It has been over two years since news hit that a novel virus had been discovered in Wuhan, China, mandating the need for a global lockdown. What was initially proposed as a two-week precaution soon snowballed into a two-year hiatus as newer variants prompted more stringent countermeasures. At a time when we were sequestered indoors and the world appeared to be swinging in freefall, it comes as little surprise that our priorities changed. With gyms locked down around the world, our fitness plans changed shape accordingly.
How COVID-19 Affected Our Exercise Patterns
With access cut off to fitness centres and outdoor areas, global exercise levels unsurprisingly fluctuated. Studies also suggest that the exercise slump has hit women harder than men, given the gender roles and responsibilities that they shoulder at home. The gender equality in exercise levels is also underscored by differences in race, class and economic abilities—men and women, rich and poor, educated and less educated—all of which determine who gets to stay physically active during a pandemic. The consequences are far-reaching, as research has also confirmed that those who are inactive during a pandemic are more prone to worse moods than those who find some way to stay active.
Overall, it paints a grim picture but as the world opens up again, it can offer a golden opportunity to compensate for lost time. Perhaps you are a first-timer who discovered the joy of at-home workouts while being confined to your living room, or maybe you are looking at working your way back to your pre-pandemic fitness levels. Here, Robin Behl, co-founder of virtual workout studio The Tribe, shares how to rediscover your lost fitness mojo.
How To Start Working Out Again In The Post-Pandemic World
It would be remiss to expect your body to jump right back into your pre-pandemic routine—even for those of us who have managed to get through the pandemic unscathed, there is no denying the toll that the events of the past two years have taken on our mind, spirit and body. Unsurprisingly, a host of mental blocks could now be stopping you from stepping into the gym altogether. Behl observes, “People can be convinced that their bodies are not capable of performing at a high intensity after such a long hiatus. And then there are the usual logistic factors, such as gym fees, commute time and the need for a workout partner. Couple this with the onset of office stress, and something as simple as a bad day at work can make us deprioritise our regular schedule, leading to a loss of focus and inconsistency in working out.”
While the lockdown has turned some of us into workout enthusiasts, it is likely that an equal portion of the population has also fallen out of touch with their pre-pandemic workout routine. For those looking to ease themselves back into the drill, Behl advises preparing not just physically, but mentally as well. “Gear yourself up to make a change, as a strong resolution towards better health is just as important. This means prioritising your health over work and everything else, even if it is for 20 minutes a day,” he says. It also helps to reflect on your movement and nutrition habits to hype yourself back into a fitness-focused outlook. “Being conscious of your calorie intake or just tracking how you’ve been doing and improving your personal fitness level can help you set achievable standards and goals for yourself. Don’t think of an impossible level to achieve in a short span of time—take as long as you need and let your body get back in shape at its own pace. Consistency is what truly counts,” he shares.
If you are looking for a little push to stay committed, here is Behl’s top advice:
The best way to ensure consistency is to get a personal trainer, if you are able to afford one. It should be someone who you can vibe with, trust and whose energy you can complement yours.
If hiring a trainer is not an option, you can join a guided program with a structure that is similar to your goals. For instance, if you want to achieve a lean body, the program must make you work towards that.
It is advisable to avoid random YouTube workouts without proper guidance as they can offer little tangible results.
Set up a little routine for yourself with a designated time to train—the recommended amount of time to move is 20-40 minutes at least 5 days a week.
Find that routine and consistency and keep building from there.
Looking To Start Working Out Again? Here’s What To Try:
In the quest to recapture your pre-pandemic fitness levels, it is necessary to keep it simple with the basics. “These don’t need to be monitored and can help your body get accustomed to moving again. These simple exercises will also help build up strength in order to move on to more complex workout routines,” he advises. Ahead, he shares some easy options to get started with:
For the upper body, start building up your resilience with push-ups and pull-ups, both assisted and non-assisted. This will help build your pushing and pulling strength.
Squats are a good option for working the lower body. One can eventually incorporate lunges and dead-lifts too.
Other basic movements would be an elbow plank to build core strength. Mountain climbers, skipping, jumping jacks, cycling and jogging are great cardio movements.