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How to Move Now That Gyms Are Closed

April 6, 2020

Among the many changes to all of our lives as we shelter at home is the closure of gyms and boutique fitness places. Whether you never missed a SoulCycle class, banged out Barry’s Bootcamp or got your yoga on on the reg, it’s all on hold. Plus, our daily non-workout movements—commuting, walking around the office, running errands—are curtailed as well.

But we all know that exercise and movement in general are crucial to good health. Physical activity keeps us fit, lifts mood, boosts immunity and more. And in these stressful and uncertain times, it can also give us a sense of control that we’re all lacking, notes Ryan Daniel Beck, owner and creative director of BodyART Training Studios.

“In times of uncertainty it’s really important to identify what’s out of your control and what aspects of life you do have some agency over day to day,” Beck says. “Movement is one of the things that, as long as we’re alive, we do have some agency over. We control our ability to move or not move. Having a daily movement practice reinforces the parts of our life that we still have agency over. Every time that you make the voluntary choice to take this action, to move, you are reinforcing the idea that not everything is out of your control, there are some things that you do have agency over.”

So now that we’re without our gyms, likely with less space, equipment and privacy, yet in need of physical activity more than ever, what can we do? Beck recommends shifting the way we think about both exercise and movement.

“We need to redefine our thinking about working out,” he says. “It’s been just this thing that you have to do because you want to have a nice body. But right now, people’s pleasures are being taken away—you don’t know when you’ll be able to eat in a restaurant again, or go to a movie theater again, or a show. So why not focus on finding the patterns and habits around movement that bring you pleasure, that make you happy, that feel satisfying.”

That doesn’t mean blowing off workouts and hitting the couch. “It doesn’t mean you’re sedentary, but it shouldn’t hurt,” Beck says. “If you find movement that is pleasurable and satisfying, focus on doing those movements well, with a high level of quality, there will be physical benefits you’ll be able to achieve more quickly, rather than trying to force your body into movements that don’t feel good.”

In terms of workouts, Beck recommends following instructors you like, many of whom are teaching online, or subscribe to a streaming serving. Specifically, he recommends Daily Burn. “They’ve been compiling this massive pile of inventory, really high quality, for years,” he says, noting that they offer a wide variety of workouts including barre, pilates, cardio kickboxing, weight training and more. Walking outside is also something to incorporate. “Fresh air is one of the best disinfectants that we know,” he says. “Spending time outside every day, breathing fresh air, in addition to making a choice to move your body—it’s really important.”

No matter what activity you choose, remember that day to day you might need different levels of intensity. Plus, if you’re new to exercise, or are just coming back to it after a long hiatus, start at the beginning. “Depending on your baseline level of fitness, ask yourself, did you do something today that elevated your heart rate and body temperature to the point where you started sweating? You don’t have to be drenched, you just need a little bit of dynamic activation” he says. “If you’re very conditioned, you may need a higher level or longer workout. But for someone who is starting from very little or no exercise, they can start with 5 minutes, get the heart rate up and the sweat going a little,” and work from there.

In terms of non-exercise movement, Beck recommends setting an alarm and getting up to move every hour. “For 3 to 5 minutes, do some gentle mobilizations,” he says. “Instead of going to bed with tight hips, back pain, a pinch in your shoulder, you can go to bed feeling balanced, calm, and ready to allow your body to go into a deep resting state.”

For those gentle mobilizations, Beck recommends movements like shoulder rolls, wrist rolls, tucking your hips forward and back, sitting down and then standing up 10 times, head rolls, neck rolls, rolling all the way down and back up. If you have kids at home, have them get up and move with you.

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