A personal trainer gives her recommendations for WFH with sanity - and health - intact.
Social distancing across the country has meant many of us are adjusting to new ways of living, working and socialising within the parameters of our own homes. With so many changes occurring in the world around us and to our own daily routines, it is natural to have a period of transition where the prospect of looking after ourselves mentally, physically and socially can feel challenging. Without the social structures and routines we are used to, it can cause disruption to our productivity, energy, motivation and overall health and wellbeing. In order to combat this, here are some simple but effective tips to not only help you survive but thrive in your new everyday.
- Create your Morning Routine
We all know that if we get out on the right side of the bed, it kicks our day off to a positive start. Sounds simple, but establishing a routine that works for you can really contribute to a sense of control over your day. Waking up at set times each day, taking a shower and getting fully dressed, perhaps walking the dog or doing that yoga stretch session all before you’re ready to ‘start’ your day can have a positive affect on your mindset and productivity levels. Creating habits from the very start of your day will give a sense of purpose and consistency to your schedule.
- Set Daily Achievements
Set yourself small goals for each day, whether for work, personal or health. Habit tracking is a great way to do this so you can pinpoint certain behaviours that apply to you and set yourself up for success by deciding what or how many days you need to achieve them. By approaching our work and life this way we can see how many of our fundamental needs we are meeting, whether that’s drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, or making that step count goal. There are a lot of apps where you are able to easily set and track these habits for yourself, and set yourself up for daily accomplishment.
- Schedule your Work/Life Balance
Follow a plan, and this includes scheduling in downtime, exercise and social calls too. Regular breaks from work are so important to productivity, motivation and energy levels. When you schedule your day knowing when your next break is coming, it is much easier to stay focused on the task at hand.
Separating your work and downtime physically is also important. If you are able to work in a separate room to the room you relax and socialise in, even better. If you are not able to do that, set your environment up so there is a clear distinction between work and play, even if that is the change of direction you are facing, or using a different chair. This distinction will subconsciously trigger your mind to either focus, or relax, allowing you to be your best at both.
- Plan your Meals and Timings (and treats!)
The temptation to visit your fridge a million times a day and snack on those not so nutritious treats has now increased tenfold, which can add up to a lot of unwanted calories each day.
However, you CAN make this work for you.
Like you are now scheduling your hours for working/exercise/downtime, start to schedule your meals and snacks to coincide with your breaks.
If you know what you have in your fridge, then plan what you will have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and your snacks. Even incorporate a little of those naughty treats that you love. When you know for sure when your next break is coming and don’t leave too long in between those regular stops, you will stop the need for constant snacking and binging.
Trying to be too severe with restriction in any diet is a recipe for disaster so incorporate those treats into a part of your day you can look forward to. Compliance is key, and a bit of chocolate that you are allowing yourself to have versus an afternoon of biscuits because of not having a plan, will make all the difference when it comes to calories consumed and overall satisfaction.
- Top Tips for Nutrition
Fuel your body with the best foods you can to keep energy, concentration and focus at a high. Eating processed foods that are high in sugars and saturated fats can have a huge impact on not only health, but energy too, and are usually much denser in calories. Eat wherever possible as unprocessed as you can; fibrous vegetables, protein rich lean meats, eggs or vegan options, complex carbohydrates such as rice, beans, sweet potato. These types of foods will keep you fuller for longer and keep your mind sharp and motivated.
- Move, move, move
Not only is exercise a great way to de-stress and keep your body healthy, it also triggers the release of certain mood regulating hormones; endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. This biochemical process explains why you feel a rush of positive energy post exercise, and can improve focus and concentration.
The amount you move in a day even without a workout can add up to hundreds of calories burned so it’s always a great idea to set yourself a step count goal of around 10,000+ as a baseline per day.
This is also a perfect opportunity to get creative with how you exercise. There are a lot of resources available at the moment for equipment free classes and virtual personal training sessions. Raising your heart rate and using your muscles in a challenging way around 3 times a week will also help maintain lean muscle mass and will contribute to your overall calories burned for the week.
Make sure you plan into your day some time to go for a run, tune into a live Instagram workout by your favourite trainer, follow along to a Pilates online session, or simply just increase the amount or frequency that you move around the house with each break you have. Moving is the key!
- Get Social
We humans are social beings, so don’t let the fact you can’t physically be with them, stop you from reaching out and connecting with friends, in fact, make it a priority. Set up a video chat with a friend, host a virtual quiz night, call your parents or a family member. This is a very important priority if you are isolating solo, as well as if you live with flatmates or family. Setting time aside to have conversations with people outside your environment is a healthy way to clear your mind and talk about new topics.
- Get Outside
If you aren’t showing symptoms and feel well enough then going outside is a great idea to get some fresh air and space. As our work and home environment blend, it is important to step away and take in a change of scenery. Take a walk, go for a run, perhaps cycle in some open spaces, get into nature. Not only will this do you good mentally but will also get you away from your desk to stretch your legs.
- Learn a New Skill
If you are lucky enough that this situation has afforded you some extra time in your day to play with, set yourself a short list of goals you would like to have accomplished by the end of this period. Take up that new language, work your way through some recipes, read those books you haven’t had time for, even take an online course. As Einstein once stated, ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’ and setting goals about something you feel excited about is a great way to add more fulfilment to your day, and utilise your time in something that will add benefit to your life.
- You Time
Being in close quarters with family and loved ones can be great at times and also feel overwhelming at others. Mindfully engaging in a little alone time each day can do the world of good in reducing stress levels, processing thoughts, allowing time for reflection and re-establishing a feeling of control over your behaviours. Whether you can only do 10 minutes each day or whether you are currently isolating alone, make sure you take time for a little self care, be it taking a walk, listening to a podcast, reading a book, taking a bath, or just relaxing in a sunny spot with a cup of coffee each day. You time is the best way to tackle stress and decompress, meaning you can take on the rest of the day feeling in control.
Remember that we are only human, and nailing even one of the above top tips will be an achievement. Start by implementing one thing at a time, see what works for you and set yourself up for success. There are no perfect days, so be kind to yourself, take it one day at a time and remember positivity is the most important tip of all.
Fiona Dobbs is a Personal Trainer at SIX3NINE Covent Garden, a bespoke personal training gym.