Exercise and Other Drugs

Some people around the world have been living their best lives in sweats and have run out of shows on Netflix. Others are working their tails off and barely finding time to breathe. Some are trying to navigate working from home while trying to make sure their kids don’t somehow never learn to multiply. Many people seem to be taking this time to exercise…sometimes A LOT. Let’s be honest, probably the number one excuse most people give for not exercising is time, and many people have more time on their hands than they know what to do with.

One can only organize the closets so much. My brother said he got all the home improvement projects planned for the year done. He has to work reduced hours and only every-other week at that. Even people who love to just lay around have reported getting bored of that. My sister describes herself as a “joyful sloth” and has declared that even she has been inspired to run and to take my online yoga classes.

There are headstand challenges, push-up challenges, sit-up challenges, plank challenges. There seems to be a fit test challenge for everyone. My social media stream is crammed with “X-days to a better body/butt/tummy etc.” Confession: I have actually bought three!

As a yoga teacher (and Pilates and barre), I love taking yoga classes and other fitness classes because I always learns something that I can add to my own practices and that I can share when I teach.

This is all new since adulthood for me. I was NOT an athlete as a kid.

I actively hated sports involving balls, and running caused me great pain and discomfort due to my back issues. So once you eliminate balls and running, there are only so many options left. I enjoyed swimming, but not enough to get up at 4am to go to practices. I am not very competitive, which is also a prerequisite for most sports. I really loved gymnastics, but my parents weren’t very encouraging (something about being too tall). I think dance would have been HUGELY beneficial to my confidence, my back and my overall grace (or lack thereof), but while I took a few classes, my parents were more interested in forcing piano lessons on me. So aside from traumatic golf and tennis lessons; summer swim team; and a few classes of dance, I did nothing anyone would consider athletic. I was a skinny kid with shapeless arms and ribs that stuck out. I was awkward, clumsy and not very strong. I thought I hated sports and exercise, but it turns out, I had just not found one that I liked!

In college, I actually started taking some fitness classes and found I sort of liked working out in the gym. As I said in a previous post, Pilates  was super helpful in building strength in my core, improving my posture and helping my back pain, and I really enjoyed it. I found that I was “good” at it, and while not the point, many of us will stick to things we feel some degree of success at.

That being said, don’t be afraid to suck!

I have enjoyed royally sucking in Zumba classes. I loved mountain biking in college, but I was no threat to the pro circuit. I have gotten so I enjoy running, but I look like a newborn colt and I run a speedy 11+ minute mile. Hey, I can suck at running and still get the health benefits of it! I have cheerily sucked at softball and soccer, but I usually get gently asked to monitor the beer supply instead; I am very good at that.

As my 20s and 30s and now 40s have gone on, I have found that I love to exercise. I just had to find what worked for me. I still hate ball sports, and I am still not very competitive against other people, but I love the challenge of trying to get a new posture. The video below was a moment of pure pride and joy for me! I had the time to practice it, I was working on my strength and one of the classes I took, shared a trick. Put that together and you get a quarantine win!

So, suffice it to say, I am among those who have been exercising my way through COVID-19.

  • I took Age Fiercely: Strong and Fit Over 40 because,well, I’m over 40
  • I am always looking for tips for me and my students for back health, so I took this 14 Day Spinal Reset
  • Connected to back issues are hip issues, so I took 7 Day Pelvis Reset for Lower Back Pain
  • I am taking on line classes with Past Tense because I used to teach there and now I am popping on to teach a couple classes from afar! I will be taking five classes a week I hope each week in May.
  • I am, of course, teaching my two classes a week. Mondays, Pilates and Core Yoga fusion and Wednesdays, Mellow yoga (feel free to join!)
  • I started a 7-day meditation series that includes a short warm-up with Shakti Sparks
  • I used to teach Freedom Barre and a colleague of mine from when I taught is teaching on line, so I take her class once a week and there is a woman locally who is also teaching on line, so I take hers once a week.
  • We are allowed to go outside here, so I try to walk, run or bike 4-5 days a week to get some sun and air.

I am loving all of this! I am also loving seeing my friends and family on Facebook and Instagram posting pics of ‘gym’ class with their kids on their Peloton bikes racing their friends or sports in the yard or super creative apartment athletic routines. I love seeing the before and after photos of body transformations. I love watching the fast motion workouts and the creative ways of exercising while stuck in a hotel room for a 14-day quarantine period. I love watching teachers find new ways to reach their clients.

Is it possible we are getting healthier while we are warding off sickness?!?!?

COVID-19 is stressful. Having to stay inside is stressful. Not working is stressful if that means you are’t getting paid. Working from home if that is not what you are used to is stressful. Homeschooling is stressful. Working as a first responder or healthcare professional is stressful. A lot about this can be stressful at this time.

We have a choice. We can become overwhelmed by the stress and let it swallow us up or we can figure out how to manage it. Part of this is to manage our own specific situation, but beyond that, there are ways that we can help our minds and our bodies cope with stress. We can do that by taking care of our minds and our bodies. I have talked about meditation, and that is one way to care for our mind. Exercise is how we take care of our bodies, along with nutrition, on which I have many posts and recipes!

