How to make fitness gains during a lockdown - By Henry ToraƱo


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How to make fitness gains during a lockdown - By Henry Toraño

How to Make Fitness Gains during a Lockdown

By Henry Toraño

 

Madness. There’s no better way to describe the times we’re living. No single event in decades has had such a significant impact worldwide. This pandemic has very abruptly changed our realities on so many levels. Numerous countries are taking drastic measures in attempts to slow down the spread of the virus. Many of them have already implemented lockdowns, ordering civilians to stay in their homes for weeks. This will undoubtedly impact life as we know it in so many ways.  However, these all currently represent a set of unknowns. We don’t quite know what’s going to be on the other side of this. As a fitness professional, I’m absolutely certain that whatever we’ll have to deal with after this ordeal, we’re going to want to be our optimal selves to be better equipped to handle it. 

 

This has raised concern to many of my clients. What are we supposed to do during this lockdown to maintain our fitness, if gyms have been ordered to close? To many, this may sound like a petty worry. Not to me. And it’s not only because I’m a gym owner. I’m fully empathetic to this point because the clients I work with are individuals who value their health and fitness, not for pushups and squats, but as a medium to achieve the things they care most about in life. It’s not about reps and pounds, it’s about the fact that being fit and healthy brings out the better version of individuals. This is expressed in the many roles that we play in our everyday life.

To this end, you probably may have seen gyms and trainers releasing home workouts. By no means will I criticize this, as I have checked this box myself. But I would like to point out that staying active with an exercise routine during this time will perhaps have a 10% impact on your fitness by the time this is over. Don’t overlook the many factors that come into play that people tend to neglect. We can summarize it by calling it “Lifestyle and Nutrition” but those two components branch out to numerous details. I want to identify some of these in an effort to create awareness around it and provide tools that you can use to set better practices that will hopefully become habits moving forward.

 

First, let’s consider the number one objection that I get most frequently from clients when I mention lifestyle and nutrition practices: TIME. Why do you eat out so frequently? Why don’t you food prep? Why are you not getting 8 hours of sleep? Why is it impossible to practice meditation and mindfulness? The unquestionable, undisputed go to answer here is time. And believe me, I get it. Life is busy. We have to wear many hats. Work, spouse, parent… Most times, there’s no time to even meet these demands, and when there is, we want to relax, not do more work. The problem is, that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re not able to wear those hats effectively. We have to drag ourselves out of bed, we find it hard to focus at work, we’re irritable to the tasks of our spouse, and may respond with outbursts when our kids do what kids do. But we continue to be sleep deprived, we continue to make poor decisions when it comes to nutrition, and sooner or later, we begin to give up the gym to make up time in other areas. Most of you don’t know what to do to pull out of this vicious cycle. Even if I did tell you what needs to be done, taking the first step in changing behaviors takes a lot of, well, time.

 

That’s where we can truly make the best of this situation. If there’s one positive thing we get from this is that we’ve been afforded a little extra time. Even if you’re working from home, even if your kids are home. There’s no driving, there’s no temptations to go to a bar (they’re closed), you’re more than likely going to do more cooking than usual. So why not take this time to learn how to implement healthier habits? Here’s a few tips that will kickstart the process and I can guarantee that in just two weeks, you will feel noticeably better. 

 

Nourishment

This doesn’t have to be complicated at all. It really doesn’t. Just eat real food! By that, I mean perishable items that require cooking. For those that don’t know, foods can be classified into 3 buckets, called macronutrients. Most foods contain 2 or even 3 of the macronutrients, but for the most part, one is predominant and we classify it as such. We can get very technical in nuances, such as macronutrient ratios, caloric intake, timing, etc., but let’s not. The three macronutrients are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. During these next few weeks, let’s make sure that we consume foods from the 3 groups in all our meals. Main source of protein is ideally animal meats. It can be chicken, beef, pork, beef… any meat. Carbohydrates get a little bit tricky because there’s a vast difference in our bodies’ response to good vs bad carbs. We want to stick to vegetables. The usual suspects are broccoli, spinach, carrots, and cauliflower, among others. But it also includes tubers such as sweet potatoes, squash, and yams. Fats can also sneak up on you, as they come in several forms. For the sake of simplicity, let’s go with olive oil, avocado/avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds.

 

Like I said, we’re going to want our every plate to contain one of each of these three. How much? I’ll give you two ways to measure:

Animal Protein: 5-7oz (cooked) or a portion equal to 1 or 1.5 times the size of your palm

Carbohydrate/ Vegetables: 4-6oz (cooked) or a portion equal to 1 to 2 times the size of your closed fist

Fats: 1-2 tbsp or a portion equal to 1 to 2 times the size of your thumb

A meal would consist of something in the likes of:

1 Chicken Breast

1 Cup of Mixed Veggies

1.5 tbsp Olive Oil 

For your next meal, use the same template, change up the components. For example, breakfast could be:

3 Whole Eggs

1 Cup Spinach cooked in 1 Tbsp Butter

1 slice Avocado

Real food, simple combinations!

