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While my priority is always about being mentally fit, I realized just how much my physical fitness was a necessary link to my mental well-being. This is about what I did to get physically fit during quarantine, and what you can do for yourself.
Disclaimer: The premise of this post is NOT to imply that you’re obligated to engage in these activities because you have “free time” due to quarantine.
Operation: Get Fit During Quarantine, Begins
I had JUST started going to the gym before the entire globe came to a halt. Before that, I was hiding from the gym like I didn’t walk past it every day when I entered my apartment building. I had officially reached 30 pounds gained since I moved out here on my own 3 years ago.When everything closed, my anxiety got the best of me after the initial days of the “stuck inside” blues. I worried about my lack of physical activity and potentially gaining more weight while I was stuck inside.
(Baby, the neighborhood restaurants here in Baltimore can really fry some chicken wings!! Chicken boxes became my way of life)
However, I had to remind myself that I have a hereditary predisposition to heart disease. Watching my father go through a quadruple bypass several years ago has always been a nagging reminder that my life needs to be right. After my first bout of a wave of quarantine induced depression, I reevaluated the goals I set for 2020 (cuz, I couldn’t do half the things on the list) and started prioritizing my heart health.
Baby steps. I had an appointment with an endocrinologist (PCP wanted to make sure I didn’t have a thyroid issue) who told me that them bottles of apple and cranberry juice I was drinking religiously were not helping my weight loss cause (because of sugar content). Guaranteed me that I’d see weight loss in 2 weeks if I cold turkey cut out juice. I did. This was how I lost the first 5 pounds and I wasn’t doing much differently. My quarantine fitness was officially on and popping.
How You can get fit during quarantine too
(Even if the gym is closed)
1. Get more veggies
My veggie tolerance does not go past broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. I don’t enjoy eating veggies as much as I do drinking them.. (Seriously, why do yall eat Brussel sprouts for fun??). I typically drink at least one green smoothie a day that I break my fast with (I’ll discuss intermittent fasting further down). That spinach will clean you OUT. *TMI* but I enjoy the moments I spend on the toilet bowl releasing toxins. (Talk about quarantine fitness 😅😅). Anywho, here’s my green smoothie recipe. Super basic and gets the job done:
- I use my Nutribullet to blend my smoothies. But any blending machine will do, the main factor that will be different is the texture.
- Spinach & Kale: As much I can stuff into the cup and still close it.
- Water: (some people use nut milk) I fill up the cup about 1/3 of the way
- ACV: This is a more recent addition and totally optional. Be careful to use a veryyy small amount unless you want a tangy smoothie.
- Vega Protein & Greens Powder: 1 scoop, (serving size). – Get 20% off your first order when you subscribe with your email
- Flaxseed: 1 tablespoon
- Hemp Protein: 1 tablespoon
- 1 whole banana
- Ginger powder: (I eyeball this) This is something that was added during quarantine, wanted to make sure my immune system was straight
- Turmeric powder: I eyeball this as well, also a quarantine add
- 1/2 cup of frozen fruit (Depending on the serving size)
The whole thing comes up to about 400 calories which is why my scoops are sometimes less than the serving size. While I want to get the goodness, I’m also calorie counting and want to make sure I don’t over do it on smoothie calories when I could save those calories for chicken or something glorious.
Making the smoothie: blend the veggies, water, ACV, powders, ginger, tumeric, and flaxseed together. Then I add the whole banana and frozen fruit and blend until smooth. Usually I make my smoothie the night before so it’s nice and cold the next morning when I drink it.
2. Intermittent Fasting
I won’t go too much into detail talking about Intermittent Fasting because I’m not an expert. I’ll link some resources below that do a good job of explaining it. The type of intermittent fasting I do is 16/8. I fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window. Let’s be real, eating a chicken box at midnight and trying to roll over an hour later to sleep is an unhealthy hell. And just downright uncomfortable. Intermittent fasting also helped with calorie restriction because I wasn’t just picking up food whenever I felt like it.
I’ll explain more at the end of the post, but one of the greatest benefits of intermittent fasting for me besides getting fit during quarantine has actually been the mental discipline
3. *Super Important* Keep Track of Your Lifestyle
Just as it is important to journal for mindfulness and mood tracking, it is important to track your physical activity (or lack thereof) and it’s especially important to track what you’re eating. It’s hard to know what adjustments need to be made without a clear picture of what your habits are. My quarantine fitness would not have been possible without my Fitbit. My Fitbit EXPOSED me. I’ve always been a label reader, but having the data all aggregated showed me a different picture than what I was telling myself. I wasn’t getting enough physical activity, even though I didn’t eat often my meals (and juice) were super high in calories, and my wake intake was piss poor. Initially, tracking meals and activity feels tedious but it really pays off.
