2 women in yellow and black bikini sitting on beach during daytime
Accountability is key. So is buying super cute workout clothes (although, they do not have to match!) Photo by Boxed Water Is Better

How to keep your COVID fitness routine going – or starting

By Neda Khalili (Certified NASM Trainer) and Lili Kazemi

When will this all end? How will we ever get back to normal…. What is normal?!

I definitely do not have the answers to these questions, however, I do know that taking charge of our health is the one thing we DO have control over. Whether it was out of a motivation for wellness, or even pure boredom, the pandemic gave people the chance to move their bodies in a way that felt right for them and felt that they needed to move to feel less like they were trapped in a closet (which some of us literally were, for that was the only space we could find quiet).

So it was more about movement for survival, and eating for self-care, rather than “I want to lose ten pounds or get ripped”. The fitness industry itself was truly turned up onto its head. Just like the line between our workplace and our home got blurred, so did the line between our home and the gym, and our home and where we ate. In January 2020, no one would have guessed Peleton sales would go through the roof after that unfortunate Christmas 2019 ad:

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This clip examined the parodies but also the arguments from both sides!

Why did some of our fitness routines change for the better?

Two years ago, no one could have ever guessed that Peleton would become mainstream, or that Zoom fitness was even a thing. The exercise bike at the gym was for days when you were hungover or injured. After the pandemic hit, fitness became truly accessible for everyone. Individual fitness trainers, instructors, and educatorsmade their content free and/or very reduced via Zoom and Mind/Body and all of its eager participants. Across the world, people were stoked to try different things that they had only read about and now could join on in from the comfort and embarrassment-free sanctuary of their living rooms or basements. While exercise was less intense than it would be found in a traditional gym setting, it was more frequent and something people looked forward to. For me, I looked forward to my long walks, because that was an escape from the four walls of zoom calls. To me, that is the ‘magic pill’ of movement because it equates to consistency. And consistency, as mundane as it sounds, is key to results.

Why did some of us gain the COVID-15?

Not everyone had the fitness bug – and some of us even backslided. Those of us who thrived on going to the gym, live group classes, or always being on the go, were stuck at home. And that could translate to lots of stress. Which could translate to stress eating. Or simply a lack of motivation. I for one, could not and still will not be convinced a zoom classis just as good. I need someone in the same room, and I need a mirrored studio to watch myself and my classmates.

What has happened since?

Like everything else in life, there is burnout from the routine. We are all REALLY sick of this. Right?

As the lines and boundaries between life, family, home, work, and exercise have all been blurred, it is easy to fall into a routine. Routines are good, but can lead to fitness plateaus, It IS hard to do something challenging when everything else is calling your name in the same exact place and that is why a gym is so helpful and you do experience a boost (subconscious or not) from others around you. Society has opened back up, but in a meek and meager sense with an ever present unpredictability in the air; people have started going back to the office but not necessarily going back to the gym.

So how do you keep the motivation going? First thing – act AS IF it’s already January (you may remember my “act as if” post from my Outlook article.

Whether you have waning or lost motivation – here is how to reignite your why.  

Why you should start and maintain a consistent fitness routine before January 1st

You can find that fresh new fire to keep on moving, or get your motivation back, NOW. You don’t have to wait until January 1st. Just giving up and vowing to wait until New Year’s resolution time so you can enjoy the holidays will cause even more stress. And it’s not wise. Did you know that regular exercise reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes? And as we will see in the companion article, Chinese medicine in the time of Corona, the right diet is critical to get through the holidays and the rise in variants.

Although New Year’s resolutions seem like a great way to set goals, by February around 80 percent of people fail to stick to theirs. It is a setup to fail and become a statistic.

How to find your motivation and be on your way to your fitness goals before 2022

Here are some ways to keep your COVID fitness motivation going -or restart it – NOW, so you have a great runway before the end of this year and can start the 2022 strong.

Set SMART goals

I discussed this in one of my very first blog post, DECISION. SMART is an acronym for sensible, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound goals

The main problem with most fitness resolution is that they are supr vague and lack true actionable goals. Just “lose weight” or “get in shape” is not going to keep you focused. If you do want to lose weight (and it is recommended to pursue after consulting with your doctor), then decide how much weight you want to lose in tne next six weeks. Another element of SMART goals is realism. So given that we are on the precipice of the holiday season, it may not be realistic to set an aggressive goal. Map out on Myfitness pal approximately how many calories a day would enable a gradual weight loss, and use that tracking system to keep you accountable. Even if it’s not precise, it’s enough to instill awareness of all the little munchie transactions that can really sabotage our holiday routine. A canope here, a cookie there, may seem innocuous individually, but the awareness of how a couple of hundred extra calories a day can add up to gaining five pounds in a month will act as a way to make you pause and decide where you will direct your “20” under my 80/20 system. There is definitely space to lose or maintain weight and have a cocktail, dessert or heavy hors d’oeuvre, but having all three is not likley to further your goals.

It starts with the resolutions themselves. Both wishy-washy promises, like “lose some weight” or “write a book,” and over-the-top commitments, like “drop 20 pounds by the start of March” or “become a New York Times best seller,” are bad kinds of New Year’s resolutions. They’re either too vague to be useful or too hard to get done, so they don’t motivate you at all. Instead, resolutions work best when they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Own your motivation

Because the pandemic can’t do that for your anymore. We are, in spite of what may seem like a neverending cycle, moving on.

