I would argue that the words Corona, Covid 19 and virus were the most used in the world in the past two years. Can you believe it… two years since this whole thing started? Everyone is so sick of talking about it but we can’t help it. It’s word vomit. The virus has affected every single part of our lives from our health to our relationships to our work to our schedules and so we can’t help but discussing it with others in the same way an argument with someone seems to invade our brains and slip its way into conversation with others and eventually everyone you meet is a sounding board and a therapist. While Covid has been detrimental for many reasons, for me, the transition from busy, busy, busy to stand-still-nothing-at-all, has been one of the hardest parts. For the past year or so, I have been complaining about not having a schedule. Like the rest of you, I am sure, at the beginning I was living lavish in the life of a person with no obligations and no job (thank you, furlough). No feeling of having to go the the gym, because we couldn’t. No guilt for going or not going to that social event, cause there were none. No immediate pressure to complete something short-term or long-term cause who knew how long this was going to last. It was as if Covid didn’t only take my busy schedule, it confiscated my personal progress and goals and I didn’t even notice, until I got them back.
I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I played lacrosse, soccer and other various sports all throughout my teenage years. I went to University at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, USA where I played lacrosse at a high level for four years and when I graduated, I was coaching, running, playing lacrosse, picking up tennis, and working out- going to the gym at least once a day most weeks. Being active all day, everyday had been my lifestyle for so long it had become my normal. I lived in Maryland, USA until September 2020 when I moved to Nottingham, England to get my masters at the University of Nottingham. I had all these plans to play lacrosse and travel and meet a bunch of new friends and have the best year ever, all why training for the Italian Women’s National Lacrosse team. I had it all figured out. And thennnn Covid. Granted, coming to a foreign country and having all these hopes and dreams in the middle of a pandemic was my own fault, but you can’t slate a girl for trying. I got to England just in time for the country to go into its second lockdown and for me to be stuck in a house with people I just met, in a place I didn’t know, taking online classes and still trying to make the most of it. The lacrosse team stopped playing, the Italian team was put on hold due to inability to travel, I was overloaded with school work and my activity level decreased a significant amount. Some people went crazy on their workouts, saying they have all this time they can finally get the gains that they have been hoping for- if that was you, more power to ya. I went the other way. Criminal minds and grey’s anatomy took the place of my workout buddies and deliveroo took the place of social outings. Without a schedule and people around me to push me and short and long term goals, I was lost and that eventually lead me to look at my fitness and training as something that was completely optional- second to sleeping in, cooking food, watching a movie, taking a walk, my school work and zoom calls with friends. And then I just got so sick of runs and walks and at-home workouts that I boycotted it all together. The lack of schedule and motivation hit my physical progress hard. One punch to my endurance. One uppercut to my strength. A drop kick to my speed. A left hook to my energy levels and a right hook to my nutrition.
Eventually I had enough of it. You know when you wake up and you just think, this has to stop? It’s like someone lights a match in your sleep and then by the time you wake up you have a fire underneath you driving you to burn down the bad habits that have been consuming you. This happened multiple times. I would wake up with this same motivation saying ‘today is the day, I will get back into serious training. I will drink more water. I will go for a run today. I will eat healthy’. Then I would get half way through the day and think ‘ehhh, maybe tomorrow’. What a toxic cycle I was in. Getting out of it was much harder than getting into it. That’s always how it goes, right? But through baby steps and a reminder of why I do what I do, I have been able to return to the person I enjoy being and the athlete I once was. I will be playing in the World Cup this summer with the Italian Women’s National Lacrosse team and my views on exercise and scheduling have improved dramatically. I still have a lot of work to do but if I have learned anything during this time, it’s be kind to yourself. Understand where you are and where you want to go but do not for a second talk to yourself out of anger, disappointment or disgust. Be kind to yourself.
So, how do we thrive in the face of these circumstances? How do we navigate the no-schedule or lack of schedule life to make sure that we are treating our bodies and minds the way we should treat them? Now that things are starting to return to normal, I think we all could use a reminder of the importance of scheduling so that we can achieve our goals and improve our physical and mental health. Here are five simple tools that changed the way I viewed exercise and physical and mental health throughout this time and brought me back to who I am.
1) Be Realistic
One reason my Covid workout routines would fail was because I kept trying to force my workouts. I was unrealistic with time, ability, consistency and drive. I would either do a workout that was 10 minutes long and expect results or I would do a workout that was an hour and a half that would knock me out for days after. In terms of ability, I would try and complete workouts that I simply was unable to do. I was expecting my body to be in the same place as it was when I was training everyday, twice a day as a college athlete. I did not want the slow progress I just wanted to get back into it full force. This lead to little niggles and discouragement during the workouts. I also was inconsistent. One day I would wake up at 6 and workout and try and stick to the schedule. Then the next day I would over sleep my alarm and wake up at 8 and not workout until 2. That’s the thing with Covid, there is no schedule or lack of and so you could do things like that. To truly get back into working out I had to do some self reflection to realistically see where I was physically and mentally and what my life looked like at the current moment. I think this was the hardest part because I had to come to terms with that I am not as in shape as I would like. I had to admit that I had not been the kindest to myself in lockdown and now it’s time to climb the mountain to get to where I want to be. Then I had to do some reflection on what my day looked like. I had to pick a routine and ability that realistically worked for me and fit into a schedule. I am not necessarily a morning workout person so would I make myself a morning person or do my workout in the late morning. Would I save it until 2pm or did I enjoy a late night workout to burn off some steam? Find what makes you happy and what makes you enjoy working out the most and what is the most realistic for you and your personality.