Get You a Fitbit:
If you can’t spring for the investment in a Fitbit, here are some alternatives:
- $20 – Jawbone UP3 Bluetooth Wireless Heart Rate Monitor, Sleep and Fitness Tracker
- $20 – Bluetooth Smart Watch
- $32 – Image Fitness Tracker
- $35 – Zunammy TR027 Wireless Heart Rate Monitor and Activity Fitness Tracker Watch
- $40 – R9 Fitness Tracker
- $45 – Smartbuy S1.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Wristband Health Sport Sleep Fitness Tracker
- $51 – Amzer Fitzer KA Health and Fitness Activity Tracker
- $70 – Soleus Go Fitness Band Activity tracker
4. Engage in alternative ways to do quarantine fitness
Walk to run errands: I had to tap into my native New Yorker on this on. If you are able and the nearest supermarket isn’t 10 miles away, consider running small errands without driving, taking an Uber, or even public transportation. I walked to pick up my prescriptions, search for toilet paper, go to the beauty supply store, etc. Before I knew it, I was spending at least an hour walking on several days of the week.
In-home quarantine fitness: I never thought I’d be working out at home. I never liked the idea. However, desperate for some movement, I started looking around and found a great assortment of videos that I was excited to engage several times a week. Here are my favorites:
- Standing Abs Workout | MrandMrsMuscle
- Low impact, high-intensity intermediate home cardio workout | Body Project
- 30-Minute No-Equipment Abs and Butt-Toning Workout | POPSUGAR Fitness
- Low Impact OVERWEIGHT Cardio Workout (100kgs above!) | Joanna Soh – This one is great for beginners
5. Drink More Water!
This one should be self-explanatory. If your quarantine fitness lifestyle does not start and stop with water, you’re doing it wrong. Nourish your body and your skin with LOTS of it. Before COVID, it was normal for me to only drink about a bottle and a half of water a day. TERRIBLE. Anddd, getting appropriate amounts of water in our system reduces the risk of water retention, aka more lbs and jiggle. Find you a water that tastes good (because that’s a thing) and get to work.
How getting fit during quarantine improved my mental wellness
I’m not one of those people who shares awful memes suggesting that you’re depressed because you don’t exercise and run errands.
I will say, for such a time as this, finding things to stay busy during quarantine is truly helpful because many of us are living a strong rapunzel life right now, especially if you’re working from home.
A concept I was introduced to in class several months ago called “behavioral activation”
began as a behavior therapy treatment condition in a component analysis study of… cognitive therapy. BA attempts to help depressed people reengage in their lives through focused activation strategies. These strategies counter patterns of avoidance, withdrawal, and inactivity that may exacerbate depressive episodes…. BA is designed to help individuals approach and access sources of positive reinforcement in their lives, which can serve a natural antidepressant function.– From: Behavioral Activation Treatment for Depression: Returning to Contextual Roots, Neil S. Jacobson, Christopher R. Martell, and Sona Dimidjian of University of Washington
In my case once I was able to get myself to submit to a disciplined routine that created tangible results (15 pounds down), my desire to continue in that routine intensified. The more I committed to the routine, the more physical results I saw. The more I committed to a fulfilling routine, the better I felt mentally. You see how this works?
The more I got fit during quarantine, the more I wanted to be fit. The more well I felt mentally, the more I wanted to be well.
Establishing this routine also helped me do things that I’d been falling behind on. I struggle with taking my psych meds. I could be in my bed, meds would be on my living room coffee table, and I’d tell myself they were too far and I was comfortable. I’d walk past said meds all day, forgetting they were there, and then by the time I got to them it would be too late to take them and I’d say “tomorrow”…. for several tomorrows.
With my intermittent fasting routine, I took my meds right before or right after I broke my fast with a smoothie. 11am came, I’d go to my work desk and take my meds, multivitamins, and probiotics, signaling to myself that it was time to eat. This also signaled to me that I did a job well done on my intermittent fasting cycle. Another positive reinforcement I needed, because it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling like I’m not doing anything right.
My investment in the process of trying to get fit during quarantine dramatically improved my mental health. I haven’t had a relapse in so long, I’m reinvigorated.