Before lockdown, I’d hit the gym at 6am most days and often double-up with an evening session. This strength and cardio regimen was tough. But I relished it, and translated my passion into my work as a fitness instructor.
Now, shut out of the gym for more than 100 days, that pre-lockdown fitness addict seems like a stranger. These last few months, I’ve forced myself to keep exercising in my living room — but only because I know I’ll be in an even deeper rut if I don’t. These workouts are as quick and low-effort as possible, and there’s rarely any joy to them.
As we emerged from lengthy lockdowns last year, I explored how to ease back into fitness physically (in short: take it slow to avoid injuring yourself). This year, my struggle is returning to fitness mentally. Lockdown’s snuffed out my love of exercise. How do I get it back?
Accept and acknowledge
For advice I turned to Dr Clive Jones, a veteran sports psychologist who’s worked with many pro athletes, including some who travelled to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics. Jones says it’s expected to feel demotivated when you’ve been forced to stop exercising or training — be it by lockdown, or injury or illness. “That powerlessness… can have a person just sort of give up on it,” he tells me.
A step to conquering demotivation is “accepting and acknowledging” circumstances out of your control. We didn’t choose this exercise hiatus, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for emerging from lockdown with lower strength and fitness. “Be kind to yourself and say, ‘It’s OK to start off easy’,” Jones advises.
Change movement, change mood
As much as I’m kind of dreading a return to fitness (especially a return to those early starts), I suspect that the act of just pushing myself back into an exercise routine will reignite my old spark.
Jones agrees that “persevering until [fitness] locks back into being a habit again” will help to break sedentary lockdown habits… like extended Netflix binges. “Sitting on the couch for long periods of time, biologically the body goes into a depressed state — the dopamine eases, the serotonin backs off, and we’re in this constant deactivated state,” he explains.