 

Daily Rhythm

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “circadian rhythm” . It refers to the synchronization of physiological functions to day and night cycles. Our bodies perform certain operations according to the time of day. You may be asking yourself how the body knows what time of day it is. The answer is LIGHT. The amount of light that enters your retina (back of the eye) is registered by the brain and triggers metabolic processes. What we want to do to facilitate this process is be up with the sun, asleep with the moon. As we stray from this pattern we slowly take our circadian clock out of rhythm. We realize that we need to sleep more, but even if our schedule allows it, we come to find that we can’t fall asleep until late in the evening. Setting the clock’s time takes a little effort, but as you now know, it’s done via exposure to light. During the next few weeks, set your alarm clock to 6:00am. Even if you don’t have to wake up early. You need to get up and expose yourself to daylight. Go out to the yard, drink your morning coffee on the balcony. Spend 20 minutes out in the sun, no sunglasses, bear as much skin as possible. You will not only get the benefits of the vitamin D dose, but this will also go a long way in getting back in rhythm.

 

Sleep

There’s a yin to every yang. Waking up at day break is only half of the equation. It will help set up a better night routine as well. For one, you’ll be a little more tired than usual, as you’ve risen early. Exposure to sunlight in the morning will have your brain feeling like its soon time to rest. What you want to do is limit your exposure to light after nightfall. This includes artificial light. Turn off as many lights as possible in your home. Only keep one the ones that will prevent you from kicking furniture. If your lights are dimmable, set them to 10%. Set your devices, phone, tablet and laptops to warmer brightness via Night Shift or apps like Flux. Turn off your devices at 8:30-9:00 pm so that you are better able to fall asleep at 10:00pm. Yes, for your circadian clock, it’s important that you go to bed at 10:00 pm. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is only half of the equation. Sleeping the RIGHT 7-9 hours is crucial.

 

Hydration

I don’t think I need to convince you of the importance of water consumption. Proper hydration has a positive impact on pretty much every single physiological process. There should be no excuse to miss this point if you’re spending your entire day at home. As a general guideline, I’d advise females to drink 80-100oz of water daily, males 90-120oz. But you need to stay on top of it. If it's 6pm and your only ¼ of the way through, it’s going to be real tough to get it all in. Set an alarm to remind you at the top of every hour. Consume 8-10oz of water every time it goes off.

 

Stress Management 

These days, who can honestly say they’re not stressed out? We accept chronic stress as a part of life. We make light of it. We even come to terms with the possibility that we may never be stress free. While we may not be able to control stressors, we CAN do quite a bit to manage it. Everything that I’ve already mentioned in the nourishment, rhythm, sleep, and hydration sections go a long way in helping to better manage stress. However, the most important and underrated player is, believe or not, BREATHING. And why do we not practice mindful breathing? Because we have no time! So again, with the bit of extra time we’ll have in these next few weeks, let's remind ourselves to take a few minutes to breathe and practice meditative techniques. I’m not exaggerating when I say that 5 minutes is actually enough to help. You don’t have to do it on your own. There’s several meditation apps that can guide you through the process. I personally like Calm, as it gives you different options depending on duration. You have no idea how much better you’ll feel, on so many levels, if you give this a try. This is also a good time to have awareness on stress management as cortisol (the stress hormone) can be very debilitating to the immune system. You’re going to want to keep that in check while this virus is going around.

 

Listen to Your Body 

Like I said earlier, this is not an easy period of our lives. Our health is being threatened, a lot of our safety nets are on the verge of collapse (like the healthcare system), we’re being forced to close down our businesses, many people will lose their jobs. These are not things to be taken lightly. Moreover, spending 2-3 weeks secluded in your home, knowing and thinking about these things that I’ve just mentioned will take a big toll on your body, both physically and mentally. Keep an eye out for biomarkers, such as energy levels, bowel movements, sleep quality, mood, menstrual cycle, etc. Staying active with home workouts is great, but it really is just a small piece of the puzzle. Start putting these pieces in play and put yourself in a better spot to not only endure this phase, but rather thrive through it.

 

Reach out to your coach, talk about lifestyle implements that you can work on during this time. If you don’t have a coach and would like to talk to one, reach out to us at OPEX San Juan and we’ll put you in contact with one. If you have any questions about any of these points you can also reach out to me directly: htorano@opexsj.com. Let’s spin this negative situation in a way that makes us stronger.

 

During times of adversity, I turn to Naseem Nicholas Taleb’s book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder:

“Wind extinguishes the candle and energizes the fire”

I want you to be the fire.




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