2) Keep a Schedule
This was one of the hardest for me. Because there are no schedules right now. Working from home, school work online, at home workouts and lots of time but no time at all, all contribute to the lack of consistency in our days. Through the lockdown I have found that if you have a time everyday that you have set aside specifically for you to be active and workout, you are more likely to do it. Pick a time during the day, preferably when you cannot be interrupted with work, kids and other life things and do the workout! It doesn’t have to be the same time everyday but I find that having workout consistency throughout the week sets you up to succeed in other areas. At least it’s one thing that you can check off the checklist, one thing that you can control. Not to mention all the good endorphins and the satisfaction with completing something difficult may make that boss more bearable to deal with or your kids less annoying or that song a little more peppy. And write it down! Once you have created a schedule that works for you write it on a big calendar and hang it where you can see it- on the fridge, bathroom mirror, bedroom ceiling, toilet roll, anywhere!
3) Write down your goals and progress
I think I speak for most people when I say Covid stole some of our motivation and drive. This is the part where I tell you to do another round of self-reflection. In order to really get back into a workout routine and stick to it, you need to outline your short and long-term goals. Where are you and where do you want to be? Then write three steps that will help you get there. I like to have 1-3 short term goals for example, one might be, be able to do a 3 minute plank and 1-3 long-term goals such as complete a half-marathon. This keeps you both motivated and helps you see the bigger picture while still enjoying and understanding the importance of the process. While your goals can be physical, remember to add in some mental and emotional goals in as well- mental health is just as important as physical health! When you have decided on your goals and begin working towards them, log what you do each day to reach them. This way, if you fail, (which may happen and that’s okay!) you are able to see where you can improve and what needs to be changed to help you reach that goal next time. And when you succeed, you can look back and admire your journey and give yourself the biggest pat on the back.
4) Be kind to yourself
This may be the most important part of working out and training. As I said previously, you must be kind to yourself through the process. This is easier said than done. In the society of social media, all the world right now is comparison. But I am here to tell you that your progress and your goals are personal to you. No body is built the same and you are loved no matter what you look like. Before you begin reaching for your goals, make sure you remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing and make sure it is rooted in improving your health, relationships and feelings not in improving your looks and what others thinks about you. While you are going through the process, cut yourself some slack. If you have a bad workout day, it’s okay. If you miss a workout, it’s okay. If you are starting all the way over, it’s okay. If you feel discouraged, it’s okay. If you ditch your heavy lifting workout and substitute it for a Zumba dance class because you just feel like getting your groove on, IT’S OKAY! If you’re not enjoying yourself what’s the point of doing it? That’s not to say every day will be easy and you get to skip every workout you feel like and don’t have to do anything hard. Ever hear of tough love?? Yeah, you need to give some of that to yourself too. Practice gratitude and joy and hard work through every bicep curl, every treadmill run, every yoga class, every plank and the journey begins to look a little more like a flower garden and less like the forest from Beauty and the Beast.
5) Monthly resolutions
I am one of those people that gets bored really quickly. I lose interest if something is taking too long or I am looking to try something new everyday- sticking to the same thing over and over again is a little too monotonous for me. While I realise this is a personality flaw in some ways because practice and repetition is how you grow, I also realise I have to keep my days interesting and challenge myself in many different ways or else I feel static and bored. One of the ways I did this, this past year, which has helped me build healthy habits and improve my daily routine, was to set monthly resolutions. On December 31st of 2020 I decided that instead of trying to have one goal for the entirety of 2021 that I would probably break and fail at before January 2nd… I would have monthly goals that would eventually turn into habits. One would build on top of the other until I have 12 new habits to improve my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so I thought a month long resolution sounded like the perfect amount of time. These monthly resolutions were just what I needed to ease myself back into a schedule and dare I say it… they were kinda fun?? For example, my January resolution was to drink a glass of water right when I wake up in the morning. My February resolution was to write a letter to someone new everyday. My April resolution was to read the news once a day. My July resolution was to keep a gratitude journal. My September resolution was to do 10 press ups and 10 minutes of ab workouts everyday. Some of my resolutions, I hated, but many stuck and gave me a sense of control over my routine and wellbeing. If you don’t know where to start with building a routine, try just setting a goal a month and build up from there.
These five point are not an instant, magical, your-life-will-be-perfect remedy. I am not saying if you do all of these you will be successful in every workout ever, become a world class athlete and achieve all the physical and mental gains you have been striving for. I am just saying, at the very least, when you talk to people you can ask about their family, you can tell them what book you have been reading, you can call friends and talk about drama without feeling the word vomit of Covid come out of your mouth. The world is starting to recover from a year of an unknown virus, and so there is no better time to cure our lives of the inconsistency and lack of motivation that came with it. Go get after it !!
Written by Stephanie Colson and published on Monday 3rd January 2022 at 09:27