17 Mar Coronavirus: How To Protect Your Physical & Mental Health
We’re living in unprecedented times. Despite high levels of uncertainty, there’s still one variable in your control – you. During a pandemic, this is the time to control the narrative of your self-care, and make physical and mental health the number one priority.
With self-isolation requirements growing, and more people being put under quarantine every day, I wanted to write an article to cover:
- Immune boosting habits
- Home workout examples
- Nutrition advice
- Tips on working from home
- Maintaining your mental health
We’ve also recorded an episode (128) of RNT Fitness Radio, which you can listen to directly here:
Immune Boosting Habits
While it’s hard to control what you touch and breathe, you can still control what you put in your mouth, and how you use your body. Being physically and mentally fit has never been more important, as a stronger immune system will always give you a higher chance of protection against anything.
Outside of basic hygiene practices, the best immune boosting habits are as follows:
1. Sleep and rest. The research on the power of sleep has reached overwhelmingly new heights, so making sure you’re getting an absolute minimum of seven hours is a must. Eight would be perfect, and nine a bonus. In a time where there’ll be less commuting to and from work, activities/gatherings in the evenings, and generally more time in the day, there’s no excuse for not sleeping enough.
2. Hydration. Such a simple tip, but so overlooked. Keeping your water intake at the three to four litre mark will help keep your body strong.
3. Quality nutrition. Focusing on whole foods with lots of micronutrients is critical. Fast food loaded with poor quality ingredients, sugar, and the like aren’t favourable during this pandemic. You want to focus on lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources – essentially everything you’d eat while you are on a transformation journey.
4. Spices. I pour turmeric, ginger and garlic all over my foods throughout the year. Do I have hard evidence to back up the effectiveness of my cooking practice? No. But plenty of research is linked to their immune boosting effects, so I’d rather cover my bases!
5. Vitamin D3. This has always been a game changer for keeping my immune system strong year round. I’d recommend 10,000 IU daily.
6. Stay active. Being quarantined under self-isolation practices doesn’t mean becoming a sloth on the sofa. You need to remain physically fit to keep your body functioning at its best.
7. Stress management. Being highly strung and stressed out over the unknown is a quick way to lower your immune system. With stress levels already being so high in normal times, the stress of the coronavirus can tip you over the edge if you’re not careful. Pay attention to your mental health; it’s just as important as what you do physically. This is where journaling and meditation can be so valuable.
I’ll be diving into the specifics of some of these in this article, but what you’ll notice is the best ways to take care of yourself now runs on the same transformation principles as always.
Home Workout Examples
Depending on your city, gym and preference, many of you will now be confined to training at home with little to no equipment. The good news is that it’s not a problem; with a bit of creativity you can still work hard, create a training effect, and make progress.
If buying home gym equipment isn’t feasible, I’d recommend buying at least a few resistance bands of different strengths to provide some extra challenge.
There are so many ways to set this up, so feel free to chop and change exercise, resistance and adjust levels of difficulty depending on your strength levels, options available and preferences.
I’ll show you three different options: bodyweight, bands and dumbbells.
Option A – Bodyweight Only
Perform the following with no rest between each exercise, and 60-90 seconds at the end of each circuit. Complete anywhere from 3 to 8 rounds of it. I’ve given you a few options for each, so don’t feel limited to the main exercise – this is a great time to get creative what you may have lying around at home.
1. Upper Body Push: Press-Ups – 10-15 reps.
You can do these feet elevated, hands elevated, wide grip, close grip, on the knees or paused. If you have a band, you can add it around your back for extra resistance.
2. Lower Body Push: Split Squats – 10-15 reps.
You can do these front foot elevated, back foot elevated, paused, 1.5 reps (go down, come up half way, go down, then come up for 1 rep) or slow tempo. If you have a band, you can step on it and add it over your shoulders for extra resistance.
3. Upper Body Pull: YTWL – 3 reps each at 10 seconds in each position.
Squeeze your upper back on each move. It’s tough to train your upper back with no equipment at all, so the best alternative (if flexibility is an issue) would be pull aparts with a band. If you have a chin up bar you can hook into your doorframe, this would work well here too.
4. Lower Body Pull: Single Leg Hip Thrusts – 10-15 reps each leg.
To make it easier, do these as video, to make harder, do it so you’re lying on floor, and foot is on bench / bed. To make it even harder, add pauses or reps.
After you’ve completed the above, move onto the following ‘metabolic’ section (all exercises hyperlinked). Aim to complete 3 to 5 rounds with no rest between exercises, and 60 seconds at the end of each circuit.
- Plank to Press Up – Burpee – 10-15 reps
- Reverse Lunges or Walking Lunges – 10-15 reps
- Mountain Climbers or Jumping Jacks or Seal Jack – 10-15 reps
- V Ups or Reverse Crunches– 10-15 reps
Option B – Bands
The exercise order may look weird, but I’ve deliberately put compound exercises after isolation so that you won’t need super thick bands to get some stimulation. Aim to complete 3 to 5 rounds with no rest between exercises, and take 60-90 seconds at the end of each circuit.
- Band Pull Aparts to Hairline – 10 reps
- Band Pull Aparts to Neck – 10 reps
- Band Pull Aparts to Chest – 10 reps
- Band Bent Over Row – 30 reps
- Band Biceps Curl – 10 reps
- Band Lateral Raises – 10 reps
- Band Overhead Triceps Extensions – 10 reps
- Band Resisted Press-Ups – 10 reps
- Band Hip Thrusts (around knees) – 30 reps
- Band Squats (around knees) – 30 reps
- V Ups – 10-15 reps. The only exercise not involving bands, just because it’s easy to train the abs without it
Here’s how to do it:
The band used in the video is a mini band. If you do want to get thicker bands, you could get a green and orange one from here.
