How To Stay Fit In January Lockdown
Gyms are still closed, it’s freezing outside, the end of lockdown is nowhere near. So, how exactly do you expect to stay fit in January? After consuming your own weight in meat, wine and mince pies, staying fit may seem like an impossible task.
Stick around for some tips on how to deal with lockdown in winter.
Let’s be honest. Some of us have probably drunk a lot more in 2020 than we would have done normally, due to normal life only coming back for three months or so. Only to be followed by another lockdown.
There was not much to do, I get it. I probably wouldn’t have drunk two glasses of wine with dinner every day. But I did because I could.
Dry January is not a new thing and I do realize that this is not a new idea I am proposing here, but I feel like most people still underestimate the power of alcohol’s empty calories. Especially when the activity levels have decreased rapidly.
It’s cold, damp, it rains a lot. Very few of us are determined enough to go out for a 5k run or a workout in the park right now. And I get it. I’ve done a lot more computer work, enrolled on a course, I’m working on self-development a lot, but that means sitting down a lot too. And that, combined with alcohol is a lethal combination.
Give dry January a go and you will see that the weight is a lot easier to maintain. Average beer or wine serving can give you additional 150 – 180 calories, which, once in a while is not much. But a drink or two every day means extra 1 000+ kcal a week, which is a very dense meal. Doing this on a regular basis means slow weight gain and hindered results.
#2 START A FOOD JOURNAL
By staying at home a lot, whether it’s furlough or working from home, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of what you’ve eaten.
You probably think: “I had breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.”
More likely, it looks something like this: “Breakfast, snack, coffee with biscuits, lunch, cuppa with biscuits, dinner, leftover mince pies from Christmas drenched in cream (because everyone bought tons as if the world was supposed to end), topped up with a glass of wine or a beer.”
By starting a food journal, you will be able to keep a close eye on how much and, most importantly, what have you consumed. Be honest with you and write everything, even glass of water, which is an excellent way to track hydration too.
Learning to be honest with yourself takes time. Don’t be alarmed if tits takes you a little longer, it’s totally normal to hold back. Most people “lie” if asked what they’ve eaten during the day. I believe it’s not lying as such, but most of us honestly don’t remember every single thing they picked up as a snack and some of us don’t consider a takeaway cup of coffee as a “meal”. Just remember to log everything and don’t feel guilty, the food tracker is there for you to use as a tool, not to make you feel bad about yourself.
For your convenience, I have designed Weekly Meal Tracker. You can print it out and put it on your fridge.
#3 FOCUS ON MOBILITY
Working from home is probably even more demanding than going to the office. The routine of walking to the train station and back is lost, so every bit of exercise you do, has to be done at home.
Great way to break the 8h long working day cycle is to set an alarm for every hour and move around a little.
Stretch your back, do a few squats to lubricate the knee joint.
There is one muscle that suffers a lot from prolonged sitting and that’s the Hip Flexor. It’s the only muscle in the body that connects upper and lower body parts, so you can imagine that it can get short and stiff due to long sitting.
Depending on the level of your stiffness, play around with the stretches above and see how far can you go and which one is working best for you.
Try getting up every hour and doing these for as little as five minutes. If you hold each side at least 45s, ideally a minute, and perform it twice over, it will take you as little as four minutes. In 8h day. Maximum of 24 mins extra a day. I’m sure you have extra 24 minutes!
Try it one day and I promise you will feel better instantly.
Dividing the working day by stretches also helps your brain focus better. It’s very inefficient to stare at a screen in one position for two long. By performing some simple stretches during the day, you will see that the brain gets a little kick, because by focusing on these, you give the brain a well-deserved break from whatever you were thinking about before.
#4 GO FOR A SHORT RUN OR JOG
Not everyone is a marathon runner. Definitely not me.
But I managed to work my stamina up from not being able to run 1500m to running 5k in one go.
I was very sceptical about running in winter and always found people who do that crazy. But there was one really nice, sunny day once and the gyms have been closed for a while now with no hope in sight, so I’ve decided to give this crazy practice a try.
I put on a thermo-shirt, thin sports jacket, a hoodie and out I went. I have to admit, I’ve never felt cold, not once during the entire run. Some people might find it easier to breathe the cold air through a thin scarf, but I was fine without it.
Running is the easiest and cheapest way to burn off a lot of calories, thanks to a process called EPOC, which stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, sometimes simply referred to as the Afterburn Effect.
Human body uses oxygen for endurance exercise, which requires the blood to circulate around the body a lot faster in order to deliver required oxygen. When we’re finished with endurance exercise, the body needs time to re-balance the stress hormones and return the heart rate to normal. This takes time.
Just like when you return from a long drive and switch off the engine, your car will be warm for some time after.