The biggest reason why people were able get an exercise fire going before (even for people who were never accustomed to working out) was because the focus was an intrinsic motivation. Studies have been found that when people find what moves them on an internally driven level, that they then seek enjoyment and consistency in that activity and those who sought after more extrinsic goals (i.e. six pack abs or being beach-body-ready) were far more likely to hate physical exercise and quit.Throughout lockdown, people were finding their “WHY” front and center! This post is an excellent resource for discovering that why, why, why within you and their enlies your answer.

selective focus of man smiling near building
Even just walking to the office or out doing errands, music can help put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. Photo by bruce mars

Find the music in you

The main reason that we havea hard time following through on our intentions is just that – they are, without action, just intentions. The key to succeeding is action, but most of the time it feels overwhelming. We don’t have to go to the gym for two hours a day and become plant-based overnight.

One thing that really helps me get going in the morning is playing some upbeat music. I call it “dance while no one is watching” music. If you happen to be alone I love blasting it in the room, but if you need to consider neighbors or others in the home I just put on my beats and start bopping around as a start my day. It gives me energy and motivates me to move. Try making that one simple change in the morning, and see how you feel.

Also, there is nothing like a great playlist to motivate you to go to the gym. Start slow, by just waking up in the morning and working on your playlist. Then when you are happy with it, start going to the gym (or working out from home) for just half an hour, or even 20 minutes. Most workout apps sync with your music. Research also shows that listening to music increases productivity. Also, music can make you work out harder, for longer. A study by Karageorghis in the Journal of Sports Exercise Psychology found that motivational music helped exercisers push through fatigue. In an American Council on Exercise article he says that music can increase endurance during a workout up to 15 percent. Here are six other reasons why you should start grooving and moving.

three women kneeling inside building at daytime
The chitchat before and after class can lead to meaningful and fruitful work relationships. Photo by bruce mars

Have an accountability partner! 

The number one reason why people hire a personal trainer in the very place is accountability and without accountability it is hard to keep motivation going. Like I stated before, the hardest reason to keep that fire going is because there is a lack of accountability! In a trusted confidant, trainer, or friend (or even online forum), relay your ‘Why’ to them and ask them to check within you and it is even better if you share a similar goal and you do the same with them. For myself, I have found that once I finish a run, I screenshot my stats from MapMyRun, and send them to my sister, saying that I am home safe and sound. It can be something as small as that or hiring outside help.

There is also another obvious place for finding an accountability partner – the office! Now that many of us are returning to the office after a hiatus from being social, people are eager to bond, and it is a great way to meet new people. For example, I recently started going to an Equiox right by my new office, and taking classes with one of my work colleagues. Before we had a “hi how are you” relationships, now we talk almost every day. We make plans to go to classes after work or during our lunch break, and having that locked in like a lunch or a meeting and on my calendar makes it really easy to keep plans.

There are other options, as well, such as signing up for an online and making the commitment ahead of time, which brings me to my next point….


Now that you have established your why and that friendly push to keep on with it, pencil it in! Research has been found that if you ‘pencil it in’ your calendar, your phone, any ever-present reminder- that you are far more likely to commit to your actual practice. When you schedule a meeting with a colleague (be it virtual or IRL), it is rare that there is a cancellation, and you make every effort to be on time and on it! The same should apply for your workout! In essence, this is a meeting with yourself (and others if it is a virtual class), so get ready to have some fun ahead which brings me to my final tip…


Fun is the most underrated and important ingredient in keeping the exercise fire going. It is imperative that you enjoy what you are doing so that you can keep looking forward to it ahead. Yes, you should be *comfortably* challenging yourself over the course of time but not so much that you feel a sense of cringe when you hear the word “body.” Having fun can consist of playing your tunes on high volume from a speaker (with headphones, take it at your own risk) and really making it like a dance party. There is actual science behind the faster the beat, the more GOT you can GIVE! According to this study, listening to music at 123-131 bpm while running (any exercise can apply)  produces “higher-than-expected levels of endurance, power, productivity, or strength.” It can also do things like having fun with your workout gear which should be comfortable and applicable to your exercise. Why not experiment with wearing fun colors or patterns?! Last year, I got into a high socks kick, even though it seemed almost silly- it was something small to keep me consistent! 

Be optimistic and trust your instincts

Reread the DAOFitLife post on optimism. It is critical to celebrate every victory however small. If you could only manage 20 minutes of walking, even if it is running errands or to work, you moved for the day. Exercise is not punishment. Neither is food. It’s easy to give into temptations to fall back into fad diets and impose all of these self-limiting restrictions. My post on intuitive eating and the 80/20 approach are a reminder that we can make peace with ourselves and our relationship with food by having a balanced approach and eating for both pleasure and nourishment.

Key takeaway

Take things one day at a time, be kind to yourself, and listen to your body. Think of working out as showing up for yourself- it is your time and your time matters the most. 

…And have some fun in the process 😉

Our thanks to all who inspired ideas in this piece. It is truly amazing to know so many people are just as obsessed with fitness!

Additional resources

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