I am not a calm person. NO ONE would refer to me that way. I am a high energy, always moving, always talking, mind always racing, extrovert of a person. A co-worker at my previous office job once asked to change desks because my constant movements in my chair were too distracting for him to get any work done.
These characteristics make the fitness industry a great fit for me. I am moving all day, on my feet, lifting things and being face to face with people. My career is also the perfect outlet for the anxiety that has plagued me my entire life.
As I write this we are on day 7 of my family's soft Isolation and Day 4 of our hard isolation. Soft was work and school and then home. That wasn’t too bad. Hard - well everyone in the country knows what that is by now. No one in, no one out. It is isolating and scary.
Over the years I have come up with many coping skills for my anxiety. The problem is most of them are outside, in the gym, in the company of others.
Anxiety to me is a constant hum that builds up and up and up in my body, trying to drown everything else out. It is a mental and a physical feeling, capable of making me legitimately sick. A hard workout at the gym, a long ride on my bike or a demanding hike have always been the release valves for those feelings.
I am blessed to have a variety of weights and a trainer for my bike in the house. I have alternated between the weights and the bike, as well as taking our dogs for a long walk each day since the social distancing started.
There are times that exercise feels like a luxury, but when I am cut off from it I realize that it is truly the thing that allows me to do all of the other things. I would encourage each of you to make moving and being physical a part of each day right now in this uncertain time.
Some of you have treadmills, and bikes and weights at home. If you know what to do with all of that, please allow yourself the time to do something each day.
If you do not have all of that equipment or don’t know what to do with it, I am here to help. (Helping others is also an outlet for anxiety).
Treadmills and other machines are for cardiovascular exercise or “cardio.” Cardio increases your heart rate, makes you sweat and burns calories. It is also an excellent release valve for fear, frustration, and anxiety - it does not make the source of those things go away, but it gives you an outlet for the feelings they create.
I would recommend 20 to 60 minutes of cardio per day. It is well known in the fitness industry that extreme exertion increases your susceptibility to infection. For this time period, I recommend working between a 5-8 out of 10. Save your all-out efforts for when the virus has passed. Shorter efforts can be in the 8/10 range, pace yourself in the 5-6/10 range for work approaching 60 minutes.
If you do not have a piece of cardio equipment in your house you can use your body and your stairs. Create a 10-minute workout out of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees, squats, pushups, jump rope or pretend jump rope, running stairs and stepping on and off of the bottom stair. Repeat as many times as possible. Use a timer app on your phone to set a work-rest interval of anywhere from 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest to 50 seconds work and 10 seconds rest.
Lifting weights is also a great stress reliever. I have encouraged my clients at this time to focus on maintaining the muscle that they have, but not to worry about gaining more, Squats, Chest Press, Deadlifts, Bent over rows, shoulder presses and lunges can all be done at home with a set of dumbbells. Follow up with some planks and you will have a full-body workout. Aim for 12 repetitions of each exercise and go through the circuit 3 times.
If you don’t have dumbbells, anything at all with some weight to it will work - empty milk jugs filled with water, sand or dirt, boxes of books, I have even put things in a backpack in a pinch.
Another great option would be to order resistance bands online and have them delivered. Anything that can be done with a dumbbell can be done with a band. Another way that I like to structure at-home workouts is 5 minutes of cardio, one circuit of the above strength moves, repeated 3 times. That way there is a little bit of everything in one workout and no time to get bored.
Yoga is another great option - but I am not an expert in that so I will refer you to YouTube.
These are scary uncertain times. I realized I have shared a chink in my armor that many of you may not have known about. I chose to do that because I know I am not the only one. I cannot wait to see you all back in our gym.
We can high five, fist bump and even hug. Those of us that love the gym know that it is so much more than a place to workout. It is a second home filled with our second families. Until that time if you need to talk, about anxiety or fitness, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Be safe, healthy and well my friends.
Megan Leipholtz ISSA CPT