I've always preferred having a separation between my living quarters and my exercise environment — hence why I gladly budgeted for a pool and gym membership as well as boutique workout classes before lockdown began.
Going to the gym or booking a hot yoga class at my local studio gave me something to do, a place to go, and a change of scenery — but what I valued even more was the motivation I received simply from being around others exercising. The woman in the corner absolutely crushing her deadlifts pushed me to do two more reps. The man sprinting on the treadmill next to me influenced me to up my speed when I was just about to quit.
But when gyms closed due to the lockdown, working out at home became my new reality. As someone who had never really worked out at home, I was worried I either wouldn't stick to a routine, or I'd stop halfway through a HIIT workout to lounge on the couch.
I surprised myself, though. I quickly pushed aside my coffee table, downloaded several workout apps, and got to work. And on top of achieving several fitness goals I avoided in the gym (push-ups!), at-home workouts taught me to truly listen to my body — something I'm not quite sure I was actually doing before lockdown.
Yes, the energy of my neighbor in a packed cycling class did, in fact, motivate me to keep pedaling up an intense hill, but there were other times where my competitive side took over for the worse. I'd blatantly ignore the fact that my aching knees needed a break just to keep up. In bootcamp classes, I'd hold a plank that was actually irritating my wrists because I didn't want to drop to my knees in front of others.
While at home, though, I had no choice but to listen to my body. Comparing myself to others wasn't even possible because my workout classes consisted of a virtual instructor and me, myself, and I. At the beginning of lockdown, I really only wanted to do yoga or low-impact Pilates — my mind and my joints needed a break. Instead of pushing myself through a 30-minute HIIT class, I listened to my body and embraced my yoga mat. After a week of gentle flows, I felt ready — both physically and mentally — to tackle high-intensity exercises. I have to believe that I've avoided unnecessary pain and potential injuries by really recognizing my body's cues.
When gyms open back up and I feel comfortable and safe exercising around others, I hope I take these lessons with me — through every set of squats, every swim interval, and every challenging yoga flow. The motivation of my classmates is always appreciated, but I now know that regardless of the class count, my body will tell me exactly what it's able to handle.