough to bring up that heart rate. Try setting a timer for 30 minutes (as an example) and within that time give yourself a minute or two to complete the mimicked exercise with your body weight and rest for 30 seconds or less and then continue.
Create a regimen that targets different muscle groups for different days. Having that mind-muscle connection is essential in assuring that you’re targeting that specific group. If you want to add weight use weighted objects around your house such as a book, gallon of water, even some furniture! Get creative and most importantly have fun!
I lack the space in my studio to do a massive cardio/fitness routine. What exercises could I do with a small amount of space?
Yulisa: There are plenty of exercises you can do with limited space! If you have a yoga mat use that as your exercise platform or try to measure yourself out enough space to be able to lay down with your arms extended over your head. Standing up you would like enough space to bring out your arms forward and to the side and enough leg room to be able to kick forward and back.
Doing simple high-intensity exercises such as high knees, kickbacks, jumping jacks (if there is no current knee or lower back injury), squat jumps, stationary lunges, inchworms, push-ups, mountain climbers, bicycles, leg lifts, etc. or mimic your favorite weight training workouts. This will be able to maximize your workout with limited space. The best fitness regimen to follow is to break up different muscle groups to not overtrain or do an upper body/ lower body pattern.
I have some space, and a set of 10 lb dumbbells, that’s it. Can I get a decent workout in with this?
Yulisa: Yes, with a set of 10 lb dumbbells you will be able to get a full-body workout! Keep in mind breaking up your routine by dividing the muscle groups you train. Consider the push, pull, lower method. For push, you’re training your chest, shoulders, triceps. Pull it would be your back and biceps. Lower is considered your lower body such as your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
If you can train at least three days out of the week you will have worked out your whole body. Switch up the exercises from dumbbells to body weight. As you progress add more repetitions to your sets and push for faster speeds while maintaining stabilization. As an example for push day, you can target the chest by doing push-ups, laying down dumbbell chest press, laying down dumbbell chest fly, standing shoulder press, standing shoulder raise, standing lateral raise, standing overhead tricep extension, bent over tricep kickbacks, and tricep dips.
For pull you can do dumbbell row and switch off to isolated by only doing one arm at a time, Romanian deadlifts, plank row, bicep curl, hammer curl, and stagnant hold bicep curl. Lastly for lower body alternate your squats from narrow stance to wide stance making sure you maintain proper form, stationary lunges with dumbbells, stiff leg deadlifts, weighted calf raises, wall sit (time yourself, add weight for a challenge), and weighted crab walks.
These are all examples you can add some or modify some, make sure to maintain proper form, and engage essential muscle groups. Also, maintain your breathing with every eccentric movement (without tension) you want to inhale and concentric movement (contracted) you want to exhale. Just start off with a deep breath and as you exhale you want to be performing the exercise.
I’m stress eating, I’ve gained weight, and gyms just closed again. What could I do to start breaking that cycle until I can get back to a gym?
Yulisa: Stress eating is tough, try to maintain a schedule of the times you eat. Prepare your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between either the night before or morning of so you can keep track of how much you eat and when you eat it. If you have a scale weigh out your meals if not measure it with the palm of your hand.
For breakfast, you want more of a carbohydrate focused meal and less protein and fats. As for lunch you want to add more protein and fats to your meal but don’t forget the carbs. For dinner, you want a balance of carbs and protein and just a little of fats. The size of your hand measures out an adequate amount of the main nutrition source. For instance, for breakfast, you would want as many carbs as the size of your hands, and split the size of your hand for your protein and fats.
Lunch you would like your protein to be as much as the length of your hand and split the hand for your fats and carbs. Lastly, dinner you would like to split the amount of protein and carbs with your hand and fats should be a little less than that! Snacks should be a handful. Also, maintain your hydration! Drink at least half of your body weight or more. Form good habits and routines to break the cycle.
Set a time you are going to do something and execute when you said you are. Talk to your friends and family to hold you accountable, possibly try to find someone to build these habits with so you can maintain them. This doesn’t mean you have to meet up but just communicate virtually. If you feel comfortable, go on hikes when you can and maintain the CDC guidelines.
The change in my routine and inability to exercise like I used to has left me in a mental funk and I’m worried I won’t go back to the gym even when it’s safe. Are there any tips to help combat this?