The exact numbers are not exactly clear, but experts suggest anything from 2 to 10 hours, depending on the intensity. If you run 5k you’ll probably be looking at a couple of hours as opposed to an afterburn effect after a marathon.
Next time you go for a run, keep an eye on your fitness tracker for a few hours after and you might notice the calories burned going up a little faster. It works for me.
I did my 3k run and used 30 mins Yoga practice as a cool-down and stretch. The whole workout took me just under an hour (50 mins to be precise) and burned over 300 kcal. This amount doubled over the next 3 hours or so. Not bad!
Just remember, you don’t have to run for your life. Don’t worry about the time, just enjoy yourself and take in the fresh air. It doesn’t matter how fast you complete it or how far you go, we all have a different fitness level and we’ll be subjected to the Afterburn Effect regardless the distance.
Someone does 10k without any effort, someone else (like me) does 4k and feels that’s just about enough. Always know your limits and start with a shorter distance if unsure. Even a 1k jog is better than nothing.
#5 HAVE A PLAN
Just like having a food journal, starting a workout plan might be a good idea.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a personal trainer to know how to do it, but you do need some sort of data tracker because it’s way too easy to forget when was your last workout and what exactly have you done.
You can have weekly or monthly plans, I prefer monthly because it’s easier to get motivated as you go along when you see what you have done so far.
My favourite way of tracking any information is a magnetic fridge board. You don’t have to print out tons of papers and it can be easily altered by simply wiping away the text. You can use this for your food journal too!
Or just use a calendar on your phone.
First, sit down and think about what you want to achieve and make your goals specific and achievable. If you normally work out twice a week, there is no point of filling every day with three different activities. I can guarantee you that you won’t be able to keep up and get discouraged.
- Realize how many times a week you normally work out and stick to it – the number can always be increased as you go.
- If you don’t work out on a regular basis, I suggest to set 2 – 3 days tops and make sure they are not consecutive (have a rest day between them) – for example, set your workout days for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Are you willing to work out on weekends? This will affect the weekly structure
- What are the activities you are 100% sure to stick to. Do you like running? HIIT? Resistance? Resistance can be a little difficult unless you have dumbbells or resistance bands at home. Consider purchasing them if resistance is your thing.
- Pick a time of the day you want to work out and stick to it every time – this will create a habit. Do you like to work out after breakfast? In the afternoon?
- Sketch your plan on the board and don’t be afraid to make any adjustments, it’s for you, not for anyone else, so make sure you are happy with how challenging it is. Don’t be discouraged to take an item off, the purpose of this plan is to follow it as long as possible, not to give up after a week because you made it too hard. That said, don’t be scared to add things if you feel like more challenge is needed – that’s a good sign!
- Don’t forget to evaluate the board at the end of the month to see what needs adjusting for the next 4 weeks. Add an exercise? Change exercise? More/less rest days? Do you feel stiff? Maybe you need more stretching.
- You can evaluate the data as often as you need and make changes as you go, just stick to your basics while doing it. Don’t make it easy for yourself but don’t knacker yourself out either. It’s good to take a day off if you really need to, but think about it. Do you really need it, or are you just feeling lazy? Same applies to adding a training day. Check out my post about Overtraining to make sure you are not overdoing it.
Not the most profound suggestion, but it’s what it is.
Walking is the most effective way to burn extra calories if you’re not extremely keen on working out at home.
Also, not everyone has the access to resistance, or is willing to spend money on resistance bands or dumbbells. Especially the dumbbells can be quite dear.
If you still want to work out, but resistance is not your thing, check out my post about Bodyweight Exercises. Maybe you will find something else you fancy.
Now, walking. Why is it so good? As a low – moderate activity, it can be sustained for a considerable long period of time, which means more calories burned. One hour walk can burn up to 400 calories, depending on your fitness level, weight and intensity. Get your dog and kids and go out for an hour, it will help everybody! Your kids and dog will be tired and you will get your exercise.
I know it’s not the best to walk in January, just make sure you get dressed properly, put on hat and gloves and don’t forget a tissue for snotty noses.
Walking is accessible, cheap and very effective way to move. Most of us underestimate the value of walking. It’s often used as a primary way of exercising for very overweight people because it’s easy on the joints. If you are a little older perhaps, and your joints are not what they used to be to go for a run, 1h walk a day can make up for working out altogether. It will not build a lot of muscle but I didn’t write this post to focus on muscle, the main idea is to stay fit and, ideally, don’t put on any extra weight.
#7 DO YOGA
Having trouble sleeping? Feeling stiff from working at home?
Yoga not only increases flexibility, but strength too. Some poses are difficult enough that even very strong people, who do resistance training on a regular basis have trouble performing.
Some of us are great with balance, some of us need a little help. And that’s OK, we’re not all the same. Yoga is for everybody!