Here are a few more great exercises to explore with bands, which can be added into the above (all exercises hyperlinked):
Option C – Dumbbells Only
For those of you with dumbbells at home, you should be able to train in a similar fashion to how you already do in the gym, with the exception of machines.
Here’s an example of how to train with dumbbells only with no benches (all exercises hyperlinked).
1A. DB One Arm Row 3-4 sets of 8-12 (Lean against something)
1B. DB Floor Press 3-4 sets of 8-12
2A. DB RDL 3-4 sets of 8-12
2B. DB Split Squat
3A. DB Curl 3-4 sets of 8-12
3B. DB Overhead Extension, 3-4 sets of 8-12
3C. V Ups 3-4 sets of 10-15
Bonus Option – Mix & Match
One way to approach the above if you have all options available is to mix and match workouts, exercises and have fun trying new ways to train.
Nutrition & NEAT
The advice during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t different to the norm here. You still want to reach your protein target, consume healthy fats, eat quality carbs with lots of fruits and veggies, and ultimately, find the right diet for you (I’d recommend reading this article here).
Something you may want to look out for during this period though are long-life food options. Outside of stocking up your freezers on meats, fishes and the like, other great ideas can be utilising different types of beans and lentils.
An important consideration is also the subject of non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). If you’re in quarantine, chances are commuting and general activity at work will be reduced, and so your levels of NEAT will naturally go down.
To counter this, keep an eye on your step target. You still want to achieve your 8-10,000 daily minimum, even if it’s harder to accomplish. If social distancing is enforced, you can still go for walks outside, so long as you keep six to eight feet between one another.
Tips On Working From Home
Working from home can be difficult if you’re not used to it. I’ve been doing it for three years daily since starting RNT, and here are my best tips to maximise productivity:
1. Create rules. For many people, being at home signals relaxation. If you now have to work from home, you must maintain your normal structure, strategy and systems you have for yourself. If you normally go for a coffee before work, do the same at home. If you wear a uniform at work, continue doing so. If you go for a walk every lunchtime, keep doing it. Don’t abandon all of your rules just because you’re at home. Stick to your schedule, and bring your work routine home. For those with children, maintaining their 3 S’s, rules and routines is just as important here.
2. Eliminate chores and distractions. To treat your day like you’re at work, don’t start doing household chores every 30 minutes, or get distracted by the TV or similar during your breaks. You have to create boundaries for yourself and respect them. Make rules to avoid chores and TV till after the work day, as you would normally. Similarly, if you find yourself at home with your whole family, create rules to make sure you’re not being distracted all throughout the day. Having a chat with everyone so each person respects each other’s time will go a long way.
3. Compartmentalise. If you have the ability to do so, don’t work in the same place you relax in. You’ll feel a blurring of the boundaries, so try as much as you can to have one seat for work, and another for downtime. Failure to do so can make switching off difficult. Try create morning routines to start work, as well as evening routines to signal the equivalent of leaving the office.
4. Overcommunicate. If you’re used to being in an office, you’re likely speaking to people all throughout the day, whether it’s casual office chat or being pulled into meetings. Replicate this as much as possible by leveraging technology such as Zoom, Skype, Loom, etc. Don’t fall into the trap of being ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This comes back to maintaining familiar assets in your day. If you kick off your day with a 10 minute meeting with your manager, replicate the same while working from home by booking in a Zoom call.
The ‘No School’ Routine For Parents
Here’s some great graphic from RNT Coach Shaneeta, who wanted to give some tips to all the parents who may be working from home while also looking after / homeschooling their kids at home. With schools closing, I hope this helps in preparation for the transition.
Importance Of Mental Health
Throughout this pandemic, a forgotten aspect we need to protect is our mental health. The fear of the unknown, uncertainty, self isolation, and the constant talk about what’s happening can make anyone feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a great report here on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus, and it’s been welcomed.
Here are some of our best tips, in line with the key takeaways from the WHO report:
1. Set a limit on news and social media. Being hooked on the news at this time is a dangerous practice, given how much misinformation, fear mongering and rumours are being spread daily. A good strategy is to pick specific times to check the news, and stick to only a few trusted websites/sources. Don’t fall into the rabbit hole of the ‘experts’ on social media. It may be wise to mute what’s making you feel triggered, overwhelmed and/or anxious.
2. Stay connected. Loneliness is one of the most commonly reported side effects of working from home, or being in quarantine/self isolation. If you feel any loneliness, communicate like you would in an office setting or your regular days. Be proactive and set up video calls with your family, friends and colleagues.
3. Self-Care. Continue to eat well, hydrate, stay physically active and get as much sunlight as you can. Journaling, meditation, walking and reading can also be great practices to build into your day to stay on top of your mental health. Stay away from coping strategies such as alcohol, fast food and/or drugs. Prioritise self care at all times for yourself and your loved ones – this is when we need it the most.
4. Don’t Judge. Don’t make assumptions about anyone or anything – the coronavirus can affect us all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. Don’t label people you may know as ‘victims’. We are all in this together, and we will get through it.
During a time like this, it’s important we’re all being as supportive and understanding as possible with those around us.
For RNT’ers, use the FB Family group and community to stay connected, spread positivity and share tips. Speak and stay accountable to your coach on how to adjust your 3 S’s to work around the changing routines you may be experiencing.
For anyone reading this who wants any help on how to prioritise their self-care, physically or mentally, please feel free to reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d be happy to help and offer support and advice in any way we can. It’s an important time for everyone to feel safe and secure.