Pre-COVID-19, the gym was always a part of my daily routine. The days that I worked, I would race to the gym immediately once I got off to make a 5:30 p.m. HIIT class. When I was home with my 5-year-old son, our mornings were scrambled as I rushed to get us both dressed, fed and out the door in time to make a morning lifting class at the gym on the other side of town. I would quickly drop him off at the gym’s childcare and walk into class, usually a few minutes late after the doors had already closed, which meant that I was awkwardly getting together my equipment while trying not to get stomped on by other members of the class who had already begun their warm-up.
To preface, I am someone who has always legitimately enjoyed exercise. Still there was something about my schedule being consumed by workout classes in fluorescent-lit rooms that made life feel a little more crammed than it needed to be. I had become fixated on the idea that in order to have a “good” workout, I needed to take a workout class, or spend at least an hour really pushing myself with my own workouts at the gym. Nonetheless, when COVID-19 took the world by storm and caused the doors of the gym to temporarily close, I wasn’t disappointed. For the first time in years, I felt as though I had the freedom to move in the way my body was calling me to move and to make exercise fit into my life rather than have to somehow fit my life into the crammed spaces around my exercise schedule.
I’ve since swapped out my workout regime that consisted of HIIT classes, vinyasa flow yoga classes, and solo weight lifting sessions 6 days out of the week for a slower-paced, more intuitive at-home workout routine which includes a combination of yoga, long nature walks, running, and 20-minute YouTube workouts. I still occasionally go to the gym to lift weights, now that it has reopened, but it is no longer a part of my daily routine. Here are a few of the main reasons why I’m loving my quarantine workout routine enough to stick to it, even though the gym reopened three months ago.
It’s helped me foster an intuitive approach to exercise.
Working out on my own means that I’m no longer answering the calls of a fitness-class instructor. Instead I’m consulting with my body and moving in ways that feel good for me on any given day. Some days, especially at the end of a long workday, my body is begging for something low-key and restorative like yin yoga or a walk along the river trail by my house. Other days I find myself craving the physical release that weight lifting brings or I just want to escape to the sound of music pulsing through my headphones and my feet rhythmically hitting the ground on a quick but sweat-inducing run. When I tune into what it is my body needs and cater my workout around whatever that is, I reemerge from my workout feeling a sense of vitality that simply does not come about from forcing myself into a workout that my body is actively resisting.
I’m spending more time in nature.
The gym temporarily closing down forced me to find another refuge away from the chaos of everyday life. This refuge took on the form of nature. Instead of driving to the gym for a Friday night HIIT class, for instance, these days I find myself driving to a trail enshrouded by trees and rich with the smell of pine. I leave my phone in the car and proceed to walk for about an hour, listening to nothing other than the acoustics of river flowing and singing birds. As I walk, I work through whatever problems have been circling around in my mind throughout the week. When I approach my car, I have usually arrived at a set of sensible solutions to these day-to-day problems. There is something about getting out in nature that gives me a sense of clarity that I often do not find in a gym.
I feel more comfortable in my skin.
When I was going to the gym 6 days a week, there came a point when I realized that, if I wanted to move towards my goals, I needed to get over my insecurities around what I look like to others. The thing is, this can only be taken so far when you are working out in a semi-crowded environment. At-home comfort and in-public comfort are two different things, with a solid line distinguishing the difference between the two. When I go to the gym I am often comparing myself to others and dissecting my appearance to gauge what it is I need to target with my workouts.
On the other hand, working out at home these last few months has given me the space to close my eyes and feel into my workouts without giving a second thought to how I might look. My focus has shifted away from what I should look like and instead onto how I want to feel in my body. I dress however I want and do not give a second thought to what I should do with my hair or worry about raising my arms in warrior 2 on days when I could not be bothered to shave my armpits. Sometimes I will close the blinds and do a yoga flow without wearing anything at all just because I can. If that isn’t feeling comfortable in my skin, I don’t know what is.
It’s important to note that I am not by any means anti-gym. I appreciate 5 a.m. wake up calls, evening lifting sessions and the occasional HIIT class as much as anyone. However, I no longer feel the need to do this everyday. Quarantine has helped me to realize that I can get in a “good” workout without the gym, and I can tune into my body, get in sync with nature and feel more comfortable in my skin in the process.
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Photo: Sonnie Hills via Unsplash