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All work no play

Staying committed to any fitness routine requires dedication, willpower and a whole lot of stamina. Some might say that living through a global pandemic requires those three things as well, so trying to stay fit as the coronavirus surges through both our communities and our thoughts is like attempting to keep a ship afloat that already has a hole in the bottom.

With gyms closing, reopening and then closing again, I’ve taken to the great outdoors in order to try and stay in shape over the past few months — something incredibly important for not only my physical well-being, but my mental health as well. As the economy struggles and coronavirus restrictions continue to change, the one thing I do have control over is my health. My local park has served as my gym as of late, keeping me safe from COVID-19 and ensuring that if I do catch the virus, I’ve kept my body healthy enough to put up a fair fight. 

When the pandemic first began and my gym closed, I was met with an interesting dilemma. I love to lift weights, but I don’t own any myself. Sure, I had a couple of eight-pound dumbbells lying around, but they don’t really weigh enough to challenge me. After some research, I realized that resistance bands were an affordable option that would give me the workouts I desired. 

Now, the park is my gym. Instead of hopping on the treadmill to warm up before I workout, I jog or walk a couple of laps around the park. Instead of walking over to the weight rack, I pull out one of my resistance bands, loop it around a piece of playground equipment and get to work. I no longer utilize different machines at the gym; now, I take advantage of different features at the park. Benches aren’t for sitting, they’re for weighted step-ups or tricep dips. Rather than endlessly marching on the stair stepper, I walk up and down the staircase on the playground — taking care not to touch anything as I move. 

Sure, the “new normal” felt a little bit weird at first, but now I’m even considering cancelling my gym membership altogether — even after the pandemic — to continue working out underneath the 209 sun. When my gym was able to reopen for a couple of weeks before consequently shutting down again, it was sensibly required that all gym-goers wear masks. I returned to the gym and wore a mask to keep myself and others safe, but it wasn’t easy to catch my breath as I gasped in between heavy squats. 

Working out by yourself at the park is simple if you do the research. There’s an endless catalog of workout ideas on the internet that utilize resistance bands (I purchased mine from Home Gym) or whatever at-home equipment you already have on hand. Sometimes, I spend my night before a morning workout scrolling through Instagram and looking up posts under the “#resistancebandsworkout” tag.

There are countless apps, too, that can help you remain committed to your workout during the pandemic. Since I’m not being charged for my monthly gym membership, I’ve been putting that money toward the Kayla Itsines SWEAT App which provides daily workouts, nutritional advice and motivational goals that have so far kept me on track. For runners, I recommend the Zombies, Run App. As you embark on your daily jog, this app makes sure you keep a good pace by talking you through a “The Walking Dead”-esque mission filled with zombie chases and an interesting storyline.

These days, the park has become my home away from home. I see the same people walking their dog every morning, and when I workout in the afternoon I’ve become accustomed to seeing the same group of boys on the court playing basketball. Down on the grass, I’ve noticed high school athletes coming out by themselves, or with a parent, to complete the drills they normally would be doing alongside their team. 

We’re all doing things a little bit differently these days, but there is still a community to be found even outside the gym when it comes to working out. All of us at the park have one thing in common when we step outside our homes every day: we’re doing the best we can with what we have, and we know one day we’ll be back in the gym. But for now, we’ll make ourselves better as we hope the world recovers.