Fitness Progress During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak disrupted everyone’s lives and not for the better.

In early June I spoke with my personal stylist who told me: “You’re not a typical New Yorker.”

She had asked me how I was holding up and I told her that since June of last year I was exercising at home. So that I wasn’t affected when the gym shut down in March.

We need to be kinder and gentler toward ourselves in this time when the pandemic has not yet been eradicated.

I wasn’t so happy with my fitness progress which I felt was scattered and inconsistent since the outbreak started.

Until. I viewed the calendar sheets and tallied up my workout schedule from February through the end of July this year 2020.

Folks: 6 months have gone by. Half the year is over. We’ve spent 6 months in the throes of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Diving into the calendars I computed that since February 1, 2020 through August 2, 2020 I exercised as follows:

2x per week for 14 weeks.

1x per week for 9 weeks.

0x per week for 3 weeks.

On the monthly calendar sheets I write on the day I exercise “UB” for the Upper Body and “LB” for the Lower Body routine.

I recommend using a calendar to track your progress along with keeping a hardbound fitness journal. I inserted my calendar sheets into an orange fitness binder. I stopped writing in a fitness journal.

Luckily I’m able to text my personal trainer to get encouragement for my efforts while the pandemic is in effect.

As you can see from what I learned I have been exercising fairly consistently. Not in an ideal way–I’ve had to recycle workout sheets I used before and do them again.

Yet in light of this challenge I think: you did good kid.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about the myth of exercising 5 days a week for an hour each session.

Tracking Fitness Progress

At the start of the year I printed up 12 months’ of calendar sheets from an MS Word template. I inserted photos at the top right and an inspiring quote on the top left of each month.

You can despair when you have a setback. I advocate for taking the long view. Think in terms of the cumulative effect instead of getting upset over every slip-up along the way.

This is how I approach fitness and nutrition. Recording my workouts on the sheet for each month I can see whether I’m making progress.

As regards exercise too many people set restrictive or impossible goals like “I should exercise 5x per week.”

In Step 4 – Persevere of the Changeology 90-day action plan change makers are told to condemn the behavior not the person.

Tracking your progress is a catalyst in every one of the 5 Steps.

In the time of the pandemic it’s easy to give up totally when you have a setback like this.

Enter using a calendar to track your progress. You can see in black-and-white what’s really going on.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk about my own fitness odyssey while living indoors since March 16.

Michael Jordan’s Winning Tactics

  1. Motivate yourself for the long-term.
  2. Bust yourself harder to achieve things than you expect others to do.
  3. Be completely present and focused on what you’re doing right now.

In a museum gift shop I bought a flat metal paperweight inscribed with this Michael Jordan quote:

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.

You don’t need a pair of $100 sneakers to succeed in life.

Taking your lead from a champion is more like it to get empowered.

The tactic of focusing on the present moment I would say is the number-one strategy to adopt.

Come on how do you feel when you ruminate on the past or worry about the future?

It saps you of the energy to enjoy your life today.

As I’m fond of saying: today is how it is and tomorrow can be better.

Taking action today to move closer to your goal is a way to change how you feel about your current circumstances.

Focusing on doing one thing at a time on one day at a time is how you get to win 6 championships in 6 years.

It’s like what I wrote about in reviewing the Danica Patrick book Pretty Intense:

She tells readers to simply do One Healthy Thing. Then do the Next Healthy Thing. And the next healthy thing after that. And so on.

To be honest I’ve given up on thinking in terms of a 15-year goal. I do have a 15-year goal. I use a four-word mantra to talk about this long-term goal. That’s it.

Other than that I act like Michael Jordan and focus on what I can do today in the present moment to bring me closer to a goal.

I’m going to talk more about goals in coming blog entries.

Changing Habits

My epiphany with food and exercise occurred when I moved into a new apartment nine years ago.

In the 1q90s my weekly menu consisted of Velveeta mac-and-cheese (marginally OK when I added broccoli to it), hot dogs, hamburgers, frozen TV dinners and other cheap crap.

