Getting back a level of fitness after prolonged inactivity
May 18, 2021 4:56 AM   Subscribe

I am dealing with the mental and physical repercussions of being extremely physically inactive for over a year, and feeling extremely overwhelmed at the amount of work I have to do to regain a modicum of fitness. Has anyone else been in this situation and what would your advice be? CW: Weight and fitness. Please no diet talk or advice. Thanks

I'm overweight anyway but have always lived a very busy life (work/socialising/international travel). I have never thought of myself as a fit or active person at all. I didn't realise, prior to the pandemic hitting, how much physical activity I was doing just by living my life - getting to work, walking to meetings, meeting friends after work, etc. I don't have a car so needed to take public transport/walk everywhere. I made time for 2 yoga classes a week after work but that was it in terms of intentional exercise.

I didn't realise how much activity I'd been getting until my entire life became home-based thanks to the pandemic. Now all the incidental activity I'd been doing over the day (walking up and down stairs at train stations; rushing from one work meeting at one location to the next) has been completely decimated. My fitness is really low now. I get winded by things I didn't previously. Walking in public is embarrassing because I walk so slowly. I get back aches on the regular, which I never used to. Even my feet seem to have changed shape after a year of being indoors and barefoot - when I wear my trainers my feet hurt after a short time which makes walking even less pleasurable.

The thing is, I'm STILL really busy. My work is overwhelmingly busy, it's just all taking place remotely. My social life is still busy, but it mostly takes place online. Fitting in time to get actual exercise done is as difficult as it always was because I always 'feel' busy - if I'm not working I'm doing neverending house work. I still do my 2 yoga classes online. I meet with friends when possible which usually involves a level of physical activity (just getting out and back). But even though I'm fully vaxxed, many of my friends aren't yet, and I don't think it's very responsible to socialise frequently with lots of different people especially when you have to use public transport to do so.

I know what I can do. I keep up with my yoga. I have a daily reminder set on my phone to go for a walk most days. (But often I skip it.) I feel so discouraged and overwhelmed by the change in my fitness (I can feel it!) and the amount of work I have to do even to regain the fitness of 2019 (which honestly wasn't that great - just better than now). It's really depressing and it makes me feel joyless and overwhelmed.

How can I feel better about what a huge backstep my fitness has taken? What are some incremental things I can do to build up incidental activity? Any ways to make the whole process feel less futile and overwhelming?

Please no diet talk.
posted by unicorn chaser to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing for me, activity-wise, has been to find things I can listen to (audiobooks or podcasts) while I take longer and longer walks. Scheduling a walk, for me, means it won't happen regularly, but knowing that a new "You're Wrong About" drops on Monday or I want to hear the rest of the book I'm listening to means that I will take the walk just to listen to the thing. I don't know if that's motivating for you, but that's the thing that's worked for me.
posted by xingcat at 5:00 AM on May 18, 2021 [23 favorites]

I am also you so not sure how much use I will actually be. Things that help include going for walks with other people, pacing on breaks, stretching on breaks, not skipping my pilates class. I'm trying to cultivate a daily tiny walk habit but it's not going very well.
posted by plonkee at 5:06 AM on May 18, 2021

I was going to say audiobooks too. It helps me to make the walk about something else (rather than just “exercise because I know it’s good for me blah blah blah”). I also do it most regularly when I go first thing in the morning, before I have hours to talk myself out of it. I put on my walking clothes right when I roll out of bed so it removes that one barrier of having to change later.

Maybe treat yourself to a new pair of shoes to get started? It could help with the foot pain issue too. Also, no one is paying attention to how fast or slow or how much you’re walking, I swear. Down the block and back is better than nothing and will make a difference!
posted by something something at 5:17 AM on May 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Get different trainers. Go to a local athletic shoe place and describe the pain, and they’ll be able to take a look and help.

Try racing through the housework to a fun album; it’s exhausting and will definitely build strength to do so repeatedly!
posted by michaelh at 5:21 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I started wearing a step tracker so I can measurably, yet slowly, increase how much I'm walking. I like tracking things, so this feels good to me. I know it would not to some people.

