Covid Stress Derailed Your Workouts? Here’s How To Get Back On Track


By Anne Marie Chaker

In the early days of the pandemic, my fitness game was strong and I set big goals. I’m now feeling tired and unmotivated. How can I get back on track?

The bottom line

Don’t beat yourself up. Whatever you did or didn’t do a few days, hours, weeks—or bites—ago doesn’t matter. Focus on the present, and what you can do now. Perfection isn’t possible or sustainable, and there will be good days and bad days. “Be ready to tweak” if a plan feels too rigid, says Jillian Michaels, a Los Angeles trainer and television personality.

The details

When it comes to food, focus on the positives: The foods you can have and choices you can make rather than the negative. “Sometimes it helps to replace instead of erase,” says Allison Fahrenbach, a competitive bodybuilder and fitness coach in Lancaster, Pa. “Let’s say you’ve had five or six days of nibbling, picking, snacking or wine every night after dinner. Instead of negating those behaviors entirely and saying, ‘No more wine, no more picking, no more snacking,’” just choose different food sources. Instead of chips, choose baby carrots. Tell yourself that you are choosing that as a snack, making it an empowering decision. Instead of the glass of wine, go for a sparkling seltzer. Put it in a fancy glass, garnish it and enjoy the moment. “It’s a different way of saying yes,” she says.

Think of workouts in terms of short term, not long. “Not every workout is going to be fire and brimstone” and that’s OK, says Gunnar Peterson, head strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Lakers. “The important thing is to keep it moving. Do something,” he says. Some days that will be more, and others it will be less.

One way to keep the body engaged is to challenge the mind, too. Try running your workout through a numeric ladder, he says. Try one exercise—for instance walking up and down stairs—for four minutes. Then do a different one—maybe a jump rope—for five minutes; then another—walking on a treadmill or riding a bicycle—for six minutes. Come back down again to five minutes, then four minutes, on those same exercises. Depending on which exercises you choose—you can mix in squats, crunches, push-ups or pull-ups—it is possible to combine a strength and a cardiovascular workout, he adds.

Quarantines have thrown schedules and routines out the window. Families are spending more time at home, and parents feel they never get a break. Bedtimes, mealtimes and workout schedules have been thrown off. Fitness experts recommend making sure that you are creating space to take care of your workouts and your meals. “Create an event in your calendar for mealtimes,” says Ms. Fahrenbach. “Picking at your kids’ snack is going to look a lot less appealing when you know lunch is in an hour.”


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