At-home Fitness & Nutrition Tips

by Jamie Livaudais, RD, LD
Registered Dietician at the J

During these past few weeks, our “normal” daily lives have been turned upside down due to coronavirus and the actions everyone has taken. Our schedules have changed, and many of us are either working from home, low on work or out of work. Along with the immense anxiety associated with that, these changes may have also affected our daily food and exercise routines. This may seem small to people who have built healthy habits over years of practicing. However, this is likely a big deal for those who have just started exercising at the gym, just started getting comfortable with using exercise equipment, or only recently started to make themselves a healthy meal or two a week. So, to those of you who may feel lost after just starting a routine, I feel your anxiety!

Know that you can always reach out for support from the fitness team at the J in our Fitness & Training Facebook Group. You will find workouts you can do from home there, too.

Here are some other tips to help you feel like you are staying on track with your health journey during this time of uncertainty.

Create a schedule

If you have researched ways to be productive during quarantine, this is probably the most common advice. Why? Because, if you don’t have a schedule or at least an idea of how your day should look in order to get stuff done, then you will likely not get it done. I highly encourage everyone to at least have time during their day to do some movement. Again, this may be easy for those who have the whole workout thing down, but for those who were struggling to get a workout in when the gyms were actually open, this can be even more of a challenge. For example, right now my time to take a break and move is around 3 pm.  I get everything set up for my home workout, make a plan and just knock it out for 30 minutes. Now, what if you don’t know how to create a good workout from home?  You can find some videos from J Trainers on our Virtual J Page, or create your own workout by using these tips:

Get creative by starting simple

Think of the things you do in the gym: cardio, upper body, lower body, core and stretch. The cardio can be done in any way (walk, jog, jumping jacks, stairs, bike, dance, etc.) and does not have to be a separate section of your workout. There are many times that I don’t even factor it into mine, because I know I will be huffing and puffing through the resistance training I do. However, warming up with a brisk walk/jog, or a few rounds up and down the stairs will get your body ready for movement. I like to do some stretches to get my muscles and joints primed, too. While this step is not an absolute must, it definitely is helpful in reducing your risk of injury and warming the muscles up further.

Now, to the actual resistance movements. Think of the equipment you use at the gym; what muscles are they working and what joints are moving in that exercise? This will help you replicate it better at home. For example, the leg press machine works both the front and back of the legs and you are bending at both the knees and hips while keeping everything else in place. This movement is similar to a squat, which is also similar to sitting in and getting up from a chair. The back extension machine works the back, the glutes, and the back of your legs. Your hips are the main joint moving while everything else is held into place. This is similar to the superman exercise, glute bridges and donkey kicks. Add those into a routine along with other bodyweight movements like pushups against the wall, chair triceps dips, plank, etc., and now you’ve got yourself a workout. Repeat and add a new challenge every day, whether it is a new exercise that you want to try, or adding another set of all the exercises, or maybe just add a couple of repetitions of each exercise. These are all ways to make improvements.

Stick to regular meal times

Creating a mealtime schedule that is similar to your normal routine will help you avoid boredom and/or emotional eating. By sticking to your regular meal times, it will also help you eat regularly and not go too long without eating. I usually recommend at least three balanced meals a day plus two planned snacks. Planning snacks in advance will help prevent all-day grazing and will prevent waiting to the point where you become ravenous and then overeat.

Focus on your hunger and fullness cues

Eating at your regular mealtimes can help you follow hunger and fullness cues. However, if you still feel full, don’t eat yet. If you still feel hungry, eat a little more. If you didn’t schedule a time to eat a snack but your stomach is rumbling, then eat a snack! The body needs different amounts of food each day, and your body’s signals of hunger and fullness are more accurate than a calculation of your calorie needs for the day. But don’t get this confused with boredom eating, emotional eating or habitual eating. While these are things that everyone experiences, and it is ok to occasionally eat when you’re actually not hungry, letting this become a regular occurrence or your only coping strategy can sabotage your plans and even your workouts.

Work on balancing your meals and snacks

In order to be satisfied for multiple hours from a meal or snack, you need a combination of different nutrients. Protein, fats and fiber all slow digestion, which allows you to feel fuller longer. Add some bulk from non-starchy vegetables, and you have a filling and satisfying meal. For meals, fill your plate with ½ non-starchy vegetables, ¼ high-quality protein like meat, fish, eggs or tofu, and the other ¼ with a whole grain or starchy vegetable.

Be gentle with yourself

These are strange and difficult times, but this won’t last forever. If you’re eating a bit more or you’re not as active as usual, it’s ok! Listening to your body is one of the best ways to look after your health. Sometimes that means taking a rest day or two. Sometimes that means not thinking so hard about nutrition on a day that you’re stressed by something like work or the state of the world. Just take it easy on those days and see how your body responds. Sometimes you may actually feel like you have more energy the next day. Health is not a pass or fail type of thing, so try not to feel guilty or tell yourself you’re doing it “wrong.” Just take it day by day and learn what works best for you.