Before the pandemic, Chris McLeod had found her fitness groove.
McLeod, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University, was three years away from fighting breast cancer and was a regular at her local gym. She took spin classes three times a week and worked out weight on most other people.
But after orders at home in March, McLeod’s routine was disrupted.
“I felt bad,” said McLeod. “I realized that I wasn’t feeling well physically and mentally not as sharp as when I was training intensely.”
But within a few weeks, McLeod developed a new exercise routine at home, walking her Durham neighborhood every morning, taking long weekend walks in Eno River State Park or Horton Grove Nature Preserve, and practicing yoga at home.
“I feel like I have a surge in energy on days that I exercise,” said McLeod.
Using a few simple strategies, you too can create your own effective exercise routine at home.
Maximize Your Home Exercise
Monica Meza swapped runs on the Al Buehler Trail for virtual workouts in a makeshift studio in her living room.
From home, Meza takes virtual yoga classes and strength conditioning classes at Wellbeats, an online fitness provider with nearly 400 classes. Duke employees and faculties can access the service through LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program, for $ 5 per month.
“When I switched to work from home, I worried that I would sit down too much,” said Meza, clinical internship coordinator at the School of Nursing. “But I’ve come up with a number of tricks that keep me moving.”
Meza writes down every exercise she does on a calendar in her office, and she and a few friends text each other about workouts they did to hold them accountable. She also works out in her living room so she feels like she is separate from her home office.
Mike Tuggle, wellness program manager for the Duke Health & Fitness Center, said one of the challenges in maintaining a fitness routine at home is adjusting the setting at home as a place to relax. Tuggle recommends exercising in your garage, guest room, or any other area where you don’t work, sleep, or eat.
“We don’t usually think of our home as a place to exercise, which can make it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise,” said Tuggle.
In addition to Wellbeats, members of the Duke community can obtain a digital membership to Duke Recreation & Physical Education for access to live and recorded virtual group training. Free workouts are also available through the Duke Health & Fitness Center.
“It’s magical to find a home workout routine that feels like a personal class,” said Tuggle. “It’s motivating, helps you focus, and moves the stress away.”
Get creative with equipment
Leigh Ann Garstecki, director of fitness and wellness at Duke Recreation & Physical Education, recently led a virtual fitness class for Duke students, instructing attendees to grab something to hold on so they can put weight on lunges, squats and curls.
In a gym, this could mean dumbbells or kettle bells. But students in dormitories took backpacks, water bottles, and even a pair of boots with them.
“That happens all the time,” said Garstecki. “Sometimes we’ll try to put some weight on, so we’ll tell people to just take whatever you have around.”
When the gyms closed, home fitness equipment sales rose 170 percent. While it is helpful to have equipment like dumbbells, kettle bells, and weight benches at home, with a little creativity, regular household items can make a reasonable substitute.
Exercises that can be done with kettle bells – like curls, swings with a core structure, or bent rows – can be done with everyday objects like a water jug, cinder block, or a loaded backpack.
Sturdy chairs or coffee tables can also be used for dips or inclined push-ups that work on the shoulders, back, and chest.
With COVID-19 keeping her away from her gym, McLeod, the Osher director, bought small dumbbells online. She also built in household items like a towel that she grabs while stretching her torso and the dresser that she uses for stabilization during lunges.
“Sometimes you just have to use what you have,” said McLeod.
For Colin Wurster, an IT analyst at the Patient Revenue Management Organization who spends his days at home and is hooked up to a computer can make him feel trapped.
Fortunately, he has a simple solution.
Every day, Wurster makes it a point to go outside and exercise. Whether you are walking the neighborhood streets or cycling the hiking trails, the fresh air and sunshine always lift your spirits.
“Just going outside and seeing other people – socially distant, of course – gets you going a little and reminds you that you’re still in society,” Wurster said.
While running, walking, or cycling are easy ways to get exercise outdoors, Garstecki suggested searching the area for hills or steps that add variety to outdoor sports.
“It can be good to find an outside area with different terrain,” said Garstecki. “Stairs can be very useful. You can do a whole workout right there. “
Garstecki pointed out that going up an incline can exercise your legs and hips, while standing with your feet on different levels can add new wrinkles to simple bodyweight squats.
Wurster still runs near his Durham home in the winter months and makes his day better by spending some time outdoors.
“Just being out there and getting your blood flowing has always been very beneficial,” said Wurster.
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