Set a timer so you get up from your desk every 30 minutes and walk around or stretch for 5 minutes. This has helped me more than I expected. It's not just exercise we need to do, it's less sitting.

When I'm discouraged, "I just lived through a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Of course I'm not the same as I was before." This may seem obvious, but it's helped to sort of mentally smack myself when I'm beating myself up for losing fitness during a global pandemic.
posted by Mavri at 5:25 AM on May 18, 2021 [13 favorites]

I find an old-school pedometer--unconnected to any electronic monitoring--a big help. I am the only one who knows my daily goal, and whether I meet it, and it makes little tasks like getting mail or retrieving a forgotten object into "More steps!" rather than an annoying thing I have to do. Get a clip-on pedometer. Set a step goal. Try to meet it for a while. Then raise your goal and meet it for a while. Aim to get steps in every day, forgive the days you don't, and just keep moving at whatever speed works for you. You can do it!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:29 AM on May 18, 2021

incrementalism. i was couched for 18 months due to serious major depressive disorder.

how i re-engaged, thanks to a gifted therapist:
a) go outside once a day
b) go outside when the sun is up
c) for five minutes
d) for 10 minutes
e) for at least 10 minutes
f) ...
g) for at least 30 minutes
h) for at least 30 minutes 3-5 times a week
i) 3-7 times a week

having this in a simple checklist is like giving yourself a gold star every day.

works for tons of activities. to emphasize, target a range:

- no: '5 days/wk'
- yes: '3-5 days/wk'
posted by j_curiouser at 5:34 AM on May 18, 2021 [28 favorites]

I agree with others that getting into a walking habit is probably going to be your most likely route to fitness, but I sympathize with the "so busy, just only in front of a computer!" problem as well. Are there any meetings you could take or online socializing you could do *while walking*? Like, I'm am pretty sure one of my coworkers generally calls into our weekly all-hands meeting while taking a walk (unless he has something that he has to present at the meeting). And I have occasionally taken a "remote walk" with a friend where we walk and talk and maybe show each other something cool we saw on our walk (I don't do this much because I don't really like online/phone socializing).
posted by mskyle at 5:35 AM on May 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

I gave my wife a smart watch about a month ago. She hasn't missed her 10,000 steps a single day since. Not sure if that would work for you, but she says having this incentive machine strapped to her wrist has really worked for her.
posted by signal at 5:47 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you have the resources, you might consider converting from a sitting desk to a standing desk. In addition to the raised screen, you will also want to have a good standing mat and good shoes. I use slip-on Birkenstock flat sandals with arch support.
posted by happy_cat at 5:56 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can clock up a few thousand steps doing my weekly tidy up and house cleaning routine. So incidental steps can be found at home, too.

If a 'proper' walk feels daunting in terms of schedule climbing a few flights of stairs takes only a few minutes and is very effective for incidental fitness. So if your living situation lends itself to that head to the stairwell and walk up a floor or two and back down. Repeat as seems feasible.

If you have your groceries delivered see if you could stretch your delivery schedule some if you can pick up a few perishable things in between. Then you could combine picking up a few essentials with a short walk, if your neighborhood lends itself to that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:57 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Please don’t be so hard on yourself! So many people are in the same boat.

My only advice is to walk and listen to music. But the last year has been a global trauma. Give yourself some grace.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:37 AM on May 18, 2021 [15 favorites]

When the pandemic hit, I bought an exercise bike and positioned a big computer monitor in front of it. I used this monitor stand. I bought an Amazon Firestick, and now I bike every-other day while I watch movies and TV shows (I do a set of push-ups and sit-ups on the alternate days). I started out really slow and easy, but now I've worked my way up to an hour on the bike at a moderate level of intensity. I can now do 20 push-ups and 50 sit-ups. Again, I ramped-up slowly on those. I think I could only do three push-ups the first time I tried them. The exercise bike is much more convenient for me than walking or jogging. I wish I had started doing this years ago.

