By Alyssa Brunt MScPT, BScKIN (HON)
Two weeks ago, the rituals and routines that we all practice so regularly were asked to stop. Just like the flick of a switch, we had to stop for the greater good of everyone. Not to mention, it was the first Monday without the Bachelor (Barb…I have no words) so I was feeling a bit lost to begin with. Come Tuesday morning, I wake up to see that everyone is working from home, including myself. Alright, breathe Alyssa. This is going to be weird but it’s going to be okay.
So I sleep in a bit. I’m always an early bird but today I could catch a few more z’s. Or at least I thought I could. I wake up 15 minutes later, mildly refreshed and think to myself, what am I going to do? Coffee and breakfast are obvious choices at this point but what about after that? I’ll just sit and work? While I read through my emails and scroll my Instagram, it becomes crystal clear that not only my working situation must change but also everything else I’ve come to include in my day to day life: gym time, coffee dates, movie nights, work commute, birthday parties, girl’s nights and more. Listen, I’m an extrovert and I need my social time. This is going to be different!
It’s been 2 weeks since that began and like the rest of you, my schedule has been all over the place. However, I feel like I am finally at the point where I have a bit of order back in my life. Mind you, I’m still unsure if it’s Monday or Wednesday but I definitely know that it’s a work day. Keeping active while being asked to stay inside is not easy. It takes creativity, commitment, and continuous dedication to keep ourselves moving especially when it’s so easy to just sit and watch Tiger King or Frozen 2. Today’s blog is all about how you can stay active during this time when we are asked to stay home, stay still, and stay safe.
Stick to your routine
One month ago, you’d find me waking up at 6:00am, bag packed, shoes on, music blasting, ready to crush a morning workout. I’d get ready for work, grab a coffee, inhale my overnight oats for breakfast and meet my first patient of the day. With most of us working from home and spending the majority of our time inside the same 4 walls, it can be difficult to stick to our previous routines. I will admit, for the first two days, I slept in, rolled out of bed, treated myself to a cup of Joe and continued to stay in my pajamas, messy bun intact, while working from my makeshift desk until roughly 3pm. Okay, maybe 4pm.
Without some type of structure, we find ourselves starting to be less productive and sluggish during the day. Big Brother is no longer watching so, who cares right? Wrong. I am a firm believer in the saying, “look good and feel good”. While working from home, continue to treat your mornings as usual. Get up, get dressed and get down to business.
The same goes for exercise. Just because gyms have closed and studios are no longer open, doesn’t mean that we can’t squeeze in some time to sweat it out. The easiest way to do this is to plan for it the day before. Map out your day and schedule in some time for exercise, whether it be in the morning, evening, or middle of the day. If you regularly exercised in the morning, then stick to it. Same goes for my evening and lunch time exercisers! Remember, you have power over your time and movement needs to become a priority.
Get creative with equipment
Not all of us have a full set of dumbbells, bands or kettlebells at home. That’s why we go to gyms or fitness studios! One of the best things about working out from home is that we must be creative in what we use for equipment.
Surprisingly, there are many things inside our homes that we can use as weights or workout equipment. Wine bottles, bags of dog food, cat litter, laundry detergent and more can be used as dumbbells or weights. Towels can be used for ab and core exercises. Broomstick handles can be used for overhead squats and hip hinges. The ideas are endless! The best piece of equipment we have in our homes is actually our own bodies. Body weight exercises are killer! They will get the booty burning, the arms shaking, and the forehead sweating.
I can only imagine the work set ups most of you have going on right now. Using side tables, kitchen tables, dressers, and coffee tables as home offices while sitting on bar stools, backless chairs and dare I say, the couch for seating. You’re probably looking a lot like Quasimodo and it haunts my physiotherapy dreams.
Remember: proper posture is actually just avoiding holding the same position for a long period of time. The body is meant to move! This means, we always need to be adjusting ourselves, consciously correcting our postures, and moving. Luckily, we can help the body out by stretching!
Here are some tips:
Stretches that focus on your neck, shoulders, chest, hips and back are great for helping open up muscles that are tightening with increased sitting.
Mobility exercises for your mid back or your thoracic spine (the area mainly between you shoulder blades) are also extremely beneficial in helping prevent kyphosis (Quasimodo posture).
Aim to stretch at least 2x a day, morning and evening to make it easy.
Not sure how? Stay tuned for my upcoming video on exactly how to do stretches for better posture! They are super easy and your spine and body will love them.
Breathing is always so underrated. It is amazing to see how much can be accomplished by breathing in terms of pain management, stress reduction, muscle control and function. I’m talking deep, belly breathing from our diaphragm, the main muscle we use for breathing.
Not only does breathing help calm us down when we’ve read too much of the news or scrolled through Instagram a little too long, but it also helps the body relax, reduces tension build up in the muscles, and decreases pain. What we tend for forget is that with increased sitting, our diaphragm isn’t able to completely stretch and expand like it does when we’re standing. It’s like we’ve kinked the hose. We are breathing inefficiently while sitting and a lot of muscles in the rib cage aren’t activated or used properly. As a result, we tend to breathe more with our accessory muscles, those near the neck and chest, leading to postural tension.
Here’s a tip:
Lay on your back, put one hand on your abdomen, one hand on your chest and breathe deeply.
Breathe in through your nose, feel the belly rise while the chest stays still and breathe out through your mouth.
Repeat 3-5 times and then keep going with your day.
Aim for Exercise and Activity
What is the difference between exercise and activity? Are they different? Are they the same? Exercise is actually a subset of activity and whether you like it or not, they are different, and it’s important to get both within the day.
Activity is what we do when we go for a light walk around the block, walk to the bathroom, carry the laundry etc. It is basic movement that we do for enjoyment or necessity. Now that we are basically house bound, our opportunity for activity is limited. We are no longer commuting to work, walking with our mom’s group on Sunday mornings, or stepping out for coffees. Our walk to the bathroom is a couple of steps, lunch is an arm’s reach away and Sunday mornings consist of walking to the couch to watch TV. Exercise, however, is done with purpose. It’s done for the sole mission of increasing our heart rate, making us breathe heavier, and allowing us to get our sweat on. Speed walking around the block, jump squats, Pilates, and yoga are all forms of exercise because they make our cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) work harder.
FYI we need both of these in the day. We need our joints, ligaments, muscles, and bones to move so that we can increase lubrication, flexibility, and reduce muscle tightness. We also need to make our heart and lungs work so they can get stronger and the only way to do that is by asking them to pump more blood and oxygen to the rest of the body!
Here are some tips:
Increase your activity by finding opportunities for movement.
Microwaving lunch? Walk around the kitchen table 5 times before it’s done.
Bathroom break? Walk to the nearest window to catch some rays before heading there.
Walk on the spot while watching TV.
Drink 2L of water so you’ll get up to go to the bathroom.
To sweat it out, watch a Pilates video, find an online workout class, or better yet, watch MY full body home exercise video on Instagram!
It’s definitely tricky times right now, but just because we have to stay inside, work from home and modify our routines, doesn’t mean that we can’t do this! There are many ways to stay active while being indoors, we just have to be creative and open to the idea of that change. Change is inevitable so we must embrace it, not evade it. Nothing improves by itself.
Remember: I’m here to help you all during this time. Feel free to book a complimentary consultation over coffee with me and we can get you started on being more active each and every day!
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