BHealthy Blog

Making Fitness and Nutrition Adjustments During COVID-19

By Jeremy Ray, Fitness Center Coordinator, Baptist Health-Little Rock

It’s been about 10 weeks since COVID-19 flipped the world upside down along with everything in it. If you are like me, an area of your life that has taken a hit during this period has been training and nutrition. If you were someone who had been training for any length of time, then this lockdown left you scrambling in search of a solution to fill the void of not going to the gym. I would assume that your diet has suffered a pretty big hit as well. Either you’re overeating because of stress or just from being bored at home, or on the flip side you may be below your normal baseline calorie intake due to daily routine adjustments and you’re dropping needed body weight.

In short, COVID-19 has forced changes in the way we go about taking care of ourselves with exercise and nutrition as it did with every other aspect of our life.

I‘ve made the training routine adjustment like everyone else. I’m doing body-weight exercises at home along with some conditioning (cardio). A typical workout starts off with a warm up and foam roll, followed by doing push-ups, lunges, chin-ups, rows, planks, and front-yard sprints ending with some light stretching while I sip on protein shake.

I’m up to four days a week at this point, which is perfect for me. While the body-weight exercises challenge me, it still leaves me craving the weights after a while. My nutrition took a hit as well, so I feel your pain. It took me about two weeks to get things lined back out. I wasn’t off much on the quality of food because I always try to stay clean and eat food that makes me feel good, but the quantity wasn’t there, which led to about a seven-pound loss. I rarely put much into the number on the scale other than a reference point, and over the years I’ve learned where I need to be to feel and move the way I like, but that was a low number for my liking.

I always try to find a positive in everything that happens, and I believe there are some in the COVID-19 experience, as well as the obvious negatives. So I came up with a few pros and cons of being confined to your home for workouts and managing your meals.

The positives:

  • You can do the workouts pretty much anywhere inside or outside. I personally enjoy being outside because it’s refreshing and somewhat relaxing to me.
  • Also, getting off the weights for a bit can be a good thing if you have cranky joints. If you’ve been training for a while and are over the age of 40, you can tend to feel it a bit sometimes.
  • Another nice thing about being at home is you can be your own DJ, and play whatever you want as loud as you want.
  • Exercising at home also allows you to be creative. If you’re relatively new to strength training, then it may be hard to come up with exercises to mimic the movements in the gym, but there is that element as well.
  • Also, my kids have seen me train to take care of my body before, but now they’re able to observe me more often, which has led to them participating in exercises, so that’s a plus.
  • Nutritionally speaking, being trapped at home with the restaurants being locked down has provided an opportunity for people to have more control of what they eat and how it’s prepared. It has forced some people who didn’t know how to cook to get in the kitchen.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the positive effect eating together as a family provides, which can be few and far between for families these days with the busy schedules we all have.

There are always two sides of the coin, though. If you’re someone who relies on the gym for motivation and all that it entails (environment, other people, equipment, or just a specific place to train), then being at home squashes that. As I mentioned earlier, having a break from the weights can be good, but if building muscle mass is your intention then the process might have slowed a little. There are things that weights can offer that body weight may fall short of and vice versa. If your intention is to grow, then the weights can accomplish that a little better depending on the program, your experience and how you train.

As I mentioned earlier, my kids getting involved in a workout has been good, but it also presents its own set of challenges such as when I have to go break up a fight in the middle of a workout or when my jump rope mysteriously disappears in the middle of a timed circuit. It’s funny now, but in the moment it’s not so funny. If you’ve tried to work out at home with kids, this sounds all too familiar I’m sure.

One of the biggest negatives to this lockdown as it relates to fitness and nutrition is the amount of snacking and stress eating that is occurring. One of the reasons for this is the lack of structure most of us have when we’re at home. When you have a schedule to abide by, it allows you to plan because you have at least an idea of what to expect. This affords you the opportunity to plan eating times. We are all a product of our environment, and our eating tends to reflect that. The contents of your pantry and refrigerator may also be the culprit. If you’re a stress eater, then what you have access to presents a big challenge. That coupled with being home all day will likely be a fight you won’t win when it comes to making good a decision. Willpower will last for only so long.

I have shared some of the positives and negatives as to how COVID-19 has affected my training and nutrition. I’m sure yours might have been affected similarly as well or maybe in different ways. I refer to the challenges as negatives, but in reality are they really negative or just not our norm and so make us uncomfortable? Does it require a little more patience, planning, and creativity?

I choose to meet the challenge to make adjustments to my new norm and accept them for what they are and realize nothing is perfect. I challenge you do the same. If you’re not eating as healthy now as you were before COVID-19, make a point to do 80 percent as well as you were before. If you’re not getting the workouts in you were before or if they’re not as intense as you like, make an effort every week to do your best and give the effort.

You don’t want to have the all-or-none mentality. That will get you nowhere. If that’s where you’re at now, then I encourage you to get to work. We all have no idea how long this will last, and you would much rather be as healthy as you can versus the alternative. 

In the meantime, stay fit, motivated and keep a positive attitude.

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