Not surprisingly I was 20 pounds overweight. That was my typical diet for too long. I kid you not I used to eat unhealthful food every week for years and years.

This hungry woman used to “treat” herself to Hungry Man TV dinners all the time.

So I can tell you that my story is living proof that it’s possible to change your exercise and eating habits at any point in your life.

I was 46 when I first started to lift weights and eat organic food.

I’m 55 now and feel better than ever.

I tell you this story to give readers hope.

I’ll end here with this:

Our lives are going to be too long not too short to put off doing what gives us joy and makes us feel good.

We should not have to live one minute longer in pain than we absolutely need to.

As a therapist once said: “Suffering for the sake of suffering is bullshit.”

The point is not that you have to be skinny or have six-pack abs.

The exclamation point is that feeling good feels so much better than being out of shape.

Good food as said can put you in a good mood.

I’m going to talk in the next blog entry about slowing down and focusing on the present moment.

A new documentary about Michael Jordan–the Last Dance–talks about 3 tactics he employed to win championships.

I’ll talk about them here because they can assist us in real life.

Taking Control in a Crisis

I think taking control in a crisis goes back to what I wrote in here recently about prioritizing your essential activities and letting fall away everything that doesn’t reinforce your immediate goals.

While indoors you can as I’ve written plan out the goals you want to achieve once back outside like usual.

The financial toll can be hard to weather right now. I’m not a CFP so can’t give specific advice about finances.

What I can say is that while living indoors it might conversely be easier to achieve some goals that you had put off.

Maybe you wanted to live more frugally before the pandemic. This is a great opportunity to edit your spending and change your habits.

A friend told me that it could be common that people living through this crisis feel like we have no control over what’s happening.

I’ll end here by saying that each of us can only manage what’s within our control.

What’s outside of our control we need to let it be. To focus on what we can control.

To this end I’ve started up a new 90-day action plan using the Changeology 5-step method for achieving goals.

My long-term goal is to live in a 2-bedroom apartment. To use the second room as an art studio.

To do this I’m using the Danica Patrick tactic listed in her book Pretty Intense: I’m doing one healthy thing. Then I’ll do the next healthy thing.

Feeling like you have control can be as simple as yes compartmentalizing your weekly habits.

Focusing on the here-and-now reality can help you weather this crisis.

While keeping in the back of your mind your long-term goal.

Again I will refer readers to the other useful book: Atomic Habits.

Making small incremental consistent changes to our behavior can pay off.

I will report back in 3 months the outcome of my latest Changeology action plan.

Status of 3-Month Challenge – Update

Hmm _ forgot I scheduled this blog entry and wrote 2 entries with the same title 🙂

On January 14, 2020 in this blog I wrote about the 3-Month Challenge I wanted to achieve.

My goal was to cook my own dinner 4x per week and do a walk-run on the treadmill 1x per week.

On March 17, 2020 the gyms in New York City were forced to shut down along with the retail stores.

As far as my goal of cooking dinners 4x per week this has been achieved.

In the time of the pandemic and living indoors it has been easier to cook dinner nearly every night.

My concern is how the changed nature of living life during the pandemic had disrupted anyone who was using the Changeology 5-Step 90-Day Action Plan to realize our goals and resolutions.

In this extraordinary time each of us needs to act kinder and gentler towards ourselves and others.

I live with the belief that everyone living on earth is doing the best we can with what we were given in life.

No judgments–that is the way to move forward–to live with no judgments.

Before the pandemic hit I had started to use the treadmill. I continued to lift weights.

Now that everything has changed I understand what it feels like to have your life upended by a circumstance outside your control.

I will talk about this more in the next blog entry.

Status of 3-Month Challenge

In January I wrote here my 3-month challenge:

To cook my own dinners 4x per week. To do a walk-run on the treadmill 1x per week.

On March 17, 2020 the gyms in New York City shut down because of the coronavirus.

My goal of using the treadmill was put on hold. I had been using the treadmill before that.

Since January I have been cooking my own dinners. Since March 15 I have cooked my own dinners at least 5x per week.

Forced to stay indoors it has been the perfect time to cook my own dinners.

