Last year, when things felt settled and plans were more reliable (y'know . . . in the Before Times), I talked a lot about fitness and wellness here. And I especially focused on the importance of building our strength and fitness levels as we age. I harped on talked about the benefits of regular movement and strength training. I posted sample workouts and fitness tips and inspirational stories. I even got some of my fitness pals to share their stories and workout strategies!
Now that we're deep into . . . a whole new way of living . . . I thought it might be interesting to check back in with my fitness pals again -- a year (and a lifetime) later. Y'know . . . to see how they're doing, what's changed for them fitness-wise, and to see if they have any tips or words of encouragement for working out during a pandemic.
This week, let’s check in with . . . my sister, Diane.
(Here's a link to last year's fitness post featuring Diane. In case you want to refresh yourself before moving on.)
Kym: Hey, Di. How are you doing, generally, during these pandemic times? What’s happening for you? Are you working at home? Going to the office?
Di: Well. Generally, I’m okay, but . . . I do go off the cliff some of the times. Living in a sparsely populated, mostly rural “red state” is really, really hard right now. Our numbers are going up in an alarming way here in Wyoming, but - meanwhile - our governor is releasing restrictions and loosening the few rules we did have. It’s very frustrating. I have “blue periods” -- you know . . . when I sit in my chair and look out the window and just fling my arm over my head in a slightly catatonic way. It’s hard to feel safe or like there’s anyone on your side. So. I suppose kind of like everyone else right now.
I’m lucky to be able to work from home 95% of the time (since late March). I go into the office a few hours a week, and I’m able to plan my hours there to minimize contact with others in my office.
Kym: What's happening for you fitness-wise? Are you able to work out in the same ways you used to, pre-pandemic? Have you added anything? Modified your routine? Stopped working out altogether?
Di: The pandemic has not altered my workout routine in any way at all. I’m still walking miles and miles each day -- a long early morning walk, and then another (usually shorter) walk mid-day. What has really impacted my ability to keep walking, though, is the weather! We had crazy-heat all summer long, and it was just too hot to be outside for long. And this fall we’ve had smoke from the nearby fires in Wyoming and Colorado. Normally, I don’t let the weather get in the way of my walking workouts, but there have been some very challenging days in the last few months. I’m also still doing yoga regularly -- just at home now. (The studios have remained open here, although I’m not going back yet.) I don’t use any of the online yoga programs or classes -- let’s just say . . . it’s nice to have a daughter who is also a certified yoga instructor.
Kym: So how are you adapting to this crazy weather? (It wasn’t like this when we were kids growing up in Wyoming was it? I don’t remember heat like that!)
Di: Oh, no. It wasn’t like this at all “back in the day.” It’s always been dry in Wyoming, but we never had heat like this before -- and for such prolonged periods. This is new over the last few years. (Climate change is real. It’s here!) I’ve had to make some adjustments to my walking routine -- moving it indoors and substituting here and there. I have a treadmill. I don’t love it, but I use it when the weather is insufferable (too hot, or too cold and windy). I also use some old Leslie Sansone DVDs. They’re corny as hell, but they are effective. (Note from Kym: There is also a Leslie Sansone You Tube channel if you’re interested.) When it comes to the Leslie Sansone workouts, I really like the Power Walk with Weights workout. It’s an effective, whole body workout. Sure. . . Leslie drives me a little nuts, but I can’t do an effective outdoor walking workout when the temperature is over 90 degrees F! (I’d rather layer my clothes in the freezing cold than deal with layers of sunscreen any day!)
Kym: Do you have any advice for others who may be struggling or trying to figure out how to add fitness into their lives?
Di: Well. I think the first thing we all need to remember is that we DESERVE to be fit. Not fit as in being “thin” or “looking great” -- but fit as in being able to move and be healthy and able to live our best lives.
My advice is to make a commitment to yourself. Try to carve out time for even a short walk (or some kind of movement) every day. Any movement is better than no movement! I know that I’m lucky . . . because I live in a low-risk area, and I can just head outside and walk through my neighborhood at any time without concern or worry. So I know this isn’t simple for everyone. But, still. Walking is easy. It’s free. You don’t need any special equipment.
I actually started walking decades ago now -- when my daughter was young and I was desperate to just . . . get out and on my own for a while. It was my “selfish” thing, my walks. I could get out of the house and get in my own head. My walks . . . turned into a habit. And now I can’t imagine NOT doing it.
The hardest step . . . is that first step outside your door. My advice is to just DO IT. Open the door and step outside! Sure, there are lots of days when I’d rather not. But once I step out, I’m All In. And I have never regretted going. Not once.
Kym: What helps you cope with life in the time of pandemic?
