As a “fit pro” (I hate that term, by the way), I’m supposed to be proselytizing the benefits of exercise and strongly encouraging everyone to continue working out at home. Even amidst gym closures, job losses, fear of serious illness, isolation, and uncertainty, I should be selling training.
“Transform your body in 12 weeks with at-home workouts!”
“Avoid the dreaded Quarantine 15!!!”
"Use your time wisely and learn to meal prep!!”
“Don’t give into your human emotions! Don’t eat cookies and ice cream!!”
On the other side of this false dichotomy, I’m proudly a sponsored and self-proclaimed “body positive trainer”. So I’m obliged to tell people that gaining weight or losing their progress with training during isolation and stay at home orders is no big deal. Eat whatever, even if it makes you feel sick. Stay on the couch. Take lots of time for your mental health. Rest. Rest. Rest.
I absolutely abhor the first option we’re given. It’s ignorant, insensitive, fat-phobic, and manipulative. The fitness industry is chock full of manipulative sales people who are trying their best to capitalize on this situation. Some of it is fear-based, I’m sure, as our incomes have been slashed as gyms and studios have been mandated to close and our clients hunker down in their homes. But that doesn’t excuse the manipulative behavior and fat-phobic rhetoric being spewed.
I find my home in the body positivity movement. I have to for my own sake, and for the sake of my beloved clients. Because if I didn’t I would still be miserable trying to be a “typical” trainer; writing meal plans that don’t work, taking people’s measurements, posting “before and after” pictures on social media, focusing on “calorie burn” and contributing to the negativity and disordered fitness industry. That was never what I wanted to be, and finding body positivity has given me a compass and a clearer set of values.
That said, I can’t throw my hands up and surrender in the midst of global chaos. None of us can afford to do that. I can’t, in good conscience, sit by and encourage my clients to “rest” every single solitary day. Yes, our bodies and minds need rest. Yes, we absolutely need to take mental health breaks, and those might last a day or more. Mental health doesn't follow a schedule or calendar. But if you are someone like myself and many of the people I work with, who’s mental health will suffer without physical movement, then I’m not going to say it’s ok to “rest” for weeks at a time. Not because I’m worried about the cookies you ate. Not because I’m worried you might gain weight while working from home. Not because I care about body transformation or counting your macros. But because I care deeply about your mental health, especially at this particular point in time.
Some people can be mentally healthy without intentional movement. Some people cannot. If you are the type of person who needs physical movement in order to be emotionally and mentally healthier, then I’m going to encourage you to MOVE. And yes, some days (lots of days right now) it’s going to be very difficult to get things moving.
Well, if I’m being honest, it’s really fucking hard. and that’s why I set my goal for 3 days a week. because before, I was doing like 6 or 7 days a week. I was in a place where I was working out a LOT and when all of this happened, it knocked me on my ass.
I’m right there with you, I promise. But because I care, I’m going to keep checking in. I’m going to keep encouraging. And I’m going to keep holding you accountable for your own mental, emotional and physiological health.
I will also tell you to listen to your body and your heart. Does your body say you need to hide under the covers today? Then do it! But tomorrow, I’m going to check in again. And I’m going to ask “how are you going to feel if you keep this same routine? Will it help or hinder your emotional well-being?”.
Every person is unique in what makes them feel good, and I will always do my best to discover and respect each person's individuality. If you have confided in me that movement helps your mental health, then I’m going to push you toward movement (with love and compassion). It may not be pumping iron or doing HIIT. It might be stretching in the sun spot in your living room with your cat. It might be a bike ride. It might be walking while listening to your fav podcast. It’s unique to each person. Yes, routine is important. And for some people the routine itself is crucial to their well-being.
I’m definitely working extra-hard for it. Mental health is paramount but I also want to do whatever I reasonably can do to boost my immune system, and I know that exercise is a huge part of that for me. Now that my workload has slowed a bit (temporarily anyway), it’s also nice for me to have a consistent “to do” item that helps me feel like I’m on top of things, aside from the benefits of exercise per se.
Right now what’s most important is that you ask yourself--what will truly make me feel better? Then, give yourself time to hear the answer and be willing to act on that even if it’s something you don’t feel like doing in that moment. We have the answers. We just need to be quiet long enough to hear them.