It’s been just about three months since we’ve been social distancing at home. It was an initial shock to the system. Familiar routines were no longer; many took up new hobbies — baking was huge and deciphering the finer points of virtual office-meeting etiquette was a must. Although the virus still persists, sheltering-in-place measures have begun to ease, which means it’s time to ease into a neo-workout routine.
The world has forever changed and we are now living a new normal. Now that we’ve been given the all clear to be outside (with safe practices, of course!), it’s time to take a giant breath in, exhale all that pent-up tension from the lockdown, and embrace our newfound freedom. But, before you go all in on your exercise routine, if your workouts have been less than stellar while under quarantine, it’s best to ease into an exercise program with these five essential moves, which promote flexibility and strength. Going from zero to 100, quickly, can lead to painful strains, injuries, and otherwise be discouraging when you can’t keep up with yourself!
We’re outlining some of the best ways to ease back into your workout routine, and that includes using a jump rope and tackling Achilles and hamstring stretches, a plank, and lunge.
JUMP ROPE- It’s a brilliant way to warm up joints and muscles, while also revving up cardio. Keep your core tall, never slouch. Ease into the jump rope warm-up with a skip/walk (when one foot walks with a slight hop over the rope and the other foot follows through). This move is easy on the joints and allows for a low-intensity warm-up.
For medium intensity, try the double-feet hop. You control the intensity with the speed at which you turn the rope and how high you jump. This skip is more intense, so keep your ankles engaged, always ready to strike the ground with efficient and dynamic ease. To get the heart working and the body warm, go for 5 x 50 hops, taking 30 seconds to 1 minute rest in-between sets. Throw on any Lizzo tune to get you up and jumping!
ACHILLES STRETCH- Before you head back out on a run or hit the court for a sorely-missed round of tennis, warm up those achilles tendons! Find a wall, put your heel to the ground, ball of your foot on the wall, bend the knee, and ease the knee forward into the stretch. Hold the stretch when you feel a tolerable amount of tension in your calf and achilles. Do this for 5 x 10 second holds, alternating feet. You should feel a little less tension and more give each time you bend into the stretch.
Tip: To finish up the stretch, make clockwise and counterclockwise circles with each foot.
HAMSTRING HANGOUT- If you have been fortunate enough to work from home during the pandemic, no doubt you’ve spent many hours a day these past few months seated in front of a screen. Even if you are disciplined enough to get up and move at least a few times an hour, your body (particularly your back and neck) is likely a bit stiff at the end of the day. Well, this hamstring stretch will help release the tension build-up. This can be your go-to move for the end of your work day! The name of the game here isloose! Exhale slowly as you tuck your chin close to your chest and roll forward, arms hanging limp, knees loose and slightly bent. When you go as far as you can, just hang there for 10 seconds and feel free to gently pulse up and down, as long as you don’t feel any additional tension. After ten seconds, slowly inhale and unfurl to an upright position. Pause, take another deep breath in, slowly exhale, and do it all again.
Tip: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart for balance and stability. Try this most ethereal stretch 5-10 times.
PLANK- A good old-fashioned (love it or hate it) work-those-abdominal-muscles forward plank. You don’t need a fancy gym or a large space to get that burn going. You just need a bit of gumption to get on a mat! Create a beautiful straight line with your back, right through your neck, with your jaw relaxed, weight on your elbows and forearms, and abs nice and tall — hold that for 45 seconds to 1 minute. That’s all! Start with 3-5 sets, taking 2-3 minute rests between sets. I know, I know, not many people say, yeah, planking! It’s challenging, but with challenge we grow stronger. A strong core improves posture, balance, and reduces certain back pain. So, if you’ve just finished a marathon streaming session, devouring an entire season of your favorite comedy series, slide on down to the floor and get your plank on!
Tip: Try planking with bare feet — it makes for better footing and greater stability than sneakers.
LUNGE- The lunge is a fantastic exercise which targets all the major muscle groups of the leg — quads, hamstrings, glute,s and calf muscles are all engaged and thoroughly challenged with just your body weight. Muscle strength can be increased, while not taxing the ligaments, executing this exercise. Keep your back straight and focus on isolating the leg muscles. Place one leg on a bench or couch, making sure the base will not move under your weight. Keep the ball of your foot flexed for stability. Take a small step forward with the foot on the floor, keep your hands at your sides (or you can place them on your hips) and slowly lower your leg. Bend to a 45-degree angle and engage your glutes to raise up.
Tip: Use a 10”- 12” high base to make the exercise more challenging. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each leg, with 2 minutes max rest between sets.
You can try any one of the above exercises to break up the day, infuseing a little extracurricular movement to relieve stiff muscles. On the other hand, you can take on all 5 components and get a sweet, easy-to-medium workout, which may be executed 2-3 times a week for a month, as you get your outdoor groove back. This program is kind to the body, yet still results-driven.
IT STARTS WITH THE BRAIN
We asked Naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose about some nutritional tips that help promote brain health. First, what are some great mood-boosting foods that she recommends, and why?
Fermented foods; anything that is fermented: kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yogurt-organic sources, whenever possible. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can do fermented coconut milk. The reason being is that these foods contain live bacteria and the bacteria that live in your gut have a very close relationship to your brain and how your brain functions. These bacteria produce vitamins, such as B and K. They help to break down your foods so that you get the optimum amount of nutrients released, so you can enhance the neurotransmitters that your brain needs to feel good (those feel-good hormones, such as serotonin). Serotonin is very important for mood boosting. It’s the basis for many anti-depressant drugs out there and 90% of the serotonin that’s in your body is made in the gut. So, that’s why gut health is of optimal importance.
Another food that you might want to incorporate into your diet is chocolate (yum!). Doesn’t that sound good?
I love recommending this to patients! They usually say, “I can eat chocolate?”
Yes, you can, but you shouldn’t have too much milk chocolate (that’s the only caveat), because of the sugar and milk solids, which are not so great for you as a regular part of your diet. Dark chocolate, however, contains certain chemicals, like theobromine, which is great for you because it also helps with boosting those brain chemicals like serotonin. So, a square of dark chocolate per day is all you really need to get that brain boost.
After three months of sheltering in place, give yourself as much time as you need to get back to your workout routine. The world has been through a lot, so be good to yourself and your neighbor.
This piece was contributed exclusively to Ellie by three-time Olympian, Journalist, and National Coaching Certification Program sprint and hurdle coach Rosey Edeh. She is a six-time Canadian 400m hurdles champion and record holder. A news anchor and TV personality, as seen on CNN, MSNBC, and Global News (Canada), Rosey has founded her own award-winning production company, Micha Muse Media, inc. She is working on a project involving women in sports. Instagram:@roseyedeh Twitter:@roseyedeh