The key is to start slow and short, and then gradually increase the duration and intensity, so that you don't get injured.
posted by alex1965 at 6:38 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

In addition to walking, I find the strength training makes me feel more fit and doesn't take a lot of time. But, I think the big question is what do you find fun? I'd use this as an opportunity to start over and try a bunch of different things. Pickleball? Hiking? Table tennis? Curling? Golf? Swimming? The advantage of not being super into something right now is that you get the chance to try something new and anything you do will make a difference in your fitness.

If you're interested in strength training, there are tons of resources available. What about doing a short bodyweight training program a couple times a week for a month? I would start by just doing a warm-up a few times a week and skip the actual workout. You should be able to find warmups online. You can also check out Fitness Blender. If you decide to do more strength training, I'd recommend finding a program with a lot of modifications and/or hiring a trainer for a couple of sessions. I used the book Body By You a few years ago and it was a great way to start (although it got boring over time). The author has an app and more advanced program too. I'm always annoyed by the cover of Body By You but it's an excellent program.
posted by JuliaKM at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do you have some money to throw at the problem? I found getting a treadmill desk really helped to make up for a lot of the incidental walking that disappeared from my life during the pandemic. I walk a couple of hours a day on it a few times a week. The whole investment was probably $900, which isn't pocket change, but I figured I was saving a lot of money by not going to bars.

It took a little getting used to but now, if I go slowly, I can work normally while walking. During long meetings where I don't need to present, or tasks where I'm just clicking and reading I'll speed it up a bit. I also walk during phone calls with my mom, though now that the weather is nicer I often do those outside.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:47 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was/am in this exact situation, and have been several times in my life, and wow, I really notice a difference now that I'm in my 40's--it's just much harder and slower to go from sedentary to in halfway decent shape, it's less fun, and it hurts more.

Swimming! Lap swimming, 3-4x a week, as slow as I wanted, working up to 30 minutes, and then trying to increase overall distance. At first I was doing like 60% breaststroke, 30% backstroke and 10% free, then less breaststroke as I got stronger and better endurance. It's a great workout, and unlike trying to get in shape by going for long walks (as I used to do when I wanted to get in better shape), I felt better after a workout, not worse. Now that I've been doing this a couple of months, I can comfortably walk two miles at an 18-minute pace and not feel sore the next day, which wasn't the case before.

I also got a smart watch, and set a very modest 15-minute exercise goal, which I later increased to 30. It counts any activity equal or greater in intensity as a "brisk walk" as exercise. It also tracks my workouts and keeps all sorts of interesting statistics about them (it even keeps track of how much of each swim stroke I do, and the relative speed of each one). Having that on me and showing me how close I am to my (modest) daily goals has really helped me stay motivated.
posted by skewed at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2021

One thing I had to do shortly into the whole WFH thing was get some house only shoes with supportive soles because going barefoot was doing my feet in and making it harder to wear normal shoes when I had to wear them. So now I have some slippers with foot support and they are my Indoor Shoes and it has really made a big difference. I've also been doing foot drills (toe lifts, toe points, toe waving, etc.) to help keep my feet and ankles mobile.
posted by halcyonday at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

from nothing-to-something for me was couch to 5K. Specifically the "Zombies! Run" app. Engaging story and easy start-up. Now I can actually run (a little)!
posted by alchemist at 7:03 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Walking phone meetings/social chats... the ooooonly way I walk over an hour regularly without even noticing or minding it. Sounds lame, but it is the only thing that has worked for me for solid work from home exercise.
posted by hotcoroner at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2021

