Health, fitness and mental health in quarantine: How to transform yourself in light of a pandemic

Health, fitness and mental health in quarantine: How to transform yourself in light of a pandemic


Text: Janice Sim

The best part of the day starts by slipping into my weathered Nike React Infinity Runs. It was the mandatory step towards fresh air, a glimpse of human contact, and boundless freedom. Add to that, the physical act of running — and really, it was the best form of escapism anyone could have in light of a global outbreak...

It seems hazy now but I recall the three months in lockdown. A routine that I didn't take too long to be resigned to — day to night Zoom calls, the dressy-top-sloppy-bottom get-up, and countless of meals with my family at the dining table. That was a true test of blood ties and the fact that we emerged without a single conflict felt very much like a personal achievement.

2020 undoubtedly had to be the year where everyone experienced a shift one way or another, which is bound to happen whenever there's a loss. People around the world lost their loved ones, their meal tickets, their freedom, their privacy, and at the very favoured end of it — normality. It was a difficult year to navigate around it, some worse than others.

Workout running

And for a very lucky percentage of the population, emerged a silver lining. Some of us found ways around it, when caught in fight or flight mode, and in many ways, we surprised ourselves in the process. While gyms around the city slowly announced their imminent closures, there was a dangerous possibility of being thrown off the fitness regime I've ploughed to establish for myself: Monday-to-Friday classes before daybreak, a good shot at hitting all my activity goals on my Apple Watch, and social workouts that spurred me on to keep my performance going.

Apple Watch

The only thing to break myself out of the funk fell on running — the only lawful way to getting outside without a sordid excuse for more groceries... plus you get to do all that without a face mask. That to me, was a valid reason to keep those legs moving. It was an activity I previously abhored (some of us just aren't born runners) but with enough encouragement from the global situation, I formed a self-imposed routine of running three to four times a week — from trails that went from 2km to increasing the distance to 5km. It then transpired into the great escape, the reward after a whole day of sitting from my newly-minted dining area/office station, and soon enough, I found these sweat sessions inexplicably invigorating. And it is true what they say about running, the more you do it, the better you are at it. You learn how to control your breathing better, understand what foods or what fluids to avoid just before a run, and are more in tune with your form while picking up speed.

To switch things up, home HIIT sessions became my go-to on alternate days. Thanks to the gyms that I previously frequented like boOm and Ground Zero, who worked hard to offer online classes during the lockdown, I kept up with the routine. Another good channel to follow on Youtube? Mr and Mrs Muscle — with a plethora of new and existing sessions, which engages various parts of your body with each upload.

Workout black tihgts

I ended up working out more so than I did pre-pandemic, and all without the extra vocal and social influences from the outside world. Which only made me reliant on my own self more — whether it be physically and mentally. On the diet front, it was unfortunately status quo. But in this case, the sweat sessions became more of a relief than a weight loss strategy from the confined cycle created by the pandemic.

Fortunately, the time in isolation didn't last, Singapore was granted a wee bit of freedom with Phase 1 and Phase 2 subsequently. But every bit of self-preservation for my fitness capacity stuck — there wasn't a break of the cycle even with social engagements slowly underway. I was cautious to keep the euphoric feeling that awashed over me everytime I broke a sweat or my pace record, for that matter. Not to mention, I doubled down on the money I was splurging on classes and the anxiety I had while scouring ClassPass credits. If there's anything the pandemic has given to me, it only reminded me that I was in control of my body, and that a workout (no matter how light or small) can happen even if the odds are against you, as long as you're willing.

On that note, pep talk quota certainly fulfilled this year.

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