This post has been contributed by Priyanka Gupta. Priyanka is a fitness enthusiast who adopted a fit lifestyle 12 years ago, and shares her thoughts on physical fitness and nutrition on her social media channels. She graduated from IIT Kanpur, and is now a product manager at Walmart. She is also a Certified Nutritionist(ISSA), Strength & Training Professional (ISSA), and a content creator. You can connect with her here: VegFit on YouTube | VegFit on Web | Priyanka on Instagram
COVID-19 put us in a situation that none of us were prepared for. A large majority of us were forced to adapt to working from home. For most of us, it was an easy option to become lazy, binge on packaged foods and watch tv shows because there was nothing better to do in the off-work-hours (or even during those long meetings.)
I personally continued with everything the way I would have under normal circumstances- a feat that was tough, but made easier thanks to my self-discipline. Even with a full-time job as a product manager at Walmart, I managed to maintain a balance between work and my fitness during the lockdown.
Here’s what I did:
Made a schedule and adhered to it
One of the most important things for developing a habit is to ‘make it a part of your schedule’. I have always liked working out in the mornings, but when I joined Walmart, my work schedule changed drastically. I had to make necessary changes in my workout timings as well. It did take me some time to get adjusted to an evening workout, but thankfully I managed to do it.
Lockdown did not change much in my schedule, I just stuck to the same routine I was following before.
Here is what my weekdays look like
Wake up at 7 AM, do meal preps, complete household chores
Start the workday at 9 AM.
Lunch break between 12-1 PM.
3-3:30 pm take a pre-workout meal.
Finish work by 4 PM
4-6 PM : workout, meal prep for the evening.
6-9 PM my work meetings with US counterparts goes on for about 2hrs every day. I take my dinner between these meetings.
9-10:30 PM : relax, watch TV, family time.
10:30 PM-7 AM sleep time!
Keeping a routine allows me to plan my daily errands and prioritize effectively.
Following a schedule has a direct positive effect on your efficiency. You can read more on this topic in the best selling book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Define boundaries and say NO when needed
Lockdown has blurred boundaries between day & night, weekday & weekend. The distinction between office time and home time also faded for a lot of people. This resulted in meetings stretching from morning till late evening with no clear boundaries. Before I could fall into that trap, I took a few steps-
- Communicated my work timings pretty clearly to my colleagues, which aligned with work timings before lockdown.
- Blocked my calendar as Out-of-office during ‘Me-Time’ hours, to allow everyone to view my availability and plan accordingly.
- Rejected all the meetings happening in ‘Me-Time’ (with a few exceptions)
Sometimes I do feel peer pressure when colleagues accept meetings during my off-hours but I stay firm and request a re-schedule. Trust me, people do understand and things do come along if you communicate it clearly.
With this kind of clear time block, I could manage my meal timings, my workouts, and even my family time, a lot better. Staying fit helped me be more efficient in my life which obviously is a plus at work too. (And in my opinion, stretched work hours don’t ensure efficiency!)
I Worked out 5 days a week, every single week
Working out and staying active has been a part of my daily schedule for over 10 years. With a regular workout and balanced diet, I could maintain my weight and my body composition. 30-45 mins of high or low-intensity training helps boost metabolism, improve blood flow, and increases oxygen consumption (EPOC). Also, workout acts as a stress-buster which was much needed during this no-social connect and stay home phase.
Recommended by many of the health organizations, 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (or a combination of the two), is a requirement for a healthier body and mind.
No matter what kind of activity you enjoy, practice it regularly. Not everything was possible in the stay-home setup but you can always find a way around it. I didn’t any weights or equipment at home for weight training, but I used this as an opportunity to improve lower body strength and practice other exercises that I used to skip in the gym.
An easy routine which I follow for my workouts:
- HIIT (High-intensity interval training) – found a lot of videos on YouTube / IGTV. My favorites are Popsugar and Lesmills. They host a variety of sessions like kickboxing, pilates, belly dance, core strengthening workouts.
- Bodyweight strength training – Of course I miss lifting weights in the gym, but bodyweight exercises came handy in maintaining muscle mass. I used small furniture, water bottles, stretch band for adding resistance to these exercises.
- Practicing handstand – with no equipment, I still am trying body weight strengthening exercises and practicing for handstand regularly. I can’t do a complete handstand all by myself but I know I will get there soon. :)
- Dancing – Not going out doesn’t mean we can’t have fun at home. Dancing is my passion and I used this time to learn a couple of choreographs, following YouTube videos of course.
Pick up a sport or activity or workout that you enjoy, and make a habit to practice it. Don’t look for motivation, just aim for being consistent.
I went on IF to avoid junk food binges
I followed the 16/8 Intermittent fasting (16 hours of fasting and 8 hrs of eating) and my eating window was 12-8 PM. This kept me away from binge-eating late at night.
Intermittent fasting restricts the hours of eating (the feeding window), and thus limits the calorie intake and over-eating.
Also, with so much work stress and almost no social life, food was the only stress buster but I did not allow myself to fall into that practice (I did give myself some breathing space once in a while without going off track)
Habits that help me maintain a balanced diet –
- Not storing packaged, deep-fried, high sugar-salt food at home.
- Making home food tasty by adding fruits, dry-fruits, and allowing variety.
- Including protein and healthy fats in every meal helps not feeling hungry often, especially post-dinner.
- Life is all about balance, so I did slip through my fasting during weekends and let myself enjoy late-night movies with some snacks.
I stick to 80-20 rule, where sticking to a strict diet 80% of the time and allowing to cheat 20% of the time, which is important to sustain a healthy lifestyle in the long term.
8 hrs of good sleep
A good sleep works in so many ways. It acts as a stress releaser, provides recovery from workouts, allows body enough time to absorb food nutrients, and rejuvenates us for the next day. Lockdown reduced our travel stress but also induced stress from long hours of the office and household work.
Few practices that improve your sleep quality –
- Fixing a time to go to bed and wake up maintains healthy circadian rhythm in your body and a regulated metabolism.
- Drinking stress relaxing herbal tea like chamomile helps de-stressing and get me ready for a good sleep. I take it post-dinner while enjoying family time.
- Exercising regularly contributes to more sound and restful sleep.
- Eating a light dinner ensures the body uses sleep time for relaxation rather than digesting a heavy meal.
A good night’s sleep is always neglected but it’s the best medicine for your stress.
We all have different lives, different schedules, different challenges and different ways to deal with them. The only thing that matters is what we ‘prioritize’. Health and fitness take a back seat as more and more things fall into our plate. If we don’t prioritize our health, we will not be able to achieve all that we want to.
Health is the first step to leading a good successful life. If you haven’t, take that first step NOW.