It is a new world, one filled with ZOOM, facemasks, heightened anxiety, home gyms… oh, and did I mention anxiety?
The conundrum is this: although our new normal has made “health” feel almost impossible, it also has made healthy living an absolute must—a non-negotiable. Exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining a nutritious diet not only supports immune and cardiovascular health, but these habits assist in the management of depression and anxiety, and improve everything from mood to energy, to mental focus. Plus, I know that when I “control what I can control” (exercise, nutrition, etc.) I feel more able to navigate what life throws at me. Maintaining my healthy habits gives me a semblance of control, a much-needed feeling in this new crazy world.
Instead of trying to use solutions that may—or may not—have worked pre-pandemic, find new and innovative ways to reach your health and fitness goals. Acknowledge that our world has changed, then adapt your strategies to the new reality.
IN TERMS OF EXERCISE…
Try the “plug and play” solution
The plug and play solution is a tailored list of exercise options based on time and accessibility. Decide what activities you could realistically do in five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. When you find yourself with a chunk of “found” time, instead of wasting that block of time on social media or wondering what you should do, look at the list and go.
Think of the plug and play list as “exercise snacking.” Sure, you might not be able to prioritize an hour workout—a full “exercise meal”—but you can always fit in 5 or 10 minutes. Ten minutes of exercise a day is 70 minutes a week, and 70 minutes a week is better than zero minutes. All motion adds up.
Create the list in advance. Why? When you have to stop and think about what exercise to do, all too often you will end up doing nothing. The cognitive load of deciding is one thing too many. The list will help you take the guesswork out of fitness. That way you can make the best of all free moments.
How do you decide what goes on your plug and play list? Think about what you find fun, what is safe, what is realistic, and what can be done in the specific amounts of time you have.
Make it FUN… maybe get your family involved
Find things you enjoy, or at least that you don’t hate. This pandemic is hard enough; it might not be the time to make yourself suffer through exercise that you despise. Put on some music and dance around! Jump rope outside. Play semi-active games with your kids such as hide and seek—these types of games may not be a workout, but they require more activity than watching TV.
Make “dates” with your family to do online workouts, or to go for “fitventures.” Every Sunday I try out a different park around Toronto. My dog, Olive, loves it. I get time with my partner, James. We get our steps. Wins all around!
Consider a family challenge! Be creative. Base the parameters of the challenge on the number and age of your kids and their interests. Maybe each family member counts how many steps they take throughout the day. Everyone has to get creative to accrue steps — “forget” things upstairs, play active video games, pace on conference calls, etc. Or try a family pushup or squat challenge. The winner gets to pick family movie night or have their favourite meal delivered.
IN TERMS OF NUTRITION…
Learn to delay your gratification. The next time you desire something that you know your future self will not be proud of, tell yourself you can have it, but not now. Delay the indulgence. Tell yourself you can have the treat tomorrow, or after you play a fun game or get going on a project. Future you will typically forget about the craving altogether!
Only bring food into the house that you want your future self—or your future family—to consume!
Control your nutritional environment; be vigilant about what comes into your house! Make your grocery list or order your groceries when you are feeling satiated and relatively calm—that is, when your rational brain is in charge. Then, don’t allow your emotional self to change that list.
The main takeaway is this: your workouts don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to happen. Think consistency—think daily, non-negotiable motion! Your food choices don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be conscious. Stop mindlessly snacking. Control your nutrition environment. Unhealthy food in your cupboards will eventually be consumed by you or someone you love. Equally, healthy food will eventually be consumed by you or someone you love. If you don’t bring it into your house, you can’t eat it!