A global pandemic that shuts down work, school, and all social life is SUPPOSED to mess you up. There’s no shame in having slipped a bit despite your best intentions. The good news is that in 3 months you can make up lost ground and go out to meet your friends and family looking like COVID barely laid a finger on you.
If you’re in the middle range, chances are you’ve been eating ok most of the time with a few slip-ups during the week where you eat or drink too much of the “worst-of-the-worst” foods. These are foods with few redeemable qualities, the worst being:
• Processed foods (packaged snacks, chips, candy, frozen meals, and most of the things in the center aisles of the grocery store).
• Caloric drinks (soda, juice, fancy coffee drinks, and alcohol).
• High-sugar foods (cakes, cookies, pastries, etc...).
Your mission in month 1 is to focus on eating better while gently reducing processed food, caloric drinks, and high-sugar items from your weekly routine. You don't need to do this all at once. Just start eliminating the worst offenders little by little. By the end of the month you should be eating fairly well.
At the same time you're cleaning up your food, start getting 30 minutes of daily cardio in. There’s no need to go hard at first, especially if you’ve been missing your daily exercise. Take your time to get back into it. Walking is perfectly fine. There's no need to choose an intense cardio right out of the gate, you'll only create conditions for injury and burnout.
Finally, spend 15 minutes a day doing basic strength training that reminds your muscles of their intended purpose.
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:
The goal in month 1 isn’t to shock your system, but to regain confidence that yes, you CAN make good decisions for your food and exercise, and YES, despite a tough year you’re still in the driver’s seat of your choices.
After a month of getting back on your feet, you’ll naturally feel that you're ready to handle more. For your nutrition, this means reducing your portion size, especially with carbohydrate sources like bread, pasta, and rice, while keeping vegetable content high. There’s no need to overdo it on protein. A palm sized portion is plenty for activity at this level. Far too many people hamper their fat loss efforts by overeating meat in an effort to "get enough protein."
It’s also time to gently boost your cardio to the moderate range. You want to feel not just that your heart rate is elevated, but that you’re slightly out of breath. As you raise the intensity, it’s ok if your total cardio time is reduced from 30 to 15-20 minutes.
This second month is also a good time to increase the resistance of your strength training, either by adding bands, weights, or beginning a more formal exercise program designed to increase in difficulty over time. Be sure you don’t jump right into these harder exercises, giving yourself a full four weeks of basic strength will reduce chance of burnout and injury!
In the final month before your reunions start happening, a simple trick is to make sure that at least one meal a day is without carbs (bread, pasta, or rice). Vegetables are fine (including “carby” vegetables like potatoes). This has nothing to do with ketosis or paleo or any fad diet, it’s just a surefire way to trim calories without having to overthink things. Vegetables should still dominate your plate. If you’re getting hungry between meals reach for some fruit.
For cardio, you should be feeling energized enough to raise the intensity slightly, spending more time in the “almost out of breath” zone as you walk, run, cycle, swim, or whatever activity you’ve chosen for the day. The 20 to 30 minute time frame is still enough. You don’t need to spend hours doing cardio if your diet is under control!
On the strength training side, you can freely increase the difficulty level of your exercise so that you’re getting strong, solid workouts at least 3 times a week. This will give you a final coat of muscle tone which will show the world that even though COVID gave you a lickin’, you kept on tickin’!
If you follow these steps, you’ll find that you can quickly make up for those lost months during the fog of the pandemic, and step back into the world feeling fit, focused, and ready to get back to an active life. Your friends and family will be inspired and grateful that you held it together through a brutal year. You don’t have to tell them you only got things together for the last three months! It's our secret.
And of course, if you'd like some more structured guidance through this process, get in touch with us at Kenzai. It's not only what we love to do, it's what we do best!
Good luck as you work through your final few months of COVID life. Brighter days are ahead!
Patrick Reynolds // Kenzai Founder