A large number of people are working from home during the current COVID-19 lockdown. On the plus side, this means you don’t have to face a lengthy commute to get to the office, and you can stay in your pyjamas all day if you want to. You may even get to pick and choose your working hours too.
Unfortunately, that lack of structure can have an impact on other aspects of your life. You may find yourself going to bed and getting up later than normal, working late into the night, skipping meals, and working during the weekends too. After all, what else have you got to do?
One of the first casualties of such a flexible schedule will probably be your workouts, closely followed by your healthy diet. Lack of structure will chip away at your willpower and self-discipline. That's not a problem for a few days or a week, but lockdown could last months, and that will have a big impact on your health – both mental and physical.
Use these strategies to help keep your exercise program and diet on track despite working from home.
1. Set up a home office
If you are forced to work from home, make sure you set up a home office. Not only will this make you more productive, but it also means you can "leave work" when your working day is over.
Being able to shut off your computer or, at least, leave it in another room, draws a line under your day and means you are more likely to do things that are not connected to your job. Make sure you can only access your work email and dashboards on the computer in your office. That way, you won't be tempted to take a quick look when you should be relaxing or exercising.
2. Establish office hours
Just because you can work whenever you want, doesn’t mean you should. While work IS a welcome distraction from being stuck at home on lockdown, there are plenty of other things you could be doing with your time.
Choose your office hours, and, apart from emergencies, do your best to stick to them. For example, commit to being at your desk by 8am and quitting by 6pm, making time for a leisurely lunch break and a couple of coffee/OxyShred breaks too. Once you’ve got your workday scheduled, you can then factor in exercise.
3. Schedule your workouts & keep moving!
With your workday more regimented, you should find it easier to fit a workout into your day. You've got plenty of choices here as it's mainly up to you when you work, but good workout timing options include:
- Before you start work
- Before lunch
- Before dinner
- Before going to bed
Try to be physically active seven days a week. Working from home is a mostly sedentary affair, so you need to break up your day with physical activity to avoid the dangers (and weight gain!) of sedentarism.
With that in mind, commit to exercising 3-4 times a week and walking on the days you don't work out. Walk for 45-60 minutes at a brisk pace while observing the social distancing regulations that are in place for where you live.
Aside from workouts, make sure you are getting up at least every hour and moving around for a few minutes. Sitting sedentary for long periods of time is the worst thing you can do!
4. Plan your workouts in advance
Once you know when you are going to exercise, your next step is to decide on what type of workout you are going to do. Ideally, your workout should match your fitness goals but, if that’s not possible, do something that will have at least a small knock-on effect to your main training objectives.
- Bodyweight training
- High-intensity interval training
- Go walking, running, or cycling
- Follow a workout App or YouTube video
- Resistance band training
Plan your workouts for the coming week so that, when you knock off from work to train, you know exactly what you are going to do.
5. Eat at set times
Unless you are fasting, you should eat at about the same time every day. This will prevent hunger, and that means you are less likely to find yourself starving for food and then chowing down on whatever unhealthy snacks you can find in your kitchen cupboards.
Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at roughly the same time each day and also plan what you are going to eat in advance.
You don’t need to create a whole weekly menu plan, but you should have a good idea of what you’re going to eat for the next 2-3 days. Needless to say, whatever you eat should be as healthy as possible, but still something you look forward to eating.
6. Go to bed at the same time each night
The later you stay up, the more likely you are to sleep in the following morning. While you can probably make up any work you have missed, that late start could have a knock-on effect to your plans of exercising and eating healthily.
Resist the temptation to return to your desk and check your emails so you won’t get sucked back into work when you should be heading off to bed. Remember your office hours and stick to them.
Also, don’t forget that the show you are watching on Netflix will still be there tomorrow, so you won’t miss anything if you hit pause and go to bed instead.
7. Go easy on the booze
The COVID-19 lockdown situation is undeniably stressful, and being on lockdown can trigger boredom too. This combination means that a lot of people are turning to booze for solace and out of boredom. Unfortunately, booze has nothing more than a short-term effect. It could even derail your plans to exercise and eat healthily.
It's also a depressant, which means you may end up feeling worse than you did before you started drinking.
Do your best to lay off the booze, and if you do drink, do so in moderation. If you are so bored that the only thing you can think to do is have a beer, you really should find more constructive ways to pass the time. Monitor your alcohol intake over the coming weeks, and if you notice you are drinking more than usual, buy less at the store so you can't overindulge so easily.
8. Take time off at weekends
If you work from home, it’s very easy to treat each day the same. After all, you can’t go out at weekends any more, and socialising is off the calendar for the foreseeable future. However, you should avoid falling into a Groundhog Day situation where every day is the same. Instead, make sure you still honor your weekends and take some time off from work.
Yes, you could work seven days a week, just to stay busy, but it'll be better if you don't. By all means, put in a half-day on Saturday or Sunday morning but do your best to stay away from your computer the rest of the time. That way, when Monday rolls around again, you'll feel like you've had a break and are less likely to fall into the trap of skipping workouts or eating unhealthily. Successful remote workers know the importance of separating their home lives from work.
Remember, you can step away from your computer to eat healthily, work out, and get enough sleep without causing too many waves at the office. The current lockdown could last a lot longer than most people expect, and that means we need to create new routines to make it as manageable as possible. Use this information to help you balance your work, home, and exercise commitments.