I neglected exercise—and most aspects of self-care for that matter—in first year. I struggled to find a routine that worked for my schedule and the long trek from Wally to the ARC. I felt as if I were too busy and that if I wasn’t with friends, I had to be at the library. As you can predict, I was burnt out and sometimes unhappy. The circumstances ultimately forced me to re-examine my perception of self-care at the end of second semester. When we went into lockdown and my first year at Queen’s unofficially came to an end, I started making exercise a priority. I did this to gain back confidence physically and mentally and to cope with the new life in a pandemic.
The first goal I set for myself was to work out consistently until the end of summer. After achieving that goal, I decided to keep the same plan for this school year. I’m happy to say that months later, I’m still going strong. In fact, with my shift in mindset, I plan to incorporate exercise into my life for as long as I’m physically able and I feel proud of that. Although I’m not the strongest person ever with six-pack abs, exercise has greatly benefited my mental and physical wellbeing, and I value that more than anything.
[bf_image id="v65gtrf8xgn5rkmngwsg78kg"] Consistency was important for me when I began working out and continues to be a focus each week. I’ve never really stuck with working out in the past, and I think this is something many people struggle with. If you’re someone who can go straight from the couch to working out five days a week, all the power to you. However, expecting myself to go from not exercising to working out almost every day (while balancing personal life, work and school) wasn’t realistic or sustainable. Throughout first year, I tried to schedule workouts in my agenda at the beginning of each week to accommodate busier days. But despite having these plans, I would make excuses—each day would end up being too busy, and I never worked out.
So, during quarantine, I chose to work out every other day, three to four times a week. What I liked about this schedule was that it didn’t require effort to plan. There were fewer opportunities to make excuses or deem a day too busy to work out—I simply had to do it. When I actually think about everything that I do in a day, there’s almost always room for exercise. More than that, taking time for myself should be just as important as my schoolwork, if not more. I also knew I needed to show up for myself to do my best in other areas of my life. Eventually, through this routine, working out became a priority in my life, and I wouldn’t feel complete without it.
Consistency is a major component of fitness, but I think it’s equally important to not be hard on myself if I miss a day, a week, or even longer. Since building this habit, if I fall off my routine, I listen to my body without beating myself up over it. I’m also by no means perfect. I’m still the same person who works too hard or too long at school sometimes, not prioritizing myself. However, like everything, it’s a work in progress.
Another factor that made exercise a sustainable practice for me was finding what I enjoyed doing. I ended up getting a free trial with the Peloton app during the first lockdown, and it successfully sucked me in. I don’t have the Peloton bike or treadmill but use the app for cardio and strength training with either dumbbells or my bodyweight. Peloton has a supportive community, which is largely a result of its inspiring, relatable and motivating instructors. I also like the variety and quality of the content. However, it isn’t necessary to pay for an app as there are so many free resources on the internet. I often like to switch up Peloton with other fitness instructors, apps and influencers.
[bf_image id="t597ptkzr6sm7vcpp8x6j"] Here’s some free workout content I recommend checking out:
MadFit: Maddie Lymburner, also known as MadFit, primarily makes workout content on YouTube where she’s created a sense of community with her viewers. She has fun real-time bodyweight workouts (that are easy to do at home) and dance-inspired workouts. Honourable mentions are the One Direction and Folklore themed videos.
Nike Run Club App: This app is useful for tracking, guiding and challenging you on runs. There are options for beginners and advanced runners alike.
Sarah’s Day: Sarah is primarily a health and fitness YouTuber with pilates and strength workouts. Posted on YouTube and Instagram, her videos are effective and fun.
@emilyy_fitness on Instagram: Emily Samuel, a DogPound instructor, provides many engaging strength and cardio circuits to do at home or at the gym.
@zannavandijk on Instagram: Zanna is an excellent account to follow for the community she’s created and the exercise content she posts.
@whitneyysimmons on Instagram: Whitney Simmons’ workouts are perfect for when I don’t want to follow a workout video but still want guidance. Her circuits are a good mix of challenging, fundamental and unique exercises suitable for the at-home work out life.
[bf_image id="fmqcht8f5cxc4pkwbx34x7j"] The importance of exercising to maintain good mental health has become clearer to me since the pandemic. Working out is something I can control and improve on, by myself and for myself. With all the uncertainty life presents, movement is a great way to set aside my stressors. I can let go of self-doubt, anxiety or anything else I might be feeling. Jess Sims (my favourite Peloton instructor and @jsimsfit on Instagram) says that working out is a physical manifestation of your strength. I exercise to remind myself of my strength. It’s a demonstration of resiliency and growth, giving lessons and reminders that can be applied to all areas of life.