Photo by Vlad Baranov on Unsplash

Some people have adapted well to the COVID-19 changes and have forged new fitness routines with corresponding success on their diet as well. Many people I know, however, have slipped on their discipline when it comes to both diet and exercise, in light of all the swirling uncertainty.

It’s time to face the music: you need to adapt to the new normal, and get a grip on your diet, exercise, and wellness in this new temporary world. With no clear end in sight, it’s time to make a new plan to succeed with your health, now.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

1. Move. Exercise must drive the engine. With thousands of free, easily accessible fitness plans now more available ever, there’s simply no excuse anymore for lack of movement. There is especially no excuse if you have basic equipment at home, and/or outdoor access for hiking, running, cycling, etc. My philosophy as a trainer is “exercise hard, diet moderate” for long term results. The more you exercise, the less strict you have to be on your diet, that’s a fact. Get moving to feel better and to enjoy more freedom with your food.

2. Use common sense. We might be in this scenario for a while. This is not an excuse to go off the deep end with daily drinking binges and dessert for breakfast seven days a week. It’s time to get back to normal with routine limits on indulgences. Remember, we have to connect food choices to outcomes: meaning, eating crap food and drinking too much, for too many days of the week, makes you feel bad; so, to avoid feeling bad, make different choices most of the time. Allow for the occasional deviation, but keep everything in moderation to feel, perform, and look your best.

Photo by Ola Mishchenko on Unsplash

3. Awareness is everything. Track food and make a plan to avoid mindless eating. One of the best ways to fail with food is to not have a plan. If you know what you’re doing, sit down and plan out variables like calories, macro’s, supplements, hydration, food quality, and meal timings. Of course, though, nutrition is complicated, and so if you feel overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional to help manage your program to suit your goals.

4. Take advantage of meal delivery options. Meal delivery services eliminate many of the pitfalls people fall into with food: the meals have fixed calories and macros, typically are of cleaner quality, and they take guesswork and cravings out of the equation. Many services are affordable and include a number of options to suit tastes, goals, and food allergies. By reducing the chance for impulse and temptations, meal delivery services ensure that you stay on track with your goals.

5. Don’t buy it if it’s not on your program. Most people will agree that if tasty treats are in the pantry, they will eventually get eaten. That being said, one of the best ways to curb cravings is to simply not buy the treats in the first place. Grocery shop with a plan, not on an empty stomach, and keep your goals in mind as you’re placing items in your cart.

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6. Use time-tested strategies to check cravings: drinking caffeine, drinking water, chewing gum, consuming straight up protein. Thirst cues are often mistaken as hunger cues. When you find your appetite running out of control, try hydrating first — have a big glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and then check back in with yourself. Another way to combat snacking when bored is to drink caffeine, a proven appetite suppressant. And don’t forget about chewing gum as a distraction to misplaced hunger. Finally, how about a protein shake? The protein is least likely to be stored as fat and is going to leave you feeling full for a while. Keep a high quality protein powder on hand for situations where you need to bridge the gap between meals.

The key to navigating all of COVID-19’s changes is to find a new routine, a new normal. The truth is, we might not be back to fully normal for many months to come. Make a plan, and some backup plans, use your resources, and play your food smart to not only survive COVID but to thrive during it.

Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein

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Gilles Toucas

Michael Feinstein will commemorate Judy Garland’s life on March 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

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I think it’s fair to say we all want that #fitlife, especially with Spring around the corner — as well as Gaypril on the way. Whether it’s pool season yet or not, everyone would choose to look fit over not looking fit, if they could have it with a snap of their fingers. OK, the vast majority of us would.

If you’ve met me, or have been reading my articles, you know that I live, sleep, eat and breathe fitness; it’s my heart and soul. That being said, I’m here to tell you that the concept of “fitness” is oftentimes tragically misunderstood.

Before you get too aggressive with your goal for pool season, let’s dive a bit deeper into what fitness means on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside, and common misconceptions around this concept.

1. Beware of the cultural pitfalls and misleading information around fitness.

Most of the bodies you see in the media are probably not real, they just look very convincing. As a trainer who also moonlights as a photographer and Photoshop wizard, I’m telling you that it is incredibly easy to alter pictures in materially misleading ways. Once you know the tricks of the trade, the imposters are easily spotted. But that’s not what this is about.

The point is: to the untrained eye, it can be devastatingly defeating to see such impossible standards. It seems as though the cultural pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect, has spread all the way from runway models to fitness novices with the help of smartphone apps.

The truth is that we fitness models look that cut, and that lean for only a couple days at a time. That’s it! In many cases, months or even close to a year of training, dieting and programming all go into looking like that for ONE day. Let that sink in for a second. Day to day, I am less cut, less tan and much flatter muscularly than what you see in some of my pictures. That’s just the nature of the beast. So, when you have a bad day on the scale, in the mirror or in any other scenario, remember that we’re all human and that the most legitimate photos you’re comparing yourself against were from someone’s very best day. That should help to keep things in perspective.

2. Most people want the results, without actually doing the work.

Fitness is not six pack abs, it’s not superficial, it is not temporary and it’s not an isolated phase in your life. Further, fitness is not something you do for someone else, do to spite someone else or even to impress someone else.

Fitness is confidence, toughness, dedication, coordination, power, balance, speed, strength (both literally and figuratively) and persistence in the face of all obstacles. This includes control over your attitude, your mood, your sleep, your schedule, your diet and other aspects of your life. This means getting that workout in when you least feel like it.

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a grind that has good and bad days. You must show up and keep working on the days you’re tired, stressed, rushed, defeated, doubtful, afraid and so on. The days you actually have to overcome something instead of just checking your workout off your to-do list are the days you have the greatest opportunity to really make progress, push your body and see the most improvement.

3. Fitness is really an internal mindset. The external physique is the fringe benefit.

I’ve said this time and time again, and it might sound strange coming from such an aesthetic-focused trainer, but you are not your body. Your body is a tool, it’s a means to an end, to express your internal mindset, belief system, discipline and dedication to your workout program. Your physique will come and go. Your strength will come and go. Your abilities will wax and wane depending on what you’re training for at the time.

The outside will, and should, be always changing, but the inside is what we’re really after here. Good trainers want to train you to believe in yourself when sh*t gets hard. We want to train you to be resilient in the face of injury, obstacles and other setbacks. We want you to set ambitious goals and shoot for the moon because you can get there with smart programming and relentless will (do yourself a favor and ditch the crash diets and the photo editing software).

So, as you make your spring preparations for swimsuit season, try focusing on developing a sterling, unshakeable internal character and the muscles will come along the way, this I promise you.

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