Staying safely at home, going to stores minimally, and having minimal contact with those outside our households has been a crucial part of diminishing the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, this new paradigm has thrown many of our habits for a loop – especially fitness regimens.
Some of our patients have reported struggling to transition their workouts to home- or outdoor-based routines. Some are struggling with the lack of camaraderie, now that they’re working out alone. Yet others struggle with a newfound lack of accountability.
A new article published last week talks about those among us who actually improved their fitness habits during quarantine, what we can learn from them, and how to maintain these newfound habits.
In today’s blog post, we’ll share some of the article’s tips and findings.
Cue and Reward
The first thing to take into account is that the most successful habits are built on a “cue and reward” system. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” says that “all habits involve cues and rewards. A cue, which could be a time of day, triggers you to perform the habit, while the reward is the outcome motivating you to perform it. For example, hunger pangs in late afternoon trigger you to perform the habit of grabbing a snack; you are rewarded with renewed concentration.”
Cues and rewards that worked pre-pandemic might no longer be accessible (e.g. hitting the gym for a 45 min session on your way home from work – with the cue being your commute, and the reward being decompression and better sleep). So how to avoid skipping workouts entirely now that you no longer have a commute, and the gym is closed? Create new cue/reward systems.
A reward can also be something as simple as the satisfaction of completing a goal you set out for yourself. According to Dr. James, “wearing an Apple Watch or FitBit can help motivate you to reach daily goals. It is surprising how ‘closing a ring’ or getting 10,000 steps can encourage more movement in your day, while bringing awareness to our activity patterns.”
Even if your schedule is topsy-turvy versus pre-pandemic, or unstructured altogether, you should still schedule fitness into your week. This is especially crucial if, pre-pandemic, you relied on a schedule for workouts (e.g. had to sign up for a class at a specific time, and managed your schedule around it).
Start the week by creating a goal for yourself – number of times per week you’ll get your body moving, and amount of time per session. For me, I aim for 4-5x per week for at least 30 minutes. Then, create appointments with yourself for the week to fulfill your goal. Put short blocks around that appointment to give you sufficient time to gear up as well as to shower off afterwards. Finally, make sure you are getting appointment alerts – this is not a time to “set it and forget it”!
Embrace "Good Enough"
My favorite, and the most practical, advice of all – embrace “good enough.”
Too often, the perfectionists in us are our biggest blockers. If we’re 5 minutes late to a live virtual yoga class, we sometimes think it’s better to skip it than be rude. If we only have time for a 30 minute walk instead of 60, we sometimes skip it altogether because it’s not “good enough.”
Some is always better than none. If your schedule turns out differently than you’d hoped, you can still get creative and squeeze some movement in, even if it’s short and sweet.
Also, have backup plans. For example, if your goal is to do a 60-minute there-and-back hike, what can you do if you only have 45 minutes? 30? Even 10? Planning is key.
Finally, Dr. James recommends patients plan for TWO shorter workouts during the day, especially if scheduling is a challenge. She says, “squeeze in a 15- 30 minute walk in the morning AND a 15 - 30 minute walk at the end of the day (or during lunch). This doubles the exercise time, yet feels like a much smaller commitment. It really helps refresh the mind and break up the screen time throughout the day.”
Let us know in comments – how has your fitness regimen changed since pre-pandemic days? How do you make sure you’re still moving your body? What are your tips for staying consistent with your workouts?