Yulisa: Stay positive and be calm. Keep in mind to take things one day at a time. Do not overstress yourself, set small goals you can achieve. Try by exercising three days out of the week for 30 minutes. Play your favorite playlist, podcast, or audiobook. Keep in contact with your friends and family. Make time for yourself. Even if you don’t feel safe going back to the gym, build a routine you feel comfortable doing at home so you can maintain it even after the second lockdown. Check out youtube for different exercises you can try and create a list of your favorite ones to reference back to.
I thought about going to the gym for the first time, and then COVID happened. Is there anything I can do to at least start getting some kind of exercise that doesn’t look as scary as all these other routines listed?
Yulisa: If certain fitness exercises look intimidating try modifying them to be more suitable for you! Exercises are not meant to be all for one. Think of activities you do on a daily basis such as brushing your teeth, combing your hair, sitting down and standing up, reaching for a tall object opening and closing doors, even driving. If you have trouble doing some of these things more than likely there is a muscle imbalance that can be improved.
Work on mimicking these activities by timing yourself for a minute doing a certain movement. Isolate that muscle or do it with both arms (same applies to lower body). Exercise is about improving your daily performance, let’s derail that myth that exercising is only for bodybuilders.
What the heck is a resistance band I keep hearing about, and why should I use one?
Yulisa: Think of a resistance band as a giant rubber band. This rubber band can either be looped, with handles, or just a long tough elastic. The idea of the resistance band is to be able to perform exercises without actual weight but rather it is a tough elastic pull. These resistance bands are meant to maintain and improve physique; they’re great for losing weight and tone your body so you don’t have any flabby areas. They aid in adding extra tension to push your body’s boundaries.
Since they are elastic they do have a slight chance of ripping but do not overexert the band if it feels too easy try adding more repetitions or changing the resistance level of the band. You can also mimic your favorite weight training exercises with this such as bicep curls with the handle one, use the loop one to place right about your knee and perform lower body exercises with it, and if you just have a non handled elastic one pull it right across your chest to engage your upper body. Resistance bands are a great way to change up your workout and maintain or lose that COVID weight.
This COVID crap is nonsense! Nobody I know got COVID, I don’t understand why they had to close gyms down or mandate this stupid masking policy!
Yulisa: It is frustrating that the COVID issue has not been resolved. Regardless, do not let it stop you from maintaining healthy habits and exercising. Talk to your friends and relatives to try and bring social normality back into your life. Zoom or facetime when possible. Try out new hobbies. Hiking trails and some parks are open! If you feel comfortable go outdoors so you don’t feel so isolated. If you don’t like wearing a mask just stay home. Fines for not wearing a mask are starting to be applied throughout different counties. Nevertheless, we will get through this. We just have to be patient.
There’s a ton of ads selling at-home fitness equipment on Facebook! Why can’t I just grab one of those and figure it out?
Yulisa: Grab the equipment best suited for your goals! If you want to lose weight or improve muscle imbalances, resistance bands and body weight are all you need. If you want to add more muscle in a specific area of your body then weights such as dumbbells and curl bars will be beneficial. If you combine both resistance and weight training then you will get the best results out of your workout.
There are “slimmer belts” which promote a spot reduction myth. They do not help in burning body fat rather you are just using your water weight to sweat a little more around the area where you have the belt. Toning boards that jiggle your body can actually harm your body! The motion waves cause muscle tension build-up that can later cause medical conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, or just simple muscle aches. Maxi Climbers get boring as well. You want something different each time so you don’t get tired of the same routines.
There is no quick fix to losing weight so trust in yourself and your routine to maintain your exercise habits. Set small fitness goals, workout for at least 150 minutes a week, and most importantly be safe! Start off with your body weight and when you feel comfortable add resistance with either bands or weights.
Yulisa is currently a certified Personal Trainer for Planet Fitness with over two years of experience and has worked with over 100 clients. Training techniques focus on conditioning for weight loss, hypertrophy, aiding in health conditions, and/or injury. She holds a National Council for Certified Personal Trainers certificate (NCCPT) and is working on a second certificate through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Yulisa is working towards an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and plans to continue with graduate studies. She would like to pursue a career in Physical Therapy but believes exercise is a great foundation in preventing injury and has been personally conditioning for over 4 years to aid hypertension, asthma, and muscle imbalances.