I was in the same place 5 months ago. I could barely do 20 minutes of housework or walk around the block without my back becoming terribly painful. Now I'm dancing for like 5 hours straight at least once a weekend and doing more housework. Here's what's been working for me.
  • Do something for 20 to 30 minutes a day to start. Even moving a few things around, then collapsing in pain and exhaustion and taking Aleve, counts.
  • Work up to trying to walk, even slowly, around the block once a day. Again, even a half hour is fine. I don't do it every day, but when I was first starting out, I'd literally check the time on my phone, and when I was 15 minutes out, I'd start walking back. Going longer than that, at first, tended to be a painful mistake.
  • You may have to break in your shoes again. You might want to just order a new pair of the same shoes and break them in so they feel right for how your feet are now. I did that (well, technically, I just started using the new pair of shoes I got a year ago and never wore), and I got blisters for like a day, then it improved.
  • Examine your seating options. I was sitting on a low, deep couch for many hours a day for much of the past year, and it was squishing one spot on the couch and leaving my back terribly stiff and in need of a weird angle. My desk chair wasn't better, nor was the chair on my balcony. Basically everywhere I sat made my back hurt more. I got a cushion to lift the level of the couch, as well as cleared off my dining table so I could work there, and both things seem to be helping.
  • After sitting hunched in one position or location for a while, go lie flat on your back on the bed or a mat and loosen your legs and hips for a bit in the afternoon to release anything that might be tense or catching. This is counterintuitive, that lying down can help you be better able to get up, but it definitely is working.
  • Don't be afraid to take Aleve, depending on your age and risk factors, as needed.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, green tea, and yogurt every day—even just at a couple meals. That seemed to be a game-changer for me in terms of reducing inflammation and improving my metabolism.
  • If you like dancing, try watching some Twitch streams with DJs spinning your preferred genre and couch-dancing, just moving your body a bit to the music. If that feels OK, work up to dancing a bit standing up while listening to a stream. Dancing is a different set of motions than the ones we get stuck repeating day-to-day, and it seemed to really loosen things up for me.
  • If the amount of housework to be done is overwhelming due to how painful it is, get an understanding friend to come by and help you do it. Having a friend with me doing it helped a lot to get me active (and then I could just call it once it got too painful for me to continue and hang out and watch something).
  • Consider whether a vitamin supplement like vitamin D3 or B12 could help give you more energy, especially if you've been indoors a lot and not eating as well. I've been D3 deficient before, so I've been taking 5000 IU of that daily for a few years, but adding B12 gummies in the fall seemed to improve my energy.
  • If you're amenable to it (no worries if not!), try CBD softgels or a sativa-dominant Delta 8 vape for the muscle pain. I'd recommend sativa-dominant specifically because it won't lock you down or make you sleepy, but it will still help with the pain. You can kind of microdose it with vaping, and it helps with tasks where you have to do a lot of bending and twisting, like recycling or litter.
  • See a physical therapist if it makes sense, depending on what motions are painful or stiff. My doctor recommended it, but I haven't yet due to timing. I might still try to fit that in, but I also have a busy schedule and it hasn't worked out so far.
Good luck! Just start doing a little something every day and try some of these things and I bet it will help! If it doesn't, then see your doctor and/or a physical therapist. I did see my doctor a couple times during the past few months, and it was useful just to consult on what I should be doing to improve the situation, even though I didn't always appreciate all of the advice in re weight loss.
posted by limeonaire at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

I have a daily reminder set on my phone to go for a walk most days. (But often I skip it.)
This gets at the nub of the problem. No one else is going to prioritize your fitness for you. Your job, your social life, etc, will all take as much as you give them. You need to give them a little less and save some time for your fitness.

Also: you know yourself better than we do. Figure out what will motivate you to be more fit. For some people, it's competition (something like Zwift would be great for this). For some, it's quantifying their progress (a smartwatch can track your distance walked, your resting heart rate, etc). For some, it's publicly stating a goal and then being too ashamed to back out (pledge to run a 10K). Anyhow, figure out that thing and start using it to your own advantage.
posted by adamrice at 7:41 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel you and I'm right there with you. Others have already suggested many of the fitness activities that I'm trying. However, there's one additional thing I do that I think is almost more important than any specific fitness activity. It's this:


I literally give myself a high five and say out loud, "Good job, ourobouros! You got outside and walked around for a few minutes and it felt good! You did something good for yourself that was legitimately challenging." I try to do this for any victory, no matter how small. If it's hard for me to access that level of positivity, I try something like, "You took a good step. It's been a really hard year, and you're making the effort to move in the right direction. Good job."

