4If it all fell apart during the last year, the first step is self-forgiveness. As we said before, “It’s ok.” You’re ok. There’s nothing wrong with getting out of shape. The problem is staying out of shape, year after year. That’s when the worst negative side effects start to pile up, and will truly make COVID a poor health outcome for you.
But you’re not going to stay out of shape for years. You’re going to work hard in the next three months to rebuild and rejuvenate your mind and body! Here's how you should approach this effort.
Before even thinking about doing hard exercise, you need to get to the root of the problem, which is that you’ve probably been eating and drinking hyper-palatable, calorically dense food and drink. The worst of the worst of these includes:
Your goal in month 1 is to gently reduce these items from your daily routine, so that by the final week of the month you’ve moved towards more sustainable options centered around homemade meals with a good balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates.
At the same time, you should make a simple goal to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day. This just means is that you’re doing something (anything!) that elevates your heart rate for a continuous 30 minutes. It could be a walk around the neighborhood, a bike ride, gardening, or playing around with your kids. The science is clear that this 30 minutes will do wonders for your mind and body, and make you less likely to seek unhelpful food and drinks. It's important that this cardio is a continuous 30 minutes, not 10 minutes here and there. The heart, lungs, and circulation need that extended time to get the exercise they need.
In your second month, try to increase the amount of vegetables you’re eating, and do your best to eat them “clean” without excessive oil, butter, or dressing. This will make you feel fuller and cover your nutritional spectrum more completely. If there are any loose ends hanging around from the worst-of-the-worst, trim them down to almost nothing in this middle month.
As you naturally get fitter thanks to your daily cardio, you should increase your session time to 45 minutes. This essentially gives you an extra 3.5 “days” of 30-minute-a-day cardio in your week! This adds up and will start shifting body fat off your frame. You DO NOT need increase the intensity (for example, go from walking to jogging). Just keep doing what you've been doing, for slightly longer. This will spare you from injury and burnout.
In your final month before getting back out into the world, you can nudge things to the next level by not changing anything about how you’re eating, and simply make your portions 25% smaller. Your body will quickly adapt to this since you’re away from the processed, sugary foods that cause the strongest compulsions to overeat.
In these last 4 weeks scale your cardio back to only 30 minutes, and take the extra 15 minutes you’ve made for yourself to do a basic workout consisting of fundamental exercise movements. This means things like lunges, squats, push-ups, crunches, and planks. If you’re not sure where to start check out this set of basic workouts from our "Clean Up Your Act" challenge, designed for situations like this:
Over 4 weeks, you could do one of these workouts every other day, or run through the entire program twice. Or do your own favorite exercise plan. The key is that it's mild and not a shock to your system!
If you follow this plan, you won’t have six-pack abs and a whole new pant or dress size by the end. But you WILL be fitting into your pre-covid clothes, have tons of energy, and exuding a positive, healthy glow. At your reunions, people will say, “I was kind of worried about you, but it looks like the pandemic wasn’t so bad for you after all!” NICE.
And of course if you'd like more structure for your nutrition and exercise, that's what we love to do at Kenzai, and we're here to help you along that path if you're ready to walk it!
Patrick Reynolds // Kenzai Founder