We are living in a strange world right now. All our routines are disrupted, and we may find ourselves with more time on our hands than before. And that is assuming we are not suffering from the virus or any other illness at present – if you are, the time will most likely be hanging pretty heavily on you.
At this time, it is so easy to lose enthusiasm for fitness activities, especially after the novelty of being at home pretty much continually has worn off. This is a dangerous time for your fitness. You probably can’t do all the exercise you used to do – or would now like to do – and this inactivity can be accompanied by the feeling of boredom and slight depression that leads to mindless eating, often in front of the tv or while online. In terms of calories, you are probably burning fewer through less activity, but storing more through that unplanned eating. That’s a recipe for fitness levels to take a nosedive.
The first step in addressing it is to understand the issue – and accept that (a) you may well be subject to that condition and that (b) you can do something about it – and that it’s worth doing. If you get that far, the rest becomes easier.
The key to it is planning. I have a routine that has fitness activities scheduled, along with pre-planned eating; it helps me to maintain my fitness levels, and I’m keen to share it with you.
On the exercise and movement side, I now do a 5k walk/run every morning before breakfast, which is the ideal time for such activity. It’s 35 minutes of good bodyfat-burning cardio exercise. Luckily, the weather has been lovely, I don’t see many people, I keep my social distance from those I do, and I usually shout a cheery greeting or a friendly wave – it might cheer them up and costs nothing.
I reserve the time 6pm to 7pm to do some resistance exercise in the house or garden, using a few dumbbells and resistance bands that I have, plus a lot of stretching and mobility work. I’ll be documenting that workout separately. This is a fixed time in my diary – I’ve no other appointments to go to – and by giving it that level of priority ensures it gets done.
I usually walk to the shops in the afternoon – we have a few local shops and a supermarket all within 20 minutes’ walk. And rather than do a weekly big shop, which needs the car, I do a daily small shop which means I get an extra couple of km walked, and some exercise in terms of carrying the shopping back. Everyone else at the supermarket especially is doing a big, car-based shop – which isn’t doing much to contribute to their fitness. Of course, doing five or six daily shops per week takes more time overall than a weekly shop – but, if there’s one thing I have a lot of at the moment, it’s time. Downside: I sometimes have to queue for entry to the supermarket – but I can use that time to do stuff on my phone, which I would probably have been doing at home anyway. Upsides: it gets me legitimately out of the house, it’s an extra 10km walked per week, plus a bit of upper body work in carrying the shopping home – walking carrier bag curls as a new exercise, anyone?
Those three bits of daily exercise cover my activity – its not the same as gym, its not the same as parkrun, but it is good exercise and is helping me to keep my calories burned level up, as well as being a little developmental of muscle. Think, could you adopt a similar activity regime?
That’s the first half – activity levels. The second half – calories taken in – is also based on planning. I have a few rules, you won’t be surprised to hear:
Firstly, I don’t have anything with any calories in it before completing my morning 5k. That effectively extends the overnight fast until I break fast back at home. That longer period helps burn more bodyfat; my fat is the fuel for the run/walk, as I have no recently-eaten food for the body to use instead. Recently consumed calories are the first choice, of course, to fuel any activity – with stored calories – bodyfat – as a backup resource. And I want to use only that backup.
For the rest of the day, I eat according to my plan. What plan? It’s the one I devise while out on that morning 5k. I know I’m going to have a healthy breakfast when I get home, (about 500 calories) and then I plan to eat every three to four hours or so with about 500 calories in every meal. So, if my post-5k breakfast is at 09:30, then I will likely eat again at 12:30, 4pm and 7:30pm, with maybe an extra protein shake after the 5pm home workout. There’s a lot of checking of labels involved, and I use MyFitnessPal to keep a track of it all. Does it take time? Yes. And what do I have a lot of at the moment?
Often, my wife and I will have a video conference with friends or family in the evening, which constitutes our social life. I’ll often have a pint of something tasty from an interesting local brewery with that, or maybe a glass or two of wine. Which is fine, and as we usually know in advance this is going to happen, I can tailor my food choices for the day to make sure I don’t blow my numbers at that stage.
Three final self-imposed rules: I try to preserve a 12-hour break without calories every night. So, if I’m socially drinking up to 10pm, then breakfast tomorrow is not until 10am. This 12-hour period helps with bodyfat reduction – it’s that lack of recently-consumed calories again.
And secondly, I keep the water intake up. I plan to drink a pint of water in every three-hour period between 9am and 9pm. It helps in fighting any hunger pangs by creating a ‘feeling full’ sensation, as well as giving the many other benefits of being well-hydrated.
Finally, I won’t turn on the tv until the evening. Watching tv is a key enemy in the activity-up, mindless eating-down strategy, so it’s a help to delay the start of viewing as long as possible.
My strategies on this rules-based, planned exercise and eating regime have helped me lose a few pounds of bodyfat while maintaining muscle mass since the lockdown began – shown by a reduction in overall weight with a decrease in bodyfat percentage. All of the planning might seem a bit laborious, but it helps keep my occupied and, well, if I don’t have the time to do it now, I certainly won’t when real work and travel starts again.
I hope that you will adopt similar strategies in your own life, and get results that are like mine. You really can exit this lockdown fitter than when it started!