This is so, so important -- its effect cannot be overstated! Without this little bit of positive self-talk, it's easy for me to get into a self-reinforcing negative feedback loop. You know the loop I'm talking about -- you referred to it in your question. It goes something like this: try to exercise --> feel shitty about how much ground I've lost in the past year --> associate bad feelings with exercise --> becomes even harder to exercise next time --> repeat until I achieve full-on procrastination, avoidance, and mental block.

With this little bit of self-talk, the loop becomes something more like: try to exercise --> give myself a high-five & feel good about myself --> associate good feelings with exercise --> becomes easier to exercise next time --> repeat until I'm improving my fitness and established in a good exercise habit.

No matter what type of fitness activity you try, I highly recommend adding this piece to it.
posted by ourobouros at 8:04 AM on May 18, 2021 [10 favorites]

You aren’t skipping your yoga classes which is great, so why not add more (virtual or in-person) classes to your week. Given your back pain, I’d suggest starting with a Pilates class or something else that will help you rebuild your core muscles. I use the peloton app (i don’t have the bike or tread) because without needing to leave my house i could find a way to squeeze in a 20 minute something. they have weight training, HIIT classes, yoga, barre, etc. There’s lots of good tips here about walking, but walking doesn’t seem to be doing it for you right now, so maybe try something that’s a bit different for you!
posted by you'rerightyou'rerightiknowyou'reright at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

if you have a smart phone you carry regularly, you probably already have a step counter. You can see how much you moved in the before times, and try to match it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:20 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

You've got lots of good advice but I want to add one more thing: time.

You say you want to get back to 2019's fitness level, but (I'm sure you know) that's not going to happen overnight. You're still busy and will probably get busier as things return to "normal". If I were you I would try to be kind to myself and let go of the idea of going instantly from pandemic fitness > pre-pandemic levels. I would bet this is part of what's making you feel depressed and overwhelmed. It's probably going to take a lot of time, maybe months, maybe a year, to get back to that point. Try to make your peace with that. It's totally okay. You can still get there. Every step is a good step.

And as pintapicasso said, you're not alone. I know SO many people (including myself) who are in the exact same place. It's going to take us all some time, physically and mentally, to recover. Because that's what we're doing: recovery. Try to remember that and be kind to yourself.
posted by fight or flight at 8:34 AM on May 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just came across the Hybrid Calisthenics channel on youtube because of a short (I think posted in an Ask recently?) called "You CAN Do Pushups" that is really about "building up", starting with a limited or partial form and working up to the more complex movement. I've only randomly sampled around his content so far* and he seems to have a really kind and encouraging way about him, plus a good bit of beginner content including other "You CAN" series about working your way up to a more challenging form of the movement. He also has some videos on back/neck pain, posture, and breathing.

I'm having to learn to be a lot kinder to myself because it's just more effective, and I just remind myself that doing something is an improvement on doing nothing, and that doing nothing is still going to happen sometimes but that shouldn't then stop me from subsequently doing something. The opportunity to do something is never gone.

*I have not watched his "getting a girlfriend" video and it's possible he's nightmare garbage but I'm hoping that's not the case.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:37 AM on May 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Some great suggestions in this thread. I’ll also suggest what’s helping me in the same situation: I bought a DDR pad and downloaded Stepmania on my laptop along with files for a bunch of songs to dance to, which I then hook up to my tv. This might not work if you live in an apartment (I do, but on the ground floor so it’s manageable). But it has helped me regain stamina in an incremental way— songs are 1-3 mins long, and especially if you pick songs from Dance Dance Revolution they tend to be designed for different ability levels (there’s also a vast community of people making custom files for other songs but the difficulty ratings are inconsistent and sometimes intense - it takes a lil trial and error.)

