The Movement Control Order (MCO) has greatly changed both our routines and the way we live our daily lives, and many new challenges have arisen from its introduction. One of these challenges is the maintenance of our health and fitness, as every gym in Kuala Lumpur has closed and we are no longer allowed to exercise outdoors, or have face-to-face sessions with our personal trainers. Food choices are also currently limited, meaning we must find new ways to ensure we keep a healthy and balanced diet. Below are my best tips on how to overcome the challenges that have arisen with this new routine.
Stay focused and don’t get too comfortable
The saying goes that ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. In the current situation, I’d rather say ‘if it’s not broken, make damn sure it won’t break’. Both preserving your health and minimising your chances of getting ill are top priorities during the current coronavirus epidemic. Even a simple case of diarrhoea can weaken the immune system and make it more vulnerable against the virus, so staying alert and paying extra attention to hygiene is therefore essential.
During the first few days of lockdown the fear of being infected was a new feeling for many of us, and so most took care to be particularly cautious. It also made us more aware of our personal safety, and we focused much more on maintaining hygiene, practicing social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves.
As time passes without any problem however, some of us may feel more relaxed, which can leave us feeling comfortable enough to lose focus of the real danger that is out there. Some of the signs of loosening these rules might be as simple as going out more frequently to buy groceries, or even just popping out to buy snacks to accompany a Netflix binge. But keep it in mind that every time you leave your home, you’re at risk, so stay focused, plan your trips ahead and only leave home if it’s absolutely necessary.
Plan your workout ahead, execute it and adjust if necessary
Routine is something very important for many of us, and as our daily routines have changed dramatically, it may be difficult for some to immediately adjust. The current lockdown perhaps has some positive benefits, such as no longer needing to sit in the infamous traffic jams while commuting to work between Mont Kiara and Kuala Lumpur Sentral, or the fact that we now must prepare our food at home, an often healthier alternative to eating out. However, there are still many factors that make the task of working from home much more difficult than our usual routine. Many people are still under pressure with their usual work expectations, while at the same time supervising their young children at home and doing household duties. These responsibilities can quickly build up, often becoming overwhelming and stressful.
Planning ahead and scheduling your ‘to do’ list can help you to overcome these difficulties. For example, if you know that around lunch time you don’t have any phone calls or other engagements, you could schedule a short workout before eating. It doesn’t need to be something big, even just a light 10 minute workout can help you tick the box, or can be a great place to get started if you’re ready for more.
The most important thing to remember is to actually do something to start yourself on the path. A little something is always better than a whole lot of nothing! Do not allow exercise to slip away from your list of daily tasks, no matter what. Make it one of your top priorities, something that cannot be skipped, like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Even now, you can stop reading this article, do 10 squats, and count it towards your daily exercise! Furthermore, don’t be afraid to experiment with, and change where necessary, your daily habits to make them work for you. It may take effort and lots of trial and error, but don’t give up, you’ll get there in the end! If you still need extra help with putting together an exercise routine that fits your schedule, just reach out to any personal trainer offering an online service.
Think forward when you’re doing the grocery shopping
Though the ‘panic buying period’ is (thankfully) mostly over, for safety reasons it’s still better to do one big shopping trip to allow you to then stay at home for as long as possible. However, doing so means that getting fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables is less of an option, as they don’t last as long as cupboard staples or frozen foods. There are a couple of things you can do to work around this problem:
Buy frozen fruit and vegetables. Although nothing beats fresh when it comes to taste and texture, when it comes to nutrition there’s not actually a big difference. Buying frozen also means you don’t need to use everything up immediately – a bag of frozen veg, for example, can be used in fried rice dishes, pasta sauces or on their own as a side dish, while also making great soups that can themselves be batch cooked and frozen.
Stock up with nutrient dense, non-perishable food such as lentils, legumes or beans. These are all packed with nutritional value and can be used in a number of ways when cooking. They are commonly used in curries, salads, soups and many other versatile recipe ideas. They are also packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium, and provide a fair amount of protein, a nutrient essential in the making of a healthy diet.
Freeze your meat in smaller portions. You can freeze individual chicken breasts, for example, rather than the whole tray. That means you won’t have to defrost the entire tray when you just want to make a dish for one or two people, and it makes it much easier to keep an eye on your meat stocks in the freezer.
Use eggs as a protein substitute. Eggs can last for a long time in the fridge especially, and are also packed with plenty of rich nutrients and vitamins. You can eat them with a great variety of dishes. They also contain vitamins A, D, B2 and B12, along with selenium that contributes to a well-functioning immune system.
Order fresh food online. Though there may be a long waiting list, there is unfortunately no news about lifting the MCO anytime soon, and so sooner or later you will eventually receive your delivery. So far, we’ve used Agrofresh Online, and we’ve been very happy with their service. They delivered fresh vegetables and charged a very fair price.
Maybe now it’s time for supplements. Although I’ve always been a bigger fan of getting my vitamins and minerals from fresh food, during the lockdown period I think it’s completely fine to use supplements, as our access to fresh food is much more limited. Taking vitamin or protein supplements is a temporary solution that can be implemented until we all return to our normal routines.
Don’t stock up with snacks! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people do; they buy sweets and snacks for weeks ahead, then finish them within days of buying them. If you don’t have it at home, you won’t eat it. It’s as simple as that!
Portion out your meals ahead
Cooking all that delicious food at home is great, but you still need to control how much you consume to avoid overeating. Use containers to portion out each meal, and only warm up as much as you need. If you cooked too much, it’s useful to freeze the leftovers for a later date. Portion control is vitally important when it comes to either losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, and I always remind my clients who come to me for personal training of this. Especially now that we are moving much less due to the lockdown, we need to pay extra attention to how much and what we eat, adjusting it if necessary.
Deal with stress effectively
Stress can have a direct effect on our physical health, and therefore it’s very important to address it. Doing regular exercise is scientifically proven to reduce stress, but there are other things that can help as well. One such solution is meditation, which can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. If you’ve never done it before and don’t know where to begin, I’d recommend going on YouTube and searching ‘meditation for beginners’. You’ll find plenty of short and guided mediations that can help you to get started. Try a couple and stick with the one that you like the most for a while.
Although it may sound strange at first, for many boredom can also be a huge trigger for anxiety. I have many single friends stuck at home in Kuala Lumpur, and they often feel lonely and anxious staying alone at home all the time, particularly for this extended period. My friend who is a personal trainer in Mont Kiara, however, is a great example of how to get the most out of this situation. She made a plan to complete some online courses while in isolation, and also spends a lot of her time improving her skills that she believes she needs to improve. I recommend wholeheartedly that you take her advice, and take advantage of this period to become a better or more skilled person, so that when the MCO is lifted we can start off perhaps even better than before it started!