Focus on Fitness: Adaptability will help you keep fit during the pandemic

By Gloria Schwartz

So much change has occurred in all sectors of society in recent months. Sometimes it feels like the Twilight Zone, very surreal. It’s easy to neglect one’s health and fitness during the best of times and all the more important to take care of yourself during difficult times. A key to success may be in finding workarounds and accepting that new ways of doing things will be necessary now and in the foreseeable future.

Like so many businesses and services, the cornerstone of personal training for my clients has always been the personal connection. Demonstrating exercises, observing and assessing the clients performing them and providing cues and corrections is more challenging via Zoom and Facetime, but not impossible. It’s just different. Once you get used to do something differently, it becomes the new normal. Everything has pros and cons. By looking at the pros and focusing less on the cons, we can enjoy and find value in the new ways.

The state of emergency may be lifted in Ontario by July 15 if we don’t experience significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases. I’m holding my breath and crossing my fingers and toes, but more importantly, I’m doing something to contribute to the solution rather than the problem: I put on a mask every time I venture into a grocery store and I move away from people. I’m very concerned about the lack of masks both by staff and customers, as well as the overcrowding and lack of physical distance at a couple of the major grocery store chains that I recently shopped at. It’s scary and I just don’t understand why so many people don’t wear masks. One grocery store manager told me he doesn’t like to wear a mask. Neither do I! But I wear one even though it’s uncomfortable and harder to breathe. I do it because I want to protect myself, my loved ones and everyone around me; and because I want to stop the spread of the virus so we can get back to a more enjoyable life sooner rather than later.

What does the future hold for gyms and fitness centres? When Ontario eventually moves into Phase 3 of the reopening of the economy, gyms and fitness centres are supposed to reopen. Just as restaurant and store experiences are different now than before the pandemic, so too shall be exercising at gyms and fitness centres. There will be new guidelines for health and safety with regards to COVID-19. I don’t know exactly what those guidelines will be and how strictly they will be adhered to by staff and members. Before the pandemic, wiping down machines and other gym equipment to prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses was one of several guidelines at such facilities – but there are always people who ignore guidelines and rules, just as there are currently people who refuse to put on a mask in stores.

Some things to expect when we’re able to go back to working out individually, or with a personal trainer, and taking group fitness classes in gyms and fitness centres, will likely include new best practices such as: fewer people permitted at a time to allow for physical distancing; perhaps there’ll be a requirement to book a time for your workout; limited facilities (e.g., one of the large chain health clubs already announced that its showers, saunas, hot tubs and swimming pools will be closed); less time allowed in the building, in other words, get in, do your workout, change your clothing if needed and leave; less equipment available again to allow for more spacing between people; lots of thorough cleaning of equipment by staff; requirement for members to clean equipment after use; hand washing and/or hand sanitizing upon entering the facility; possibly someone at the front door asking health questions before permitting you to enter; and wearing a mask.

It may sound like a lot to take in but again, we can adapt to change. I got a haircut last week and I had my temperature taken at the door, I had to sanitize my hands, I was not allowed to wait in the salon for my appointment, there were far fewer customers allowed at one time and lots of physical space between customers, and there was a protocol for the staff to clean the chairs and equipment after each use. Also, both staff and customers had to wear a mask. And you know what? I was thrilled to get a haircut and I felt safe.

If you have a chronic health condition, or you’re a senior, or you live with vulnerable people, you may not feel safe going anywhere, even if health guidelines are closely followed. I didn’t go anywhere until June and now I proceed with caution and follow all the guidelines. I’m hoping that Dr. Vera Etches does the right thing and makes masks mandatory in grocery stores. Even if she does, there aren’t enough bylaw or health officers to enforce the rules. There will always be those who don’t feel like following the mask and social distancing guidelines, just as there are people who refuse to wear seatbelts and bicycle helmets, and people who text on their cellphones while driving or at a red light.

If you choose not to go back to your gym or fitness centre when they reopen, or if you don’t belong to one, you can find other ways to get and stay fit. We haven’t had those facilities for almost four months. There are people who find ways that work for them, whether it’s outdoor exercise or indoors at home. There are unlimited ways to get regular cardio and strength training to stay fit. There are free and paid-subscription social media offerings such as live or recorded classes or personal training. You can dust off your old exercise DVDs and VHS tapes if that’s easier for you. You can do basic exercises with little or no equipment. Stay motivated and stay active so when life returns to normal – and that will happen – you’ll be in good condition. Our muscles, bones, organs and emotions need attention now more than ever.

Try my “Daily Stretch and Reflect” video and my other free exercise videos at