This activity has been great for me— it’s not horribly expensive, I can opt in for short periods of time, there’s an element of problem solving as my brain and body parse complex patterns, I’m starting to notice things about my body nonjudgmentally (like ‘whoa, my balance is off! Must be my core strength weakening, something to work on.’) and most importantly it brings my body a sense of joy it hasn’t had in ages, something that really helps me get past the mental wall that you’re hitting up against. It’s started to get me interested in other activities that lost their sheen lately.
posted by actionpact at 8:42 AM on May 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

I very much share your circumstances - I didn't really appreciate how much activity was in my daily life, and then I kinda only moved from computer to sofa to bed for the past year, and my health really suffered.

I am a notoriously anti-exercise person, but this is what has worked for me in the past few months:
  1. put a step counter on my phone, carry it all the time, and establish a baseline for daily routine (only 1,000-2,000 steps most days)
  2. had blood work done and got very bad news
  3. set a goal of 6,000 steps a day for a start, because I am really only comfortable with walking outside as exercise right now
  4. downloaded Pokemon Go for my phone, use it as incentive to walk around catching Pokemon and spinning PokeStops (I'm not a game person, but this game is cute, low stress, and doesn't require much physical coordination)
  5. Listen to podcasts while I walk 30-45 minutes a day, playing Pokemon Go

posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 8:42 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

a) go outside once a day

This reminds me of something else. If you have friends in a similar position (you definitely do), make an accountability pact. I have a weekly chart with things like go outside, eat vegetables, floss, walk 30 minutes, etc. Every Saturday I exchange it with a couple of friends. We each put our own challenging/important things on our charts. We congratulate each other one what we did and commiserate about what we didn't. We're always supportive and encouraging. This has been the single most helpful thing to me during the pandemic.
posted by Mavri at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2021


1. Absolutely get shoes you are comfortable walking in. Priority one, do this yesterday. You want to remove obstacles between yourself and exercising, and uncomfy shoes are an enormous obstacle.

2. I agree with others that incorporating exercise into the work day would be a good call. For example, if you're not on camera, can you stand during calls, march in place, pop a foot up on a nearby chair and do a stretch for your hammies? In between calls, could you insert a radio taiso routine? Could you do a bob and brad senior workout? Can you pop that into your work calendar as an item that you get a reminder for, so you can mentally prepare to change gears to exercise? Can you get an accountability buddy?

3. I guess this would technically count as diet advice, and is a bit gross, BUT. I think having your digestive system regularly cleaning itself out is something that helps exercise feel significantly less bad better. So, perhaps consider your, uh, bum schedule and see if you want to change anything. Coffee, grape nuts, and berries seem to do the job for me.

4. One thing that I have taken from the pandemic is... I guess I could describe it as a really low bar to do something "out of my way." Like, I have nothing else to do, and this is my one venture out of the house this week, might as well grocery shop somewhere a little farther away. If you need the exercise, might as well do x a little farther away, right?

5. In addition to Pokemon Go and audiobooks/podcasts, I suggest you look up geocaching in your area, or consider finding walking routes that have points of interest (as long as the route is safe). I have a friend who lives in a neighborhood with a lot of Little Libraries, and she makes a point of visiting them regularly, more as landmarks / to see what's in, rather than as a source of reading material. If you're comfortable being on the phone in public, find a couple of people you want to talk to and ask them to help you get exercise by chatting while you're walking.

