So you’ve resolved to focus on fitness this year? Join the club.
The commitment to exercise more is common among folks who like transitioning from one year to the next. The problem is it sometimes can be one of those “easier said than done” kind of things, especially when you set lofty goals, and especially after the onslaught of 2020. But, like swinging a baseball bat, you’ve got to follow through, and there are many ways to do so.
Setting reasonable and realistic health resolutions that sustain your commitment to improving how you feel day-to-day is one way. Going ham in a virtual class is another. Just remember to do what’s comfortable for you. Treat your body, yourself, and others with the respect and encouragement we all need in 2021.
Set Reasonable Health Resolutions
“Resolution” is a word that comes with its own baggage. What it literally means is to firmly decide to do or not to do something, but that doesn’t encompass the fact that “doing things” or “not doing things” comes with hangers-on: setbacks, “cheat days.” Don't fall into a self-defeating cycle. We all have different goals and different ways of getting there. It's OK to stumble a bit.
The “resolutions” below are mine and may be followed to a T or ignored completely. Maybe you’ll find yourself somewhere in between, taking what might work for you and leaving things you’d feel better without.
Participate in Dry January (with someone)
I grew up Catholic, so I equate the so-called “Dry January” with Lent, when, for 40 days in Spring, members of our family “give up” something. You know, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or cussing. So while Dry January is typically associated with alcohol, I try to associate it with other things as well, like giving up certain foods or monetary spending habits. Last year I gave up coffee.
This year, I'll participate in Dry January as it is typically “celebrated,” by abstaining from drinking alcohol. In 2020, Oregon saw record sales at liquor stores, and I’ll admit to my fair share of libations. Many 2020 nights felt a lot easier with a glass of pinot ... or something stronger. I, too, am aware of the proclivity for indulging in Grandpa’s Old Cough Medicine that runs through our family tree. It is helpful to remind myself that I am not simply my genetics, that I have some autonomy and can build healthy habits. Participating in some form of Dry January is my way of doing that, and it helps me to have support, some one with whom to brace the challenge. It could be anyone. For you, maybe choose your partner. Maybe your parents. Maybe an old friend to whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Whoever it is, set a goal and do it together.
Cut back on screen time
I am fully aware of the irony of giving this advice while typing into a screen, while another screen shows me Tweet Deck, while another screen (my phone) is letting me know that someone liked our Instagram post. As PoMo's digital editor, my job is to look at screens all day, but I’m hoping to set stricter boundaries on when and how long I look at screens during the day. Artificial light from our screens produce a blue light that has been shown to boost our reaction time and mood. It’s a relationship similar to one we’ve developed with our sun. Cool, right? Well, the downside is most of us are staring at our little pocket suns for around 10 hours a day, so these blue lights have also been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and cause eyestrain.
When your job is over, close your laptop. When you’re having dinner, leave the phone elsewhere. Ditch the nightly doom scrolling for a book. I’ve been reading short stories by Octavia Butler.
Be mindful about snacking
It’s not uncommon for me to spend one day eating right, going for runs, and putting in quick exercises, and then the next day eating a whole bag of Hot Cheetos to myself—maybe with a little squeeze of lime, oh yeah. I am but a man. While a bag of chips isn’t bad every now again, I am hoping to seek out snacks that make me feel good and fill me up. Blueberries and almonds, or low-fat yogurt and non-sugary granola, for instance.
This is also means rethinking the liquids I’m putting into my body. I’m already abstaining from alcohol, as I mentioned. I'd like to drink more tea and less coffee. I’d also like to start consuming more nutrient-rich juices to help get the vitamins and greens my body need. And I think I’ll start at Drink Mamey.
Play outside more
For me, exercise is at its best when it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it. There’s nothing less motivating than having to do more work. In 2020, I bought a basketball and started shooting around at a local playground. Before I'd know it, a couple of hours would go by and I’d be sweating through my T-shirt. It doesn’t have to be basketball—maybe try tennis or biking—but the point is to make the work out less about “working out” and more about playing around, something that is thought to be childish but is crucial for mental health at all ages. It’s OK to get competitive with it, too, just, you know, don’t be rude.
Until the status of the coronavirus is such that it’s mostly safe to play pickup games with others, I’ll stick to my basketball routine, and play when I can (when it’s warm enough) outside.
Understand your limitations (and work with them)
I watch this guy on YouTube. His name is BullyJuice. He seems super nice, and he doesn’t fill in the workout with “Yeah, let’s get it, baby!” or “C’mon, I want to see you sweat!” which, for me, is about as encouraging as when a photographer says “Say ‘cheese’!” BullyJuice just gives you a silent thumbs up and moves on with the workout. Perfect. But the thing is, BullyJuice, as you might imagine, is jacked. He’s like that alien at the beginning of Prometheus, and wayyy smarter than the scientists later in the movie. He's very good and often does workouts that I cannot physically do—at least not yet. I usually replace those sets with something similar that I can do.
To that end, like us, our bodies are imperfect, and they require maintenance and care. I'm hoping to focus on the importance of preparation and recovery, and emphasize everyday things like stretching, self-massaging, and taking care of my skin. Understanding your body and its limitations is crucial to developing good exercising habits that won’t hurt you along the way (although some pain is OK).
Get Moving at a Virtual Gym
OK, so feel-goody resolutions aren't your thing. You want real results. You want to sweat, feel the burn, and maybe cry a little. That’s cool. Try out some of these local gyms and fitness studios that are offering virtual classes to jump start your 2021 fitness resolutions.
No bike? No problem. The studio’s high-energy instructors lead virtual 45-minute workouts, cycling and noncycling alike, and donate a portion of their funds to communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Serving PDX yogis since 2008, this low-cost, community-oriented studio provides virtual classes around the clock. Nama-stay at home.
In the COVID era, this family-friendly gym has moved to the information superhighway. With a virtual membership, enjoy online classes to support strength, cardio, and flexibility. Full classes are uploaded to Me Fitness’ on-demand library, so work out at your convenience.
Studio X’s no-frills, boot camp-style group classes send participants through muscle-scorching workouts that make you feel the burn—yes, even in the comfort of your own home. You will sweat, a lot, but instructors provide precise demos and will interject (kindly) to correct your form.
From ballet to Pilates, conditioning to mindfulness, Barre 3 has it all. Less than $30/month gets you unlimited access to hundreds of online workouts you can do anywhere.
Emma Middlebrook owns Rep Movement—the “body positive, phobia-free, antiracist, queer AF” anti-gym. In her virtual fitness classes, you’ll receive modifications and encouragement as you sweat through each circuit. All fitness levels welcome.
Not fitness per se, but a boost to your mental and spiritual wellbeing is equally as important. Along with Intro to Buddhism classes, Buddhism in Film classes, and Dharma Talks, Henjyoji Shingon also offers monthly Qigong sessions.
Tempo Cycling & Pilates Studio offers virtual classes that are personalized and focused. With 20+ years of experience, Kirk and Jenny Whiteman use high-intensity interval training and a flowing style to help clients develop strength, technique, and confidence on the bike or mat.
At Revocycle’s 50-minute spin class, don’t expect dance parties, flashing lights, or pounding speakers. Instead, instructors encourage good form and introspection as students pedal along on fancy freewheel bikes. Plus, enjoy $7 off your first online class.
The clubs may be closed, but this dance studio’s online classes cut loose. Learn Zumba, salsa, belly dancing, and more from VMAC’s top-notch choreographers, in real time on Zoom.