This is how you restart your fitness regime if you've fallen off the wagon during the pandemic

How a 30-minute walk every day can usher in a slow but sure change.

We are well into the sixth month of a pandemic-induced lockdown. Sure, our cities are opening up, and people are slowly getting back to work but the sense of normalcy that we were used to before COVID-19 struck hasn’t returned, and will likely never return. The gyms are closed, and that membership you bought in January is all but gone to waste.

Chances are you, like so many of us, had started on your fitness journey in earnest this year but fell off the wagon as soon as the lockdown hit. Now, you’re staring at the calendar that’s about to turn to October and are wondering where all the time went by. Typically, you would’ve hired a fitness trainer, ignored the hole it was burning in your pocket, and started off all over again. Except, your apartment complex is probably not allowing outsiders to enter the premises and you are not motivated enough to jumpstart your fitness routine. So there you are, trying out that pair of jeans that was just beginning to fit in March but refuses to go up your thighs now. Trust us, we know the pain. How then, does one begin?

According to Eddie Teel, an American fitness trainer who’s settled in Mumbai, it is a good thing you haven’t restarted your HIIT with your trainer. “It’s never good to start big after such a long hiatus,” he says. “It will hurt your muscles, your bones and, generally, it isn’t advisable.” When Teel takes on new clients, he does a pre-interview during which he assesses whether they’ve done any kind of workout in the past and if they have any injuries. If they have a poor history of exercising, Teel gets them started on the most basic of all workouts: walking.

“Some of my clients lead sedentary lifestyles, some haven’t even gone to the gym their entire life. I start off by simply walking alongside these people,” he says.

While this sounds like an overtly simplistic way to get started on a weight-loss routine, it is also the most effective. Teel adds: “People underestimate walking. But when they start off, they realise just how difficult it is, sometimes, to just complete 1 km! They get cramps in the stomach, their legs hurt and some of them can barely walk for an hour! On several clients’ first day, we simply have to stop after walking for 20-30 minutes.”

With such clients, Teel insists on literally taking them for a walk. For a month or two, he refuses to put them on any machine or get them to do any weights. All he makes them do is walk. “It’s only after they are able to walk for an hour without any discomfort that I get them started with light exercises,” he says. “When you’re able to walk without any discomfort for an hour, it is a sign that your muscles are ready for the next level. It also helps build your lung capacity so you’re not suddenly gasping for air in the middle of a dumbell workout.”

And that’s what you should do now if you’ve fallen off the wagon, according to Teel. “It is a good way to restart your fitness regime after a long hiatus.” This way you also don’t shock your muscles into something they’re not yet prepared for. Additionally, 30 minutes is a reasonable time to spare in the middle of a pandemic-struck WFH day.

The advantages of walking have been well documented for years now. Walking for as little as 30 minutes can help you lose up to 150 calories. It also helps improve blood circulation strengthens your bones and muscles. Walking also helps make your joints supple. All of this helps you reduce injuries when you graduate to doing weights, calisthenics, kickboxing or any other strenuous workout.

More importantly, walking mindfully, helps you centre yourself and focus on your breathing. This, in turn, makes you more aware of yourself and calms you down. It helps you learn the importance of patience and consistency so you’re not swayed by unreal headlines like ‘lose 10 kg in 1 month’.

“It’s important to remember that consistency is key to doing anything. The more consistent you are, the better it will be for you and your body,” Teel says. “If you’ve led a sedentary life, you won’t be able to lose weight immediately. You have to prepare your body for advanced exercises. And the only way to do it is strap on your shoes and head out for a walk.”