Finally: everyone else walking around is impacted by the same global trauma that you are, I guarantee that if they even notice you passing by, they do not give a shit about your walking speed. And if they do, it doesn't matter, because at least you're out walking, you know? You've already won by showing up for yourself. Showing up is the hardest thing, and you've already started by asking for help.
posted by snerson at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Relatable. I am a rather fit person but the pandemic year had me stop exercise (or really most movement). I am as unfit as I've ever been :(

Check out Justin Agustin. He is a fitness coach with programs aimed specifically at people who have NO fitness or who are dealing with chronic illness etc. I found him on Instagram and, unlike most fitness coaches, he has a super gentle and nice personality, keeping people from all walks of life motivated. The programs get a lot of great feedback from users and are very affordable. Good luck!
posted by Fallbala at 9:31 AM on May 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Would it help to make an appointment with a friend to do a thing, even if it's the same yoga class online? Maybe as vaccination progresses and you get your shoes sorted out, you can make walking buddy appointments? I'm much less likely to skip something if I'm supposed to be meeting someone, even if it's a virtual class. If you already do yoga once or twice a week, you can add one thing and after a few weeks, you'll have made some fitness progress and can add another thing.
posted by *s at 11:03 AM on May 18, 2021

There's something I saw on Tumblr a while ago: "If a thing's worth doing, then it's worth doing poorly."

The idea is: we often discourage ourselves by being caught up in trying to do something the right way, even when that's not a practical option for us at the moment. On Tumblr, the example in question was brushing one's teeth. If you're having trouble getting to brushing your teeth every day, for whatever sort of reason, it's easy to think something like, "Well, I know I'm absolutely not going to brush for two minutes and floss and rinse out my mouth, so I might as well not do anything." But, actually, the effort of brushing your teeth is worthwhile, even if you're just going through the motion for thirty seconds before being done with it! If it's worthwhile to brush your teeth, then that means a thirty-second half-assed scrub is worthwhile, rather than nothing.

This has really helped me, as I've been doing the same thing as you, trying to regain the activity levels I had before the pandemic. For example: I have a treadmill, but I've been feeling too exhausted ever since the pandemic began. When I think about changing into my exercise clothes and putting on my running shoes and getting on the treadmill and then pushing myself to exercise for the duration and intensity that I think would be the correct amount.... Well, I give up. I'm not going to do that. I'm overworked and I'm tired. It's not going to happen.

But if a thing's worth doing, then it's worth doing poorly. It's worth doing, even when you recognize that your current conditions mean you can't do it in the best and proper way you can imagine. I'm going to get on my treadmill, even if I'm still in my pajamas, and I'm going to move, even if just a little. It'll be worth doing, even if I'm doing it poorly, because it's worth doing.

I don't know if this mantra is helpful for you. And, obviously, it has its limits: there are a lot of ways you can go about physical exercise poorly that are dangerous, of course. But at least, for me, it has helped, so I thought I'd offer it as a potential tool that might be able to help you too: if a thing's worth doing, then it's worth doing poorly.
posted by meese at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

I have been really happy with Beachbody on Demand. I was deeply skeptical for a long time because every ad that popped up on FB showed really fit people who looked like they belonged in a gym which was NOT ME. But, the mom of one of my son's friends turned out to be a coach and really helped me see that it is for everyone.

The format is like Netflix for home work outs in that there is literally something for everyone. I have gotten the closest I have been to "in shape" since I was in high school (which was 25 years ago) with the workouts which I started in November 2020. I work out up to 7 days a week with cardio, weight lifting, and yoga.

The plusses for me: there are a lot of workouts of varying abilities that are 30 minutes, I can do them in my home which cuts out travel time, and the workouts change constantly. The basic membership is $99 per year and all I need to have on hand are some dumbbells and a mat. You can of course buy into the new programs (like I bought access to 9 Week Control Freak Off the Wall before it was generally released) but they have so many programs that are included in the basic membership, you really get a great deal.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just in case it helps, I am trying to think of my own reentry to fitness as “rehab”. We’re all recovering from a traumatic global pandemic, if not still in the thick of it, and of course it’s going to take some time.
posted by chocotaco at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2021 [10 favorites]

