Now is the time to establish healthy habits that can work temporarily and long-term.
5 Tips for optimizing your at-home workouts
Working from home impacts every aspect of our health: mental, emotional, and physical. While there are wonderful resources to maintain emotional and mental well-being, the physical dimension is often taken for granted. This is problematic, especially given the interconnected nature of our overall health and work productivity. Here are some tips that will help you leave this crisis in better shape than when it began.
1) Craft your space
We might not all have the motivation to run 26.2 miles on our balcony, but we can still make the most of the space that we do have. Things like push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and stretching take very little space. Still feeling crunched? Move your furniture! While you might not usually keep it in this set-up, now is the time to create space for your at-home fitness. Move the coffee table against a wall, leave your yoga mat on the ground, or even keep your gym shoes visible. Use your space to make your desired behavior easier and decrease your dependence on that fickle motivation!
Example: I have hardwood floors and a rug under my couch. I moved the rug out from under my couch so I can use it for jumping jacks, burpees, and other jumping activities, and be kind to my downstairs neighbor!
2) Establish a routine
Most of our behaviors start as a thought in the prefrontal cortex. As they become habits, it moves into the basal ganglia and actually surpasses the “thought” part of it and starts feeling automatic. This means that the more we do something, the less we have to think about doing it! Having positive fitness habits means that you don’t even have to think about “should I stretch when I wake up?” because it is something that you just do every day.
One way to do this is establish implementation intentions, simple if-then cues that tell you how and when to act on your goal. For example, people who write down when and where they are going to work out are three times as likely to follow through than those who simply learn about the benefits of exercise. Writing down the basic conditions for your desired behavior creates clear triggers that automate action. My favorite is, “if it is :29 or :59, then I do one minute of crunches.” Easy, right?!
A lot of your habits and routines have probably been upended over the last month, but that doesn’t mean everything has to change. During the time you’d usually be commuting to work, what can you do instead? You can also do what James Clear calls habit stacking—the practice of adding a new habit on top of an old habit to increase the stickiness of the behavior.
Example: Anytime I make a cup of coffee, I do calf raises!
Another example: I LOVE the stairmaster. Now, I step onto and off of my coffee table for 5 minute intervals throughout the day.
3) Engineer accountability
Workout classes start at a certain time, you’re told what to do, and then it is over when the instructor says it is over. If you want more accountability with home workouts, put time on your calendar for it, write your goals for the workout, or even follow a virtual workout class. Many gyms are still having live workout classes, but you can find many recorded classes online as well.
For additional accountability support, tell someone what your goal or plan is, write it down somewhere highly visible to you, or give yourself a reward for completing what you set out to do. Check out these accountability apps that will help improve your success.
Example: I’m in a 10,000 steps text thread. As soon as we reach our 10,000 steps for the day, we send a photo of our tracker to the group.
4) Make it social
You can still work out with people! Tell folks what you’re doing, work out at the same time, work out on video, or even create challenges with your friends. There are lots of ways our workout routines can be social. It is just about finding the one that works best for you!
What are the things you like about going to the gym (or to classes, on runs, playing sports, etc.) with other people? The chatter, the accountability, the competition? Whatever it is that makes it fun for you, find a way to incorporate it into your new routines.
Example: I have a stationary bike and my friend has a bike trainer that allows her to set up her bike indoors. We had a video call while riding our bikes together!
5) Practice self-compassion
Times are hard. You might plan to work out and then not feel like it. Maybe you only do 10 push-ups instead of the 30 you wanted to do. Now is not the time to be harsh with yourself! Show kindness and forgiveness to yourself if you don’t live up to your own hopes or expectations. Listen to your body, trust your emotions, and do what feels right for you.
Example: I planned to do an hour workout video on Saturday. At 8pm, I still hadn’t done it (but I had drank a couple glasses of wine), so I decided to do 50 sit-ups and call it a day. I feel great about that decision.
Now is the time to establish healthy habits that can work for you temporarily and long-term. Utilize your physical space, make it a routine, engineer an accountability system, include social connection, and practice having compassion for yourself, and you will re-enter the public world as an even better version of you. Work hard, have fun, wash your hands.