What a strange year it has been. A once-in-a-century pandemic has uprooted the entire planet, the toll to human life staggering. No one has been unaffected by the events of the past year, including me. Here’s a brief glimpse into the past year, from a recovering fitness professional.
Shortly before the world got turned upside down, I began a new chapter in my life. My fitness business of more than a decade was shelved in favour of a full-time job for a health charity. If you’ve read my fitness memoir, I Can See Your Underwear, or even the excerpt I shared one year ago, you’ll know that I was feeling burnt out from focusing on other people’s fitness goals, at the expense of my own.
That’s what partly precipitated my retirement from being a fitness entrepreneur—I needed to put my goals first. The office job was a way to reclaim my evenings and weekends—punch a clock and contribute when at the office, while focusing on myself during my down time. I even managed to find a job that allowed me to engage in active transportation—the office was a 40-minute walk in each direction, a 19-minute bike ride when the snow finally melted.
And then it happened—seven days in to my new role, everyone who could was instructed to work from home until further notice. [Spoiler alert: one year later, we’re still awaiting details on the return-to-the-office plans. Thankfully, none of us have been holding our breath.] Overnight, my commute became much shorter—eight steps from the kitchen to my desk, eighteen steps from there to the bathroom. The line between home and work blurred for many, myself included. I spent many more hours in a seated position, and it didn’t take long for my body to protest.
You’ve heard of the Freshman 15? Well, I acquired the COVID 19. All that extra sitting began wreaking havoc on my now-larger frame. Another lockdown during the worst of the winter months meant that, in addition to being more sedentary that I ever have, I was also less physically active. That’s when the pain started. It began with foot pain in my left foot, then in my right foot, followed by low back pain and excruciating hip pain.
Some targeted physiotherapy treatments helped, as well as a gentle reminder from my physio to do daily stretches. I began with a few minutes of stretching when things started acting up. The stretching helped and I was thankful I could draw on my fitness background for my own needs.
And yet, my problems with pain persisted, even worsened. Until, that is, I went back to my roots. You see, it was a love of the very popular PBS fitness show Classical Stretch that opened me up to a career in fitness. I first discovered Classical Stretch on a snowy winter’s day in late 2001. I practiced it on and off throughout the decade, always feeling better after the 22-minute full-body rebalancing it provided. I jumped into the fray, beginning instructor training in early 2010.
One thing that happens when you’re a group fitness instructor is that every workout you do is focused on your clients’ needs. But now, back to doing my own workouts in my living room—often in my pjs—I could focus once again on my own needs. And boy, did I need a full-body rebalancing!
After a decade as a teacher, I was experiencing a renaissance as a student. And practicing what I often preached: the best exercise for you is the one you enjoy. Because if you like it, you’re more likely to do it. So I’m back to tried-and-true 22-minute workouts in the comfort of my own home. And my body thanks me every day.
What’s the lesson here? When it comes to exercise, physical activity, and just plain movement, find what you love and keep going. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
*To be clear: the weight gain was due to my constant close contact with the kitchen. I have been eating more than I needed to, from a caloric perspective. My weight gain was food-based, not due to a lack of exercise.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.