Hello, I'm also like you. I had lots of intentions to add a walk to my day, but that's not happened because walking outside means wearing outside clothes and then the whole project becomes something I do "tomorrow". I recently bought a Cubii under-desk elliptical pedaler. It's sitting under my desk where my footrest used to be and I midlessly pedal through out the day while working. It's quiet, doesn't require being plugged in, and has a very smooth motion that I find very comfortable. It's a small bit of activity that I can do throughout the day and it doesn't feel like a chore. It's a bit pricey ($200+ish) but it's been worth it for me. Costco sells them online - that's where I got mine for $50 cheaper than the rest - and I also found listings on Craig's List. I was able to adjust my chair to accommodate pedaling, but did also plan on buying bed risers for my desk in case it didn't all fit nicely.
posted by quince at 2:13 PM on May 18, 2021

The app Wakeout has been a help to me because it starts very small, as in thirty seconds of activity. You *can* chain multiple 30-sec activities together, you *can* have multiple activity prompts a day, but you can also be proud of yourself for moving from zero activity to SOME!! I am in this boat (which is a couch that I sit on).

It is not a diet app or a weight-loss app. You can have it nag you, but you can turn that off too. The reinforcements (for me) are so validating. Getting moving is so hard, and it is possible.
posted by epj at 3:11 PM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do you have any work meetings where you are mostly a passive participant? Do you ever have to follow online trainings? Is there any way you can do either of these while taking a walk? Even if it's only one meeting like this a week or month, it's still a good way to get some movement during the work day.

You said you are getting together with friends in person now. Take a walk when you do.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:40 PM on May 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree with others that getting into a walking habit is probably going to be your most likely route to fitness, but I sympathize with the "so busy, just only in front of a computer!" problem as well.

Not sure what your work(from home) schedule is like, but if it's currently like the "2-small-breaks-and-one-hour-long-lunch-break" you'd find in an office, then maybe try doing your walk during one of said breaks (starting off with the ten minute break and then stretching out to doing it during your lunch break). If you have a set time to do the walks every day (i.e. the breaks), then it'll be easier to get into a routine. (This is what I've been doing for the past fourteen months to stay at least somewhat active. Plus it gives me an excuse to get out of the house each day).
posted by gtrwolf at 10:01 PM on May 18, 2021

I have a walk buddy. She lives in the town where I used to live and where we used to go on walks together in a socially distanced way. It’s not that organized but periodically one of us will text the other one to ask if we wanna go for a walk later and talk on our phones while we do. Other people have much in this, I just want to echo that I can’t seem to make myself go for walks on my own except rarely. Having a walk buddy helps me.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:03 AM on May 19, 2021

I have adopted the George Costanza model, of late. In an episode of Seinfeld, George decides to go against every instinct and first response he has. Suddenly, his life turns around! Women find his funny and attractive!

I know it is a joke but the premise struck me. I have established what I think is the right thing to do but are the results the results that I was expecting? Am I expecting different results after doing the same thing?

I decided to level-set at the start of the new year. Saw my doctor and a nutritionist. I now had some solid information and made my Costanza plan. I changed many things. I jumped into HIIT work outs at a gym that, frankly, I had mocked in the past. I just committed. It has been a really good experience for me. I'm feeling more fit. My energy is up and weight is down. I think, mentally, the process of engaging rather than rationalizing, catastrophizing and postponing has been really transformative.

Walking in nature or walking and noticing nature. There are natural patterns, taking place now, as they have for are right there, in it! The frogs will start singing soon, in a marsh adjacent to my walking path. I know this because I have watched and listened for the past several years. At first, not consciously, not with intent. Now, I *know* that the wild strawberries are blooming (and where the patches are located). I spend time looking at them now. I want to see how long from flower to fruit. This is a small thing but really, really has connected me to the ongoing nature of the world. To slow down. To see myself as a part of the whole thing. Side note: I have been present when the baby frogs have fully grown legs and seeing hundreds, maybe thousands of them hopping everywhere was incredible! I thought they were crickets, as they were a bit bigger than an eraser tip. It was one moment on one day, of an otherwise normal week, a couple of years ago but it was neat to think what else was going on that I had never paid attention to. So, yes to outside time.

Good luck! There is no roadmap and whatever path you blaze is great!
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:39 AM on May 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

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