Your mind is saying you need to move.
Your body prefers to curl up with tea and a book after spending the day online checking in with your team, your students and your email.
Before the pandemic, knowing you had someone waiting on you got you to the gym. Sometimes you didn’t want to go but you always left energized and glad you showed up.
Now, working from home and trying to work out at home aren’t working so well together. You can’t seem to make the same magic with the workout you found on Pinterest after a long day at the desk. Even if you do manage to get moving the intensity and energy boost just isn’t the same working alone in your garage.
This is not a moral failing on your part. Your response to this new physical distancing environment is completely normal. You are not lazy. You’re just missing three vital factors: meaning, connection and accountability.
Finding the Joy in Movement
If you’re looking for some good science to explain why working out by yourself at home just doesn’t feel the same, read The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection and Courage by Kelly McGonigal, Phd.
In this book, Dr. McGonigal explains with hard data and delightful storytelling how movement is “intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection and mastery – and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety and loneliness.” – Goodreads
Find your WHY
We need to move now more than ever. If you’re finding it harder to get your workout without a class to go to or your running buddy, your first action in finding the joy in movement is to find a deeper purpose for your workout of choice.
I know for many people, exercise is still seen as a means to an end. If your primary goal is to lose 20 pounds by summer, you’re going to have a harder time sticking to your routine in this time of flux. It’s the perfect time to find a stronger WHY and purpose in your workout. McGonigal suggests seeing your workout as a metaphor for something bigger in your life. She says, “Walking is powerful because it’s a full-body experience, and it’s a metaphor. You are literally moving forward, and you’re on a path.”
I’ve been doing multiple one-on-one virtual sessions per day, working out with every client. I’ve had numerous people comment that I must not need to work out right now. Nothing could be further from the truth. I might be able to get what I from an aesthetic perspective out of moving with my clients but that’s only a tiny piece of my need to move my body. I need to run, lift and walk to clear my head, take deep breaths, complete my stress cycle and preserve my overall sanity. Movement is my daily therapy.
I think one of the most powerful WHYs right now is in service to your community. If you’re not a first responder or medical professional, the best way you can help now and going forward is to stay healthy. If you take ownership of managing a chronic illness, using exercise to move better to avoid falls and injury and improving nutrition habits to support good health you are saving resources for the current acute needs of an overwhelmed medical system. If you want to help, stay as healthy as you can.
Even introverts need some connection
I think we can all agree that introverts are handling the pandemic situation better than extroverts. But even introverts are missing out on the feel-good hormone boost that being with others can bring. My training sessions are typically semi-private. Each client has her own workout but she’s working out with one or two other people. We warm up together and stretch together but the middle is based on her goals. That session of collective action is exactly the right amount for introverts and extroverts alike to experience the joy of connection sparked by moving together.
McGonigal acknowledges that exercise of any kind will provide an endorphin boost. However, she writes, moving with others also releases hormones like dopamine and oxytocin in the brain. These are our bonding hormones, spurring us into a state of “collective joy”. When you are used to the rush of love that you feel after a group run or a Jazzercise class, working out on your own can fall a little flat.
The good news is moving with someone else via video can give you a similar rush. The response to the one-on-one virtual sessions I’m doing with my personal training clients as been tremendous and proves this point. Since we’re a group of two, I have been moving right along with them to provide that since of unity.
The bonus is I get the hormone rush too. I miss connecting with my clients in the gym almost as much as they feel the absence of working out with their teammates. When we connect one-on-one during a virtual personal training session, we both get the benefits of moving in unison. If working with a personal trainer virtually isn’t accessible to you right now, try reconnecting with your favorite workout video. I’m hitting my favorite Dailyburn series, Undefeated, more often these days because kicking and punching with Anja feels like I’m working out with an old friend.
Get creative with accountability
If you’re an Obligor, you already know that external accountability is important to your fitness routine. If you needed the power of an appointment on the calendar and regular nudges from your coach before, your need is probably even greater without your regular routine.
Putting a new routine in place is the first step. If there is a silver lining to the pandemic situation for your fitness journey it is that without a commute and a packed social calendar, there is more time to invest in your health goals.
Make time to create a new routine with extra accountability structures in place. Personal trainings sessions and daily habits practice emails are just a couple of the strategies to provide accountability to my clients. In our new environment, I’ve added extra text check-ins, monitoring of core behaviors via shared spreadsheets and more shout outs in our Facebook group. I love stretching my coaching skills and seeing my clients exploring the new opportunities sheltering in place can bring. Accountability matters now more than ever. Find an accountability partner to workout with via zoom or utilize a coach’s expertise to develop the structure and accountability you need.
If your workout is feeling a little less than (or not happening at all) think about which factor you’re missing. Finding joy in movement will stay with you well past the expiration of shelter in place. No more waiting for things to get back to normal, just focus on what you can do today.