As a U-M student, Stephanie Mansour, ’07, started a weekly aerobics show called “The Big House Beat,” which WOLV TV named best show of the year in 2005. Today, she hosts “Step It Up with Steph” on American Public Television and works with individual clients to reach their weight loss and fitness goals. Michigan Alumnus asked her for tips on how to stay fit during the pandemic, advice she is also currently sharing on the “Today” show as a fitness correspondent.
Get rid of the “all or nothing” mentality.
Some people think the only way to succeed at working out is to work out every day for an hour. If they can’t manage that, they think there is no point in trying. With so much time now at home, this is a good period to work on your fitness level, but start slowly. Try working out for 30 minutes two or three times a week, and gradually add a day. Right now, so many streaming services and apps are offering free workouts, so it is a good time to test different classes. Try Zumba one day, a strength/cardio class another, resistance and stretching, or one of my recorded workouts.
Work out with whatever you have.
Don’t worry if you don’t have equipment at home. Use soup cans, a gallon of milk, the laundry detergent, or even wine bottles as dumbbells. Use a towel or paper plates on the floor to do Pilates, or a broom or mop to help with balance during a workout. Use the couch for squats or, as I recommended on the “Today” show recently, set up an obstacle course in your house and do side jumps over spice jars and run in place by jumping forward and backward over a box of pasta.
While working, watch your posture.
I tend to sit in a folding chair while I am working from home because it forces me to use my muscles to stay comfortable since the chair is not naturally comfortable. Relax your shoulders and then pretend you are squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades to get your posture correct. At the same time, pull in your abdominals as if you are about to be punched. To mimic a standing desk, work from a high kitchen counter, or stack some books under your computer to get it to the right level for you to work standing. If you are working lying down on the couch, put a pillow under your knees, and make sure your back and arms are propped up a bit to avoid carpal tunnel. Finally, move your workspace around your home. Enjoy the freedom of not being chained to an office desk.
Enjoy a mental and physical break outside.
If you are currently walking while practicing social distancing, you can make it into a workout with interval walking. Walk fast for one block, then slower on the next. Change directions each day to switch it up. One day take a right outside your home, the next day turn left. Play your favorite music to give yourself a personal pump up while breathing the fresh air. To make my walk more meditative during these anxious times, I sometimes repeat in my head with each step, “I am OK. I am OK.”
Fuel your body with protein.
I spent years not eating well. I would eat a whole pizza or bag of chips and thought I was emotionally eating, but then I learned from a nutritionist the physiology behind eating. Humans are like cars that need gas every 100 miles. Food is our fuel. When we are not eating properly, we feel a low dip. That is when we grab something unhealthy. But if you eat a bit of protein every few hours: a handful of nuts, some seeds, an egg, a piece of meat or fish, along with fruits and vegetables, you won’t find yourself spinning out of control. Knowledge is power. Everyone is also invited to try my 21-Day Challenge where I guide you through weight loss, workouts, and eating a healthier diet. It’s free, and most of us have the time now to try something new!
Jennifer Conlin, ’83, is the deputy editor of Michigan Alumnus.