3 ways you – and Will Smith - can lose those pandemic pounds
Actor Will Smith recently shared an Instagram post wearing only underwear and announced he’s “in the worst shape of my life. . . . but I wanna FEEL better. No more midnight muffins . . . this is it!”
With that, the “Fresh Prince” star let millions know he was teaming up with YouTube to get his health back on track after falling into bad habits during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you, like Smith and most of the rest of us, want to start taking better care of the body that carried you through the pandemic, where can you start?
Julie Drake, executive director of Rehabilitation Services for CCHC, anticipated the moment when lockdown would be over and planned for it by creating her own exercise program. While many of us were hunkered-down, stress-eating an “anything goes” diet, Drake lost 20 pounds! Here’s how Will and you can mimic her success.
Shortly before the COVID pandemic lockdown in early 2020, Drake joined a running club with the goal of entering her first triathlon at age 57 (she’s 56 now). When the pandemic hit, the Barnstable Brewery Run Club stopped because people weren’t allowed to be together for safety’s sake, but Drake didn’t want to stop running.
“I’ve never been a runner, but I needed to find a way to stay in shape,” she said. So, she put together a schedule: running two days a week, swimming two days a week, bike riding two days a week, and taking a yoga class once a week as an active recovery day.
“After seven months on my program, I lost weight, got stronger and improved my endurance. Of course, the event I trained for was postponed because of the pandemic, but I’m feeling great and looking forward to my first triathlon in September,” she said.
3 Keys to Success
“The pandemic has been stressful, and we’re all dealing with that,” Drake said. “It’s hard to say you’re going to take time to take care of yourself.”
Drake relied on structure, socialization and scale to make her exercise program work. Here’s how.
“Because I don’t have much free time, I had to make the program structured enough so I’d follow it,” she said.
A good example is her swimming schedule. According to Drake, one of the good things about swimming during the pandemic is that you had to schedule pool time, you couldn’t just show up.
“Because I scheduled a swim, I was faithful,” she said. “I had to show up because I was reserving a lane, and I wouldn’t want to take that away from someone who could have been using it.”
Having access to a treadmill and exercise bike at home helped her avoid excuses to stay home from a run or ride during bad weather. When the weather was nice, she ran and rode outside. Being outside was part of the fun for her.
Drake built in ways to stick to the structure she constructed, which added accountability to her program and ensured she felt motivated to keep going.
It doesn’t work if the socialization isn’t there, Drake said.
“Having a run club Thursday evening helped me. It’s harder to do it on your own, and people who wore masks and socially distanced to participate in run clubs outdoors during the pandemic found out how much they needed to be around people. Even though no one could go inside the Barnstable Brewery after running, just meeting people outside to run helped because people were socially isolated for so long.”
She suggests taking advantage of Healthy Parks Healthy People Cape Cod, a partnership of Cape Cod National Seashore and Cape Cod Healthcare. Walking or running along the beautiful seashores and trails gets you outdoors and feeling better, naturally.
She also suggests joining a run club.
“Pat Lentell, a longtime advocate for community wellness, is starting several run clubs on the Cape to give others a healthy way to respond and get back to feeling better after the pandemic lockdown,” Drake said. Lentell started the Barnstable Brewery Run Club and is the race director for Cape Cod Healthcare’s 5K/5Mile event in September as well as other events.
“Pat’s programs are always great,” she said. “His message and the one I want to get across is it’s important to have something structured and social, so you’ll be motivated to exercise. If you want to go out and walk ten minutes, that’s fine. If you want to run five miles, that’s fine. Find a program that meets you where you are. Get out with others, exercise, get fresh air and move.”
Starting small and working toward an exercise goal is fine, if that’s where you need to start, Drake said. Be safe, don’t get hurt, just get moving.
As a physical therapist, she recommends getting 150 minutes per week of physical activity.
“Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is great,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you have to be running fast; you can be walking. It depends on your physical condition.”
This free download available on the Cape Cod Healthcare website can help. The “Couch to 5K Guide” that walks you through a nine-week program designed to improve your fitness level from sedentary to participating in the many great road races Cape Cod has to offer, including the September 18, 2021, Healthy People Healthy Parks 5k – the Run/Walk for Heart Health. You can start now and take the first step toward meeting your fitness goal by registering on the website.
Where to ask for help
If you are not sure how to get started in an exercise program, or if you have any musculoskeletal concerns, Drake suggests you talk with your doctor. Consider asking your physician for a physical therapy (PT) consultation. Your doctor can make that referral, and a PT can advise you of a safe way to get started and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise program.
Drake understands that it’s tough to find time to focus on your own health. As an empty-nester now with grown kids who have left home, she said it is easier to find time to exercise.
“Between the physical and emotional stress, I know it’s been really difficult for parents who are concerned about taking care of a family, homeschooling kids and dealing with all the other stresses they have.,” she said. “I’m looking forward to welcoming my first grandchild this fall. At this stage of my life, I want to be healthy and have fun.”
Incorporating structure, socialization and scale can help you stay motivated at any age.