It’s healthier to cook your own dinners. That is it’s healthier to cook nutritious food.

Red meat and other meat should be avoided.

I have chicken once a week. A salmon filet twice a week. Scallops once a week when I’m able to get them. Tofu-and-broccoli once a week. Some kind of squash once a week. That gives me one free night. With this main dish I have some kinds of vegetable.

I don’t ordinarily eat a lot of whole grains. I have a container of full-fat Fage plain Greek yogurt with organic blueberries and some honey after I do a workout routine.

In the morning I scramble organic eggs and veggies for breakfast. For lunch I have a salad–I try to have a salad at least 4x per week–or 5x per week when I’m able.

For a snack every day I have organic fruit–berries or a banana or a Fuji apple or a pear when in season.

In the coming blog entries I will talk about the current research that proves what I’ve been writing  in here all along: the food you eat can improve your mood.

For more on this you can buy the TIME special edition magazine The Science of Nutrition.

Taking a Detour

My life changed forever in one night in 1987 when I was 22.

I had to take a detour that lasted for 13 years. You got that right–13 years.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic I want to talk about taking a detour.

Let me tell you a detour is not a dead-end. It’s a pit stop along the way to a different path.

Maybe you’re not supposed to get what you want quickly and painlessly.

That is the goal as I see it–to embrace the struggle for what it is– a learning of something you need to know in order to get what you want.

I care a lot that in this pandemic everything seems to have been put on hold. A sunny day can be harder to envision.

I would say my life didn’t get better until I turned 35 and started my library job and moved to Brooklyn.

Sometimes where you start out isn’t where you should remain.

That is the ultimate purpose of a detour: to cement in your mind the one true path you must go down to be happy and fulfilled.

You don’t often figure out until you experience firsthand a setback the truth about who you are and where you should be going in life.

Again–I think of these things during the pandemic we’re living through. Of how it can seem like this is the end of everything–the end of your hopes and dreams for whatever you had hoped to achieve.

I say: use this time to engage in active reflection.  Get out a notebook and sketch out what your goals will be when the pandemic is over.

Shore up your good feelings while you shelter in place.

Remember that after things get better there’s so much life for all of us to live.

Adapting and Being Flexible

I think now of the beauty and benefit of adapting to a challenge rather than expecting that things can go “Your Way” like they used to.

While the COVID-19 outbreak rages I make do–and sometimes that is all you can do–persevere in whatever fashion it comes to you to persist.

I’ve adapted in one specific way: I have a heightened sensitivity to the role of nutritious food and physical activity in promoting optimal health.

The crisis has turned out to be for me the catalyst in wanting to up my fitness game post-pandemic.

The unpredictability of getting food delivered has forced me to reconsider the food I’m able to eat right here right now.

For one I have had to buy regular produce not organic at times.

Being flexible in this regard will make all the difference. It reminds me to be grateful that after the crisis ends it will be easier to eat more healthfully.

In adapting and remaining flexible you hold the key to winning against a setback.

Which I will talk about more next.

It’s imperative to not lose sight of your life goals while experiencing a hardship.

Recovering from an Illness, Setback, or Crisis

As a creative person I’ve learned that doubt and confidence go hand-in-hand. You can’t “always” be confident and “never” doubt yourself.

In terms of recovery a person might be afraid to have a relapse or setback. This is only natural.

Again I will refer readers to the book Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.

While sheltering in place and continuing to write the new novel I’ve seen that doubt can be a constant companion.

The goal in recovery as it is in life as I see it is to persist in the face of doubt.

You might doubt that things will return to normal after the pandemic. Or after you’ve faced any kind of struggle or hardship. Rightly so.

I believe that living through this crisis and surviving will give us the courage to go after our goals. Instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called into the game.

This is my sincere hope that something good can come of having sheltered in place.

I’ve decided that returning to “normal” can’t be my goal once I’m carrying on outside again.

My mantra has always been that it’s just as easy to dream big as it is to settle for less.

Why not believe that recovery will be possible in whatever guise it comes to you as?

Why not go after your goals with gusto?

Why not?