Di: First of all, I have come to realize that I was BORN for living during a pandemic. I’m perfectly content and okay with being at home. I have hobbies and interests that I can pursue from my own home. I can work at home. I’m a little (a lot???) fed up with Zoom meetings . . . but my health and fitness activities are completely self-contained and home-based. I do miss getting out and going to shows and concerts and seeing my friends. But, generally, I’m in great shape to weather a pandemic. (Don’t talk to me about my hair, though.)
That said . . . walking every day is vital for my emotional well-being, and especially now. I’m reading a lot (just enjoyed - and highly recommend - Anxious People by Fredrik Backman). I’m staying connected with my family. And . . . I have an adequate supply of wine. (Just sayin.)
Kym: Okay. The cold months are coming. I know people reading this might wonder about your “gear” and advice for walking in the winter. Thoughts?
Di: Oh, I have plenty of advice when it comes to walking in the colder months! It’s so easy to just stay in bed when it’s cold and dark and blowing and snowing. But remember -- you DESERVE to be fit; you DESERVE to take care of yourself. If you have the proper clothes and shoes, you can make walking work for you even in the winter. I walk in just about any weather -- I generally refuse to let weather deter me! But know that I do have my standards. If the roads are unsafe or the wind chill is too brutal, I’ll get on my treadmill or plug in a Leslie Sansone DVD. I may not like it, but I’m not stupid. Here are my tips:
- Plan your routes. Know which sidewalks on your route are shoveled and which streets are plowed. You don’t want to be walking in the middle of the road! Safety is key.
- I recommend layers. Always layers! They keep you warmer (by trapping heat between the layers) AND . . . you can always take something off. That said, I don’t overdo it with the layers either. Be smart. Don’t overdress. Know that you’re going to heat up as you walk. That means . . . head out on the “cold” side. It’s so much better to be cold when you first step out than to find yourself overheated once you reach your walking pace. (Besides, starting out a little cold will encourage you to pick up the pace right from the start!)
- Shoes! Always have good, comfortable shoes. (My new favorite brand is Danner. These are my current everyday walking shoes.) I put a lot of miles in every day, so I tend to buy the best shoes I can. There are many good options out there that are far less pricey. I can't stress enough the importance of good-fitting, comfortable shoes for walking.
- In the winter when it’s snowy/icy, I like Icebug boots and shoes with a built-in traction system. They help so much on slick surfaces and make for safer footing. (Note from Kym: I haven't splurged on a pair of Icebug's yet, but I do slip a pair of Yaktrax on my shoes/boots when it's icy outside. Traction is key!)
- I wear fleece lined leggings (mine are from Lands End), thick wool socks, and my boots on the bottom. Up top, I have a 2-part Columbia jacket (a fleece layer with an outer shell). This jacket zips right up to my chin AND has a hood (which I use regularly). I wear a hat, a cowl when it’s really cold, and gloves/mittens. (Note from Kym: The leggings Di is talking about from Lands End are very reasonably priced, and they come in an extended size range. I just want to mention that I have a couple of pairs -- one from LL Bean that is quite a bit pricier, but with convenient pockets. The other is from Athleta. Again, extended sizing in either style. I wear my fleece leggings all the time in the winter -- for more than just walking outside. My advice: order early in the season. I've found fleece leggings sell out quickly.)
- For rainy days, I have a rain jacket and rain pants (for when it’s really coming down). (We don’t have a lot of soaking rains in Wyoming, but more than we used to.)
- When it's dark, have a light with you. I carry a light with me, but headlamps work well, too. Make sure others can see you -- AND that you can see where you're going. (Note from Kym: Look for reflective strips on outdoor gear, hook little battery-operated flashing lights to your jacket or shoes, consider a reflective safety vest you can tie on over your coat. Anything that makes you visible out there!)
Kym: Anything else you want to say?
Di: Yes. VOTE!
Di's commitment to her workout regimen remains as solid as ever, pandemic or not. While her commitment to daily outdoor walking is a hard-and-fast habit in her life by now (doing this for over 30 years at this point), she's also built up alternative activities for those days when walking outside just can't work -- exercise DVDs and a treadmill. She's also outfitted herself with high-quality workout wear and gear so the weather conditions can't get in her way -- rain or shine or ice or snow. (Well. Mostly. It's hard to walk in extreme heat or blizzards, which is why the alternatives come in.) Removing "barriers" (physical or emotional; real or imagined) to working out makes a big difference in success.
I would also like to echo Di's words that getting out the door is the toughest part of most fitness routines! It takes a lot of inertia to get yourself up and ready and out the door (or onto your mat or tuning into that YouTube channel, etc.). Once we get started, though . . . we're always happy we did it. So . . . take that step! Get out the door! You'll never regret it!
How about YOU? How has your fitness-life changed in the past year? Let me know. Let's keep this fitness conversation rolling!
And . . . if you are a year-round outdoor worker-outer, what advice would you add to Di's when it comes to walking in the winter?