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Health A guide to fitness and food during COVID-19

Mar. 23, 2020
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As the COVID pandemic continues, self-quarantine, isolation, and social distancing have become the new, necessary norm. Even though the vast majority of us aren’t sick, it’s easy to feel far from healthy thanks to the lifestyle changes we’re making. It might take some creativity and flexibility, but there are strategies we can use to prioritize our personal wellness during this weird time.

Fitness

My workout routine used to revolve around lifting weights at my college’s gym 4-5 times per week and going to the occasional yoga or dance class. Since I’m no longer able to do those things and don’t own any free weights of my own, I originally figured I’d gain a bunch of weight and lose all of the strength I’ve worked hard to gain. I’ve been forced to change not only the ways in which I stay active, but my mentality on what fitness really means.

While I don’t typically do much cardio, it’s been much easier for me to do cardio-based workouts. This week I’ve run three times. There are some great apps to help track distance and maintain accountability. If you can go outside, I’ve found exercising outside to help with both my physical and mental health. It’s also pretty easy to maintain social distance with a jogging partner if that sounds better.

I’ve been walking before every meal, too. It helps transition my day and is a good time to call friends and family or just listen to music. If it’s raining, I dance in my apartment instead. 

Thankfully, I have my yoga mat and a set of exercise bands. As much as I hate push-ups and burpees, body weight exercises are extremely effective and always available. Heavy cans or bottles can be used as DIY weights, and investing in a couple of dumbbells isn’t too expensive.

YouTube is full of quality at-home workout videos. Some require equipment, others don’t. There’s so much variety on YouTube, from dancing to yoga to tai chi… Now’s a great time to be curious about different forms of movement. And the good thing about YouTube is that it’s free.

If you prefer working out with a group, most of the gyms and studios near me are offering online Zoom workouts for a reduced price. If you’re living with friends or family, you can invite them to join you. Or, if you’re like me and isolated by yourself, you can ask them to join you over FaceTime.

Even though you probably can’t participate in your “typical” forms of exercise right now, you don’t have to force ourselves to do things you hate. Staying active doesn’t even necessarily mean “working out.” Things like cleaning, playing with pets, and gardening are all effective ways to keep yourself moving.

That being said, it’s perfectly fine to use this period of isolation to take a break from exercise and focus on resting. You don’t “have” to be working out. Your progress won’t be completely lost. Your body won’t blow up. And if you’re sick or symptomatic, you certainly shouldn’t be exercising.

Food

As far as nutrition goes, you might be extremely limited in terms of the choices you have right now. Just as taking a few weeks off from working out won’t lead to any huge changes in my body, I’ve had to realize that changing my eating habits won’t either.

It’s important to limit your trips to the grocery store. I’ve found that going to the store with a plan helps, although I try to leave as much room for flexibility as possible. For example, instead of putting “2 sweet potatoes” on my grocery list, I may put down “2 starches.” If you live with others, sending just one person to the store helps with social distancing, and staying out of that environment may help prevent anxiety from snowballing.

Having non-perishables on hand helps. While it’s good to have extras in case of quarantine, it’s also important to remember that we need to leave resources for everyone. You can always ask friends or family to drop off a bag of groceries or a home-cooked meal. Many restaurants and grocery stores are offering no-contact, no-questions-asked delivery, and some have even dropped the delivery charge.

Even though I’m only going to the store once a week, I’ve been able to have fresh vegetables and fruits with every meal. In order to help my produce last, I eat things according to what’ll go bad first. For example, I’ll eat my strawberries before my apples. If you’re worried about the cleanliness of fresh foods, you can cook them, peel them, or buy wrapped versions. Or just stick to canned or frozen for now.

I’ve enjoyed having time to cook my own meals recently. As a busy college student, I typically feel rushed when preparing and eating my meals. It’s felt really nice over the past couple of weeks to sit down at the table, set distractions aside, and simply focus on eating.

This is a scary time for a lot of us. We might face additional barriers in prioritizing our personal health and wellness right now, but finding creative solutions can help us cope. We’re all in this together. We’re going to be okay.