Keeping a healthy routine during COVID19

It’s been four months since COVID-19 started for me. I’ve been working from home, which means far less exercise than usual, especially with gyms closed in the city. Thankfully, I have a system that helps me to keep somewhat active, and today I want to share it with you.

Nothing I’m going to tell you here is going to be groundbreaking. I’m pretty sure I picked up bits and pieces of ideas I’ve heard in various places and glued them together to something that makes sense to me. Still, or perhaps because of that, it’s pretty effective without being too obnoxious.

The Elements

At some point in my life, I started basing what I consider to be healthy or wholesome living with the “elements”. Those are Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, and Meditation. I believe that if I practice these four disciplines I can remain mostly healthy: mentally and physically.

For sleep, my goal is 6.5 hours a night. I often sleep less (my average is about 5.5 hours) so I try to make it up with a nap (20 minutes or so) when possible, usually in the afternoons. This doesn’t always work, but when I take one of these power-naps I’m usually able to be healthy afterward.

“Exercise” is an umbrella term for several exercise routines I picked up with the years. The idea, especially during COVID, is to keep things simple. I try to jog around a nearby playground at least once a week (goal is twice), will keeping push-ups, crunches, squats, dips, etc. at home in periods of 10-15 minutes. I try to include stretches and/or yoga poses as well. This sounds like a lot, but I just do a few of these each time. Keeping up a routine is the single most important thing here.

As for food, I keep things as simple as possible. If a food item has ingredients I don’t understand or can’t pronounce, I try to stay away from it. Everything today has preservative, stabilizers, acids, and of course, sugar (it’s crazy how there’s sugar in almost everything!) but I try my best. For example, I choose fresh vegetables where possible over anything frozen, processed, etc. I work in a large medical facility, which makes eating healthier somewhat easier. Water is my main drink of choice, seconded only by coffee and tea.

The most elusive element in the list is meditation. I often struggle to remember to slow down and just breathe. I have a very specific breath technique involving counting which helps. I’m pushing to keep a routine of 5 minutes a day.

My Scoring System

The scoring system is what makes everything move during COVID-19. It’s what keeps me motivated and allows me to improve. Here is how it works:

Every morning I get up, the first thing I do is to make fresh coffee. Then, as its brewing, I go to my journal and write about yesterday’s elements. I reflect on what was done and give myself a score. For example, if I do my push-ups, I get 1 point. If I eat home-made salad, that’s also a 1. But if I decided to party and have pizza with beer that day, I’d give myself a -1. Some things give more points: running is challenging (especially in this heat) so it’s worth 3 points, while each set of push-ups is half a point. The system is dynamic and I change it according to what I need to work on. For example, if going to bed at the right time has been working out for a couple of weeks, it’s time to move on and get points for, say, taking these power-naps I mentioned above.

Right now, an OK day is 3 points, a good day is 4, an excellent is 5. I try to not go too crazy because too much means the next day or the day after that I will not have the motivation to do much. Aiming at the same rate of 3 or 4 points every day is the main goal for now as a healthy routine.

The Fitbit advantage

My Fitbit Ionic has never been more useful to me. When I went to the gym before COVID, I’d let it detect exercises automatically and never bothered with it too much. Now though, where an opportunity for an exercise means skipping the elevator and taking the stairs, it’s really helpful to see when I was active and for how long.

The Ionic is also pretty good at detecting when I fall asleep and for how long. I find that it’s accurate within 5-10 minutes. It’s useful if you’re like me and you need to be dynamic but still have a routine.

The only point is to get better

When I started picking up on running again I was way behind what I used to be able to do in the past. I couldn’t even finish a single mile, I was constantly out of breath, and I was very discouraged. The scoring system helps, but only if you use it to reinforce the main goal: to get better.

If all you can do is 10 push-ups, then start there. Any good coach on earth would tell you the same. 10 push-ups a day this week means 12 push-ups next week. Whatever you do, is better than doing nothing. That little you do will slowly build up and develop your routine.

It’s just as hard to go from 10 push-ups to 50 as it is from 200 to 500. That’s because it’s all relative to what you can do. If I score my results honestly, I see I’m making progress.