Creating a Pandemic Exercise Routine

In the two months before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., I had discovered the joys of aquatic physical therapy. Two days before my doctor ordered me to stay at home, my new pool PT class started. I was feeling so good and doing very well with my aquatic exercise!

While I already liked exercising in the water, the aquatic physical therapy had introduced me to new (and more challenging) exercises and the benefits of doing them in warmer (therapy temperature) water. I was stoked to continue in my new class and was able to squeeze in two sessions before the unfortunate news that the pool would have to close.

While closing the pool was the right call for public health and safety, I certainly do miss my regular exercise sessions. I quickly realized that if I hoped to keep any of the strength gains I had made in recent months, I would have to adapt and find some home exercise solutions.

At home exercise routines

On days that I didn’t get into the pool, I had some exercise routines that I already knew. My husband Richard purchased a stepper that I can use while seated in my wheelchair to get my leg workout. I also have some velcro-close weights that I can use. Additionally, over the years I have learned a variety of exercises I can do in my chair or on the bed—from leg lifts to arm stretches.

I’ve been doing exercises at home since my earliest memories. Walking laps around the house to repetitions with weights. But the reason I liked the pool so much had a lot to do with boredom. How do you keep the repetitions interesting, or at the very least palatable?

Keeping at home exercises interesting

Exercise routines are good because we know them and can do them with very little thought. But they can become boring as hell. For example, the way I manage to put in 40 minutes on my leg stepper is to make sure I do it while watching some engaging TV. Put on an episode of the “Great British Baking Show” and the time flies!

Finding familiar exercises with a different twist

To keep things interesting while exercising at home, I’ve found it helpful to expand my horizons. I did some online research and found free, seated yoga videos that I enjoy. While the movements may be familiar, the teacher and their approach have a new and interesting twist. Or I put on some music that I like and can concentrate on while doing my regular exercises.

Live, online classes

Other friends have found live, online classes in yoga or spinning that keeps things interesting while helping them get some exercise.

Splitting exercise time into smaller parts

I also realized that splitting my exercise into two 40-minute blocks in the day helps. I can take a break in the middle of the day to get some movement and exercise, which also refreshes me for the second half of the day. Then in the evening, I get in a second session with stepping or a yoga video. I try to mix up what I do a little bit each day to insert some variety to my exercise.

Exercise as self-care

For my RA, it really helps me to have some exercise every day. Sure, there are days when I just need to rest but, overall, a little workout every day helps me to feel better. At first, I felt bad taking the time, but then I told myself that it is really important for my self-care and overall health.

I will be in really bad shape with my RA once the pandemic is over if I don’t work to keep my strength up. Therefore, I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy and manage my RA through these weeks, so that my return to normalcy will be that much smoother.

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