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    For Me, Exercise Is Super Therapeutic; Here's How I've Kept It Up Over The Past Year

    It wasn’t always easy, but I’ve found ways to make it work.

    Hey! I'm Mary. And before quarantine came along last year, I went to my local gym five days a week.

    I know a lot of people dread going to the gym, but for me, exercise is therapeutic. I can block out all the chaos of everyday life and focus on movement and breathing. Before COVID-19, my days usually started like this: I woke up, checked work emails, and headed out to the gym, dropping my two little kids off at the gym's kids club while I got a morning workout in.

    After going to the same gym for over five years, I also had a solid group of gym friends who always pushed me through the harder stages of life. Some of them knew just about every detail of my life after we worked out side by side over the years. When the stars aligned, we would make it to the gym at the same time for a Dream Team workout.

    But then quarantine hit and it really threw me off track with my gym and fitness routine. Unless you’re Rebel Wilson, 2020 wasn’t exactly the year of health. Gyms were closed, alcohol sales went up, and the food delivery business was booming.

    The author with a Dunkin Donuts home delivery in the early days of quarantine.
    Mary Hogwood / Via Buzzfeed

    And for those first few weeks? I baked, I drank, I napped, I watched Netflix. But inevitably, gym withdrawal set in.

    After COVID-19 shut down all the gyms in my area, I turned to running outside and working out in my basement. My equipment choices were slim, but I was the proud owner of this super-durable jump rope ($10; Amazon) and 3-, 5-, and 10-pound weights.

    I alternated between a few different at-home workout routines for those first few months. Here are some of my favorites:

    1. For dance cardio, Anna Kaiser’s "Happy Hour" workout DVD.

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com

    This DVD ($14.95; Amazon) has gotten me through many a rainy day when I couldn’t take my workout outside. Am I a dancer? No. Do I look like a lunatic jumping around my basement doing her “PARTY” move? Yep. Have I accidentally kicked my children while lost in the glorious movement of dance? YEP.

    If you’re not a dinosaur with a DVD player like me, you can sign up for AKT GO and stream Anna's workouts on demand. For a free version, catch a Facebook Live workout, or try the three-minute dance cardio video above.

    2. For effective full-body workouts, Jeanette Jenkins, aka the Hollywood Trainer's boot camp.

    3. For versatile workouts that also explain the science behind them, Kira Stokes' Fit App.

    After many months of solo workouts, I was slowly going a little bonkers. So I met up with my Dream Team for a (socially distanced!) parking lot workout, followed by a beer and gossip sesh.

    The author working out with four of her gym friends in shirts that say "Dream Team"
    Mary Hogwood / Via Buzzfeed

    These girls would become my lifeline during quarantine, keeping me dedicated and breathing new life into recreating and maintaining a fitness routine.

    After several Dream Team parking lot workouts over summer, I realized I missed training with a professional. Plus the concrete was doing a number on my joints. 😬

    I had been following a local boutique gym called Burn Boot Camp on social media for a few months and was impressed with their COVID-19 safety measures, so I decided to try it out.

    The author in a mask at her local gym
    Mary Hogwood / Via Buzzfeed

    Among the measures they take that made me comfortable enough to enter a gym again: an online registration system to reduce the size of camps, strict cleaning and mask protocols, and socially distant workout squares to ensure enough space between everyone.

    Their strength and HIIT camps are quick and effective, and their community is supportive and fun. Plus, I was impressed with some of their personal transformation stories. Bonus: They offer Zoom and Facebook Live workouts, which have kept me on track during COVID-19 times.

    (And let me just say: I know returning to a local gym isn't an option for everyone right now. But I still wanted to share my full experience, in hopes that some of it is helpful!)

    I’ll leave you with a few things I’ve learned from trainers and workout buddies along the way. I circle back to these whenever I need a mental pep talk during These Times:

    1. Dedication and motivation aren't the same thing.

    NBC

    There’s a difference, particularly now during the COVID-19 era. I’m not always motivated to wake up while its still dark and freezing to drive to the gym or even worse, head into my meager makeshift home “gym” in the basement, but I am dedicated to it. Why is that you ask? I want to be like RBG; but I wasn’t the best student, so I will crush her gym routine as an 80-year-old.

    2. Consistency and planning are key — but nobody's perfect. (So you shouldn't expect to be!)

    Billboard

    My current gym has this saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Look at your schedule every week and figure out which days to exercise and how to juggle your schedule to fit it in. Then plan healthy meals and “treat” meals. It’s not about being perfect ALL the time. It’s about being perfect more often than you’re not. Don’t beat yourself up and quit when you get off track. Move on and get back after it.

    3. When it comes to your health, it's important to celebrate the victories that aren't weight-related.

    A scene from "Schitt's Creek" that says, "Alexis has been working on herself"
    FX

    There is so much more to fitness than what number you are seeing on the scale. Focus on the good stuff that happens every day, week, and month: more reps, heavier weights, clothes fitting better, energy, endorphins, mental stamina. Whatever it is, take the WIN!

    4. Be realistic and take smaller steps if you need to.

    A gym scene from "Gilmore Girls" in which Loralei says, "I was just gonna say that. More cucumber water?"
    The WB

    Overcomplicating things doesn’t usually end well in life, and exercise is no exception. Ease into changes one at a time and make them a habit before introducing a new element. For example, that might be: Get your exercise schedule down. Then set and focus on hitting a water intake goal. Then think about nutrition.

    5. Be grateful for what you have and for what you're able to do.

    Red Table Talk

    At the end of the day, remember that movement is a gift. Shifting your mindset on exercise to something you GET to do rather than something you HAVE to do is a game changer. It’s not about being the best in the room (or these days on the Zoom); it’s about being thankful for the ability to challenge yourself. Because it’s not just physical. It’s mental, too. And we need our mental strength now more than ever before!

    How have you modified your fitness routine during lockdown or balanced it with everything else going on? Share your experience in the comments below! 💪