Newton’s Law:
A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.
I say: GET MOVING!

Look, I get it, it is hard to motivate. I HATE exercising in the morning. I do much better in the afternoon. My friend and neighbor works out at like 10pm, while I am watching TV and drinking wine. Some people hate running, others love it. I will go blue in the face trying to convince people how amazing yoga and Pilates are, but some people just aren’t into it. Some people love the camaraderie of the group class, while some like to keep their camera off on the Zoom classes. Some of you even live ball sports! Fitness is not one size fits all. We all have different bodies, different goals, different situations, but the reality is this: we all have bodies.

You only have your body and you will never get another one. The only person that can make sure your body is in the best shape it can be in is you.

That does NOT mean you need to look a certain way. I am 100% in favor of loving your body and embracing your curves (in my case, a total lack of anything resembling even a single curve), your size, your shape, but….with the caveat that everyone has a weight, size and shape that is healthy for them. Being plus sized or skinny are both bad if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs because you have poor cardio health. Having a convex tummy or a concave tummy are both bad if you can’t sit up without effort, and if you are slumpy because you lack core strength. Having bad joints because there is too much weight on them or because you are deprived of fat are both problems. Having skinny arms or fat arms are both bad if you can’t push-up. Having a flat butt or a bubble butt are both bad if you can’t stand up out of your chair without groaning.

And let me just say, even if you are in terrible shape, you can probably do most of those things if you are only 20 or 30, but as we get older they get harder to do. Old age is inevitable, but healthy aging is not nor is illness and immobility; we can take care of our health when our body is young, and it will better take care of us when we are not so young.

Based on your age, height and gender, there is a weight range that is healthy for you, and if you are honest, you probably know what that range is. You KNOW when you both look and feel your best. When your jeans fit just right and show you off. When your face looks healthy and full, but you aren’t feeling like you have no neck. That ideal is a range, so you will move within it, but the goal should be to be within it, not above or below it.

What inspires you? Do you like to dance? Do you like to exercise alone? In a group? Do you love to sweat? Do you hate to sweat? Do you want toned arms? Do you want a bigger booty? Do you want a thicker waistline or a thinner one? Did you “used to love” something, but have stopped?

Try different classes on line, there are literally hundreds, thousands when you consider all of the You Tubers. Are they all equal? Are the all good? No, but now is a great time to try them out and see what you like. There are ones for free, ones that are paid per class, unlimited options. We are limited with equipment at home, but there are creative ways around that. One of the Freedom Barre teachers I am taking from each week uses cans of ravioli, I believe, as weights, and reminds us that we don’t need to use any weights. I tell my students to grab a towel and a book if they haven’t got a yoga strap and a block. A friend created his own contraption to mount his bike on so he can peddle in place…you can also order one.

So many studios and gyms are offering their classes via Zoom, Facebook and Instagram. Some are offering for free, but I think it is great to keep income going for the instructors an have them be paid. I offer mine for a donation (not to me!), which I will be matching. I love the courses that are a certain number of days. Please don’t believe that 10 minutes a day is going to leave you looking like a beach volleyball player, but the point is, it starts to get you in the habit and it gives you some tools.

Look at what your friends and family members are doing, and get inspiration from them. Check out some of the ads that pop up on Instagram. Some are actually really good! Are you stuck indoors with someone…or stuck apart? Do a zoom class together! I am obsessed with Insecure, and Issa and Molly have “Self-care Sundays.” Set a date with your bestie to do a virtual exercise date. I have a friend with whom I have gone on long walks on the sea wall with. We don our masks, and swerve around others and walk and chat for an hour.

If you don’t want to exercise, that’s fine. You do you, but if you have been telling yourselves for years that you NEED to exercise more, that you SHOULD get in shape, that you WANT to be healthy, etc. What are you waiting for? It is the literal perfect moment. 

If you are at rest, it is hard to get moving, but many people will tell you, that once you start moving, you will never want to stop. You will feel better really fast. You will start to look better soon. You will be more healthy as you continue and you won’t want to stop.

I am convinced that many people just don’t realize how unwell they actually feel because if you are used to feeling a certain way, it feels normal. Once you start exercising, you may realize that your normal was actually pretty unhealthy and the more you exercise, the more your normal changes and the better you feel! Maybe once w get back to our new normal, your new normal will be healthy with a regular exercise program even if you are back to having less time. This, of course, needs to be paired with eating well, but I also argue that you can eat more and enjoy the foods you love in moderation when you are exercising. It is all about balance and moderation.

Many of you are probably saying, “Yes, I’d love to exercise more, but I am no sloth; I’m working and schooling my kids and running a house!” For you, time is not a luxury, but exercise and self care should not be either. Can you walk home from work? Can you go for a walk after the kids are in bed? Can you walk up and down the stairs in your building a bunch of times? Can you do a 30-minute workout before your shift or midday to clear your mind and boost your energy? If you are already on your feet all day burning a million calories, maybe you need to get off your feet and do some back stretches and core strengtheners to ease the muscle tension. Exercise does not have to be a 2-hour workout or nothing. Just doing some stretches to move your joints and move your spine is much better than nothing. Start by squeezing in ten minutes and then see if it can be ten minutes twice a day. If you do nothing else, if you are on your feet all day, do an inversion. Lay on your back with your bum pressed up against the wall, put your legs up the wall and lie in a letter “L” for ten minutes. You’ll thank me, I promise.

