How to create or sustain an exercise routine
I was pretty active before the Stay at Home (SaH) order went into effect: each week up until March 16, I ran 4-5 days, did two 30 minute weight circuits at the gym, and took two Pilates Reformer classes. The week after SaH went into effect, I ran twice, walked twice, and that was it; the week following that, I ran once and walked twice.
Why did I stop doing something that was a solid part of my daily and weekly routine?
- Depression. On a good day, I never know when my depression will pop up and make it hard to do even things that I enjoy, but the constant stream of news about all of the ways that people with underlying conditions - I have two! - will suffer and ultimately die from this virus just blew my mind. I was having trouble doing basic things required to sustain life, like eating, drinking water, and sleeping (and taking a shower), much less throwing myself out into the scary world to exercise.
- Anxiety. Speaking of the scary world, there was a lot of information early in the pandemic about the possibilities of airborne transmission in the context of exercising outdoors and proximity to other athletes. In the face of all of that information, I just didn’t want to deal with the risk, so I stayed in the house, scrolling through my various news sources and feeling justified in minimizing the time I spent outside the house.
In the early part of April, about three weeks into Life at Home, my wonderful running coach sent me a text message because he hadn’t seen any activity on my running log for a few weeks and wanted to make sure I was doing OK. I wasn’t doing OK in virtually any aspect of life by this point - not eating enough, not drinking enough water, not getting much exercise (2-3 walks per week), and not finding anything to enjoy or celebrate in my new life - but that text conversation shook me out of my fog and I started thinking about goals that I wanted to achieve; these were very different than my goals before Life at Home.
- I wanted to run a half marathon at the end of March and a full marathon at the end of June; I didn’t have a specific time goal, just that I wanted to finish in under 3 hours for the half and under 6 hours for the full
- I wanted to increase my flexibility and strength because both of those are critical components of being a faster runner as well as preventing injuries (which I have been prone to over the last few years of running half marathons)
- Strengthening and/or preserving my immune system is a primary goal for everything I do, including my physical activity. This means not exercising more than 90 minutes at a time and keeping most of my physical efforts at no more than 75% of my Heart Rate Max (220 minus your age, multiplied by 0.75)
- Minimizing the chance of injury and or overuse aches and pains since I cannot see my physical therapist or chiropractor for the foreseeable future
- Treat my depression and anxiety in sustainable ways that I can continue for a year or longer
- Manage my Type 2 diabetes effectively so that I can continue monitoring and communicating my blood sugar, blood pressure, and resting heart rate to my Primary Care Physician without an in person lab or clinic visit
Given these goals, this is the routine my coach and I developed in April and which I still stick to - for the most part - now:
- I run about an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
- I ride my bike in the garage on the indoor trainer that my husband bought for me in April for an hour on Tuesday and Thursday, and 90 minutes on Sunday. (This is my new favorite exercise!)
- I do 15-20 minutes of strength training one day during the week and 30-45 minutes on Saturday. All of the exercises are body weight only or use an exercise band or hand weights, both of which I already owned, so I didn’t need to buy them
- At least twice per week, I join the live virtual stretch session offered by the Fitness Center staff at work - this is a wonderful way to work out the stiffness and body aches that come with working from home and not having a built in reason to get up and move (all of my meetings are virtual, so no more getting up to walk to a conference room in another building)
- Every night before bed, I stretch my legs, hips, and glutes for 15 minutes; this is another protective/preventative measure
I’m happy to report that the plan is working well for me: I have more energy, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and resting heart rate are all good, and I feel stronger both mentally and physically. I even completed a virtual Ironman event a few weeks ago (1 mile outdoor run, 14 mile indoor bike ride, 3.1 mile outdoor run) - I split it into two sessions, with six hours between them, and the two sessions combined were less than 90 minutes, so I stayed in a safe range for my immune system while I earned a “Ironman Virtual Finisher” sweatshirt!
If you’d like any assistance in putting together an exercise routine for yourself, I’m a RRCA certified running coach with more than 20 years of managing my diabetes and I’m happy to help you design something that works for you, completely free; leave a comment if you’re interested.
Have you found an exercise routine that works for you in this “new now”? Did your exercise routine change after Stay at Home orders went into place?