If you do consider doing yoga at home on a regular basis, think about getting some props to help you with the poses and balance, for example, yoga block and a strap. You will also need a good non-slip mat.
These are all a good investments if you plan on doing yoga at home regularly. I have all these myself and use them every day. Especially a good mat is incredibly important. Make sure it grips well to avoid slips and potential injuries later on when you experiment with more challenging poses.
There are a lot of Apps and YouTube channels out there, so in that regard, I’m afraid you will just have to try to see. Here are some that I have tried:
- Visually very pretty
- Randomised sessions so no two practices are the same
- Tons of features to adjust the experience – voice, music, level, length, body part focused on, flexibility, strength
- Frequent sales
- Track Yoga
- Good for beginners
- Some practices are locked, but they can be accessed by spending points
- You access points by using the app
- Boho Beautiful
- YouTube and in-app videos
- YouTube videos are free
- App has a fee of £.9.49/month or £91.99/ year with 7 Day Free Trial
- Beautiful beach surroundings
- Fitness and Pilates section
My favourite is Down Dog because, at £29.99/year, it’s very affordable and can be set for about just any level you can think of. Just starting out? Beginner is for you. The advanced levels take you to standing splits and similar challenging poses. There are many progression levels in-between, so that everyone can find their comfortable practice.
#8 THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT
I left this till the end on purpose, because it’s everyone’s least favourite.
You need a good willpower to change such a strong habit as nutrition, but it can be done. It’s a habit like any other.
Do it slowly, there is no point to start a Veganuary if you have never been a Vegan and don’t have a plan. This will fill you with misery and you’ll probably give up within a week. Being Vegan doesn’t mean starving or not being able to eat a good-tasting meal, it requires a complete change of lifestyle. And you can’t do that overnight. Not even in a month.
Unless you’re ready to do this and have a plan in place, don’t bother.
You can, however, implement small changes.
If eating less meat is your goal, how about picking a day or two a week and making them meatless? Make sure you plan what are you going to eat on those days to avoid confusion and meal-skipping.
The best way, however, would be to focus on overall nutrition. Instead of giving up meat or dairy, I suggest you focus on decreasing the consumption of processed items. And don’t forget, processed food is not just a ready-meal or confectionery.
Processed foods are:
- Frozen Pizzas
- Sausage Rolls
- Steak Bakes
- Cured Meats (ham)
- Cheese (should be avoided on a weight-loss plan, due to high fat content)
- Store-bought soups and sauces
- Many, many more.
Just about everything is processed these days and we don’t realize how much of it is not natural. I’m not saying we have to ditch all those items straight away. But out of all these items mentioned above, I only eat cheese and bread. If you eat all of them on a regular basis, maybe you could miss a few? I’m sure you’ll find one or two to sacrifice and that’s a great start.
I used to be obsessed with Italian Parma Ham and never thought I’d be able to give it up, but I made a decision one day and never bought it again. It was a little difficult, but now, good 7 months later, I don’t even think about it. I have eaten it on occasion when it was prepared for me and I didn’t want to insult anyone, but I think that’s OK.
I don’t want to be one of those people, who come over for a dinner and cannot eat anything. I can try my best to avoid certain items, but since I’m good in my nutrition most times, I don’t obsess over one occasional slip. This only increases stress and promotes demotivation. Strive to be the best version of yourself, not a perfect one.
Start small. Can you live without crisps, chocolate or pizza? Try it. How about you make your own pizza instead of buying it? Bake a cake instead of buying store-prepared ones. By making your own, you can control what goes in and how much of it.
You can check out some of my articles in the Health Section on calories, fat burn and sugar consumption to explore this topic a little more.
Eat better food. Good rule of thumb is: Do you find the food you buy in nature? For example, sausages don’t grow on trees, they are a processed item. Chicken breast, however, is a little more natural because nothing has been added – yes, we can probably discuss hormones and antibiotics at this point, but this article would then turn into a book. The best way is to eat more veg – they’re as natural as they can be and minimally processed.
Eat more vegetables – they have not been altered in any way and you can wash pesticides off the surface if that’s something you are concerned about. Yes, we can probably debate the genetically modified vegetables, but it’s highly controversial and I think it deserves a post on its own.
My main point is, you can’t be perfect. Whatever food you pick, there’s probably going to be some controversy surrounding it, whether it’s GMO, antibiotics, hormones or colourants and additives. There’s only so much we can do to strive for perfection, which will never come. So instead of obsessing about everything you eat, how about picking the most harmful ones, like sweets, crisps and alcohol, and try to live some time without them?
Your taste buds might be a little confused because they have been used to overly sweet and salty food, but I promise you they will go back to normal and you’ll eventually find an apple sweet enough to satisfy your cravings.
Give me a shout on Instagram @silviemfit or leave me a comment down below.