You will be better for your family, clients and, most importantly, yourself if you move a little each day to counter all that you are doing for the rest if us!

I am reading a book on the chakras right now and doing the associated meditations and exercises for each one. I love this passage when explaining the third chakra, which is in our abdomen and is associated with heat, fire and energy:

“The hardest part is getting started. Once we get a fire going, it burns more easily, only needing to be stirred and fed…Once we overcome inertia to the point where energy is produced easily, the third chakra ‘kicks in’ and begins producing power with less effort and will…But energy alone is not enough to constitute power. For that energy must be directed.” –Judith Anodea

Which is a nice segue from those who need a different type of inspiration over at the opposite end of the exercise spectrum.

The exercise addict.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the “Joyful Sloth” is the “Manic Bunny.” I have found myself in this category at times. I am not going to talk about eating disorders and body dysphoria issues that lead to unhealthy, compulsive exercising. That is a whole other thing in which I do not have any expertise.

However, some of us may be doing A LOT of exercise right now and that may or may not be a good thing. While some things like a restorative or gentle yoga class can probably be done five times a day. Cross Fit and boot camp work outs should not be. You may be able to go outside and run, but that doesn’t mean you should seven days a week if you normally do three.

Personally, I am trying to balance the strength and cardio work with the stretching and meditative work to find a balance. I am also trying to remember on the days I take a barre class and a flow yoga class to not go on a bike ride too, and to be sure to eat enough.

Once you start an exercise habit, you will see results. Maybe your goal is to lose weight, maybe it is to gain healthy weight, maybe it is to get back your pre-baby stomach, maybe it is to improve your cardio health, maybe it is to feel comfortable in a bathing suit, maybe it is just to tone up, maybe, like me, it’s to be able to do a handstand (without the wall, as pictured above)! If you start working towards this, science dictates you will see results and hopefully that encourages you to keep going, but try to be mindful about setting realistic goals and then not always moving the goal back to the point of being unhealthy. Maybe the goal was to lose 10 pounds, but losing 20 pounds would put you at an unhealthy weight. Knowing when it is time to maintain by scaling back or by adjusting the routine is also important.

Confession: I have definitely been guilty of over-doing it without really realizing it.

I have said before that I really wasn’t a runner, and then suddenly I started enjoying it. I was pretty stressed out in grad school. I was working part-time, in-school full time, had the terrible boyfriend I have talked about before, and lived in an awful apartment with awful roommates. I would escape from my tower (5th floor walk-up in a brick block) when I needed a break from reading and go run in the park around the corner. I ran three laps, which was three miles, and that Christmas a friend convinced my to run a 5k race. Then a friend asked if I wanted to run a 10k race with her. I didn’t think I could, but decided to try. I researched training for that and learned that I should do some longer days, some mid-range days and some short days with some days of no running. A crazy thing happened. For the first time EVER, I got passed that 5k/3mi mark! And then I kept going. In a matter of weeks, I was pushing 10K. And then, I started getting addicted to the rush, the endorphins, all the things runners talk about. Soon I had no short days and no off days. I was running 6-10k at least 5 days a week. My knees and back started to hurt, and I was dropping weight at an alarming rate. My friend ended being sick and couldn’t do the race, so I decided against it and also decided running 10K was not good for MY body. For some people, it is fine, but it was not healthy for me. I scaled back to my three laps no more than five times a week with my Pilates workouts on the floor of my bedroom in that horrible flat.

We all deal with stress in different ways, and I would argue that neither the Joyful Sloth nor the Manic Bunny are the healthiest.

Try to find that Goldilocks happy medium sweet spot where you are moving ENOUGH, but also relaxing ENOUGH and not beating yourself up if you miss a day or aren’t up for a workout. If you want to post your before and after photos, cool, but try not to feel the pressure of keeping up with the flurry of social media posts from your friends, relatives and celebrities. It is not a competition with anyone other than yourself, and that should be a friendly scrimmage not a duel to the death!

As I have said, this time is a gift. I just would love it if everyone gave themselves the gift of good health, and if that meant developing a new positive habit, I say there is no time like the present. Be safe. Be healthy. Find your sweet spot. You do you…the best possible you that you have in you.

No matter what you look like, when you FEEL great, you will be that much happier a human and when we feel great, we can’t help it. We look great too!

#CarpeQuarantineDiem!

If you liked this, like, follow, share!

I have been writing a lot about this Time of COVID-19. Check out the other posts in this series.

  1. Coping During COVID-19: An extroverted empath’s thoughts
  2. Coping During COVID-19: This time is a gift
  3. Coping During COVID-19: How Can I Help?
  4. Developing a Meditation Practice…trying to anyway
  5. Learning to Breathe….Mindfully (pranayama)
  6. Starting…and Continuing a Yoga (asana) Practice
  7. Walk Like a Yogini: Being Kind and Keeping it Real

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