I'm heading into week six (has it really been that long?!) of having my kids home from school while working from home and social distancing. I'm focusing on keeping us all safe and healthy, which means I've been cooking and baking up a storm of healthy meals, but exercise? Even though I was used to working out six days a week, those first two weeks I didn't feel motivated to work out at all.
My brain needed a pause to process what the hell was going on. I needed time to allow my emotions and fears to come to light, and working out just didn't feel right. When I did head downstairs to my home gym, thinking that forcing myself to do a home workout would help me feel better, it just made my mind race to how much I missed my gym. I had thoughts like: when was I going to be able to go back? What if my family gets sick? What if my husband and I get sick at the same time and there's no one to take care of our kids? What if I never hug my parents again? It was all too much.
By week three, I started to accept and appreciate this new normal of slowing down, staying home, and spending time with my family. At the end of that week is also when we got the official word from the government that school would be closed for the rest of the year. Shocked was my first response, but relief was my second. Things felt so up in the air until then, and even though this was going to be so incredibly hard, I felt settled knowing what to expect and how to move forward.
In my heart, I knew I needed a new routine that included taking time for me. Those early morning workouts were more than just exercise, and I naturally started to feel the inner pull to regain that time for myself again. Since I can no longer go to my CrossFit gym or yoga studio, and I'm also juggling homeschooling the kids and working, here's what needs to happen in order to feel inspired to exercise.
I Get Up Early
I used to wake up at 5:15 a.m. to make it to my 5:45 a.m. CrossFit classes, but the first two weeks of social distancing, I was staying up late watching the news, and wouldn't wake up until after 7:00 a.m. I've slowly been going back to my old sleeping schedule — this is taking a LOT of inner motivation! I wake up early and do a workout from 5:30 to 6:15 a.m., and then I work from 6:15 to 8:15 a.m. Or now that the weather is warming up, I'll just work from 5:15 to 7:30 a.m., then go for a run. Exercising in the morning and making time for myself to be alone has really helped get my head in the right place to have a happier, more productive day.
My Weekly Workout Plan Is Not as Rigid
While I used to get up early Sunday through Friday to work out, I'm giving myself the liberty to take more rest days. I see how I feel the night before, set my alarm if I want to work out, and so far this means three to five workouts a week. It feels good to honor my body instead of following a strict schedule. If I forced myself to work out six days a week, I'd feel much less motivated and probably wouldn't feel like working out at all. But who knows? Maybe this will morph into wanting to work out out six days a week like I used to.
I Plan My Workout the Night Before
Part of the ease of my CrossFit classes was that the coaches designed the programming and they just led me through it — I didn't have to do anything but show up. I tried heading into my home gym the first few days without a plan, and I spent 10 minutes trying to decide what to do, which ended up fizzling out my excitement for working out — it felt like a chore.
I have a workout journal (that I've kept for years) and the night before, so I started writing down the workout I'm going to do. My coaches post programming the night before so sometimes I peek at that for workout inspiration. I get the equipment I need out (which is usually just a pair of dumbbells, a jump rope, or a chair), I lay my clothes out in the bathroom, and make sure I have socks, sneakers, and a filled water bottle ready to go. Then all I need to do in the morning is wake up, get dressed, put on some music, and get moving.
I Keep It Simple
I no longer have the competition of other people doing burpees faster than me or lifting heavier weights to push me, and that's part of the reason I was so upset about not being able to go to my gym. I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to maintain the same level of fitness I built up over the years because I didn't have that community motivation. I also don't have access to the same equipment and hardcore workouts — barbell and rower, I miss you!
Then I finally said, "who cares?" I realized that something was better than nothing, and that my workouts right now are serving a different purpose. They need to be more gentle and simple in order for me to feel inspired to do them, and they need to make me feel better, not worse.
That first week back to working out, aside from a few early morning workouts, I also did a lot of walking. I committed to walking three miles a day because this was something I knew I could stick too. Taking two walks with my family became a new daily habit, and I could even walk inside if it was raining (I hooked an old treadmill up to my standing desk.) I also felt more inspired to do 10 minutes here and there of yoga because quietly stretching just felt so good, and was another thing I could do
while my kids and dogs crawled all over me with my family.
When I feel inspired to do a 45-minute workout in the morning, I keep those very basic and not nearly as intense as the CrossFit workouts I used to do. I begin with a five-minute yoga warmup, then a 20-minute EMOM workout, choosing just four or five moves. For example, I'll do burpees, dumbbell deadlifts, plank slider walks, dumbbell step-ups, and shoulder presses. After that I do four rounds of five assisted pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 V-ups. These are three movements I've decided to focus on as a personal challenge to see how strong I get — this helps motivate me to wake up! Then I follow up with some yoga. It's simple, easy to follow, and although I'm working my body, the simplicity of the workout acts as a sort of mediation to let my thoughts just settle.
I Stay Positive
Where I live, social distancing needs to happen through the middle of May, but I've mentally prepared myself that it could be extended. And although I still have my moments where something will set me off and bring me to tears, I'm trying to stay positive, remembering to take it one day at a time. These morning workouts for the past three weeks have been so good for my mental health. But if I'm too tired and want to sleep in, or I get interrupted by one of my kids who wants me to read them a story or make them banana pancakes, my workout doesn't happen and I'm OK with that.
I know this is only temporary, and because my family and I are healthy, I just feel so overwhelmingly grateful that I don't get upset about missing a workout. Tomorrow is another day, and another opportunity to do burpees or some sun salutations. When I look back at this time in my life, I don't want to remember how stressed I was because I didn't work out. I want to picture all the special moments I shared with my family, and how for once in my life, it was OK to slow down and enjoy the little things.