In the pre-COVID world, if you had seen me running down the street, it would have almost certainly meant that someone was chasing me down with a machete. As an avid dancer, I took my cardiovascular fitness for granted and snubbed every other form of cardio, including running. This all changed in March 2020 when I took to running up and down the East River Esplanade to appease my stressed-out and sleep-deprived brain. Day by day and mile by mile, I became faster and stronger. With an improvement in fitness came an increase in confidence, and with it—the incessant need to keep on moving, no matter what. And then it got cold. Cold weather running is a reprieve for the restless, and, with the right gear, it can be safe and pleasant. However, my biggest challenge was overcoming the activation barrier that keeps you from stepping outside and doing something that is objectively hard while battling the elements. This is where the tradition of New Years’ resolutions came in handy.
Browsing through upcoming challenges on the fitness tracking app Strava one day, I came across a “New Year 90” challenge sponsored by a certain high-end athleisure retailer. All I had to do was workout for ninety minutes a week for the first twenty-one days of 2021, clocking in four and a half hours in total. And although any workout could count toward the goal, I decided to make it all about running. This resolution is not going to carry me through all of 2021, but it will certainly allow me to start the year with the right attitude. As a bonus, completing this challenge on Strava would give me a 30% discount on purchases made with the certain-high-end-retailer, and who doesn’t need another pair of $100 leggings in their life?! While I made the resolution to stop being a baby about the cold weather and run consistently, other members of our community decided to run smart:
Audrey Goldfarb, graduate student and member of the Natural Selections editorial board:
“My resolution is to run less and to avoid overuse injuries, which were a major problem for me in 2019-2020. Broadly, I want to balance out running with other kinds of exercise and listen to my body more when it’s hurting.
So far, that’s meant doing two to three shorter runs during the week and a longer run on the weekends, doing a short yoga/stretching routine when I have time in the morning or evening, and cross training (lifting, climbing, or biking) on the other days. I’m also working on making peace with rest days.”
For those of us who want to stay active but avoid going outside, online spin classes are a great option and one that is easily accessible on a variety of platforms. Our former editor-in-chief and a recent Rockefeller University graduate is partial to Peloton Digital, and app that gives you access to spin classes even if you don’t own a Peloton bike (yet!):
Sarah Martini (Baker), Ph.D., Rockefeller University graduate program alumna:
“I recently made the decision to try to mimic the Peloton experience without the Peloton price tag and got a basic spin bike which I have paired with the Peloton app. My goal is to go on 300 rides throughout the course of 2021. As winter has set in and work-from-home fatigue has dragged on, I have found that having a new fitness goal and a variety of classes to take is helping me to stay excited to work out each day. Plus, following my former colleagues’ fitness journeys through the Peloton app is helping me stay connected and motivated. Feel free to add me on Peloton @skbake!”
In 2020, many more people experienced the excitement of digital spin classes, and a lucky member of our community even got to take home the most coveted e-bike that she happily shares with her family:
Erin Norris, research assistant professor in the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Genetics:
“After sitting around for months in quarantine and literally watching my physical fitness plummet, my husband and I decided to purchase a Peloton. Several of our friends have done the same. Having the bike to ride (in addition to strength, yoga, and meditation classes) has been amazing for multiple reasons. I can already feel myself becoming fitter, my energy and mood are better, and my sleep has improved greatly. Sharing this experience with my husband has helped encourage both of us to exercise every single day, and we communicate with our friends about favorite rides and instructors. My daughters have also joined me in yoga sessions! It’s become a fitness resolution for my whole family, which is very exciting and a lot of fun!”
However, cardiovascular exercise is only a small part of the journey that leads to improved physical and mental health. Equally important are other forms of physical activity, well-balanced diet, and quality sleep. A member of our community who chose to stay anonymous has made the resolution to prioritize restful sleep in an effort to make full recovery from COVID-19:
“My fitness goals this year are quite modest—I spent the majority of last year struggling with symptoms of “long COVID,” and I am hesitant to physically overextend myself and relapse. I’m working on my posture and occasionally taking the stairs or walking around campus when I have the energy. I’m not sure if sleep is a fitness goal, but I’ve prioritized getting enough rest and I can say it’s already having a positive impact.”
Whatever your destination may be, you have no choice but to start from where you are. That New Year’s resolution might be just the first step, but isn’t that where every great journey starts? At Natural Selections, we are happy to cheer you on as you embark on your fitness journey in 2021.