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GETTING FIT WHEN EVERYTHING’S TURNED TO S#!T

JAMES GRAGE

- 26 October

We’re living in a time with a lot of uncertainty. There’s a good chance you’re feeling helpless and stressed out right now about a number of things: your job security, your income, maybe even your own personal health or the health of your loved ones, not to mention things even more outside of our control, like a polarizing political environment, social tensions and economic uncertainty, just to name a few.

Many of these issues that we’re facing right now, both personally as well as globally, are out of our control. It can all leave us feeling pretty powerless. The solution: empowerment.

In times of uncertainty and crisis, you need something you can grab hold of to take back control. Something that doesn’t depend on your employer, the government, the media, or popular opinion. One thing you can sink your teeth into,  focus on, and take ownership of. That one thing to empower you during a time when you’re feeling powerless in so many other aspects of your life

If I can offer up that one thing, it’s fitness.

History Lesson in Fitness

In many ways, 2020 reminds me of the Great Recession back in 2007 to 2009. Obviously, the circumstances were different (an economy crash due to a housing bubble versus a global health crisis), but we experienced many hardships in those years. People lost their jobs and homes, businesses suffered, and we wondered if life would ever be the same again.

Despite a plummeting economy and business environment, the fitness industry actually spiked during the Great Recession, leading some to say that the fitness industry is “recession proof.” Personally, I don’t believe the fitness industry was unaffected by the recession; I believe it was absolutely and directly affected by it – in a positive way.

My theory is this: When so many things are out of our control – companies laying people off, the economy and stock market suffering, housing market bubbles, a global pandemic, or anything else that’s much bigger than us – we can’t change those things, no matter how hard we try. In situations like this, when many of us feel helpless and our situations are out of our control, fitness is one aspect of our lives that CAN be controlled. It’s something positive you can do for yourself, and sometimes that’s all you need – just one thing to cling to and take ownership of.

This concept is even more relevant now after everything that we’ve experienced with Covid-19. As opposed to a purely economic situation, this crisis also directly affects our physical health, our social behaviors, our work environment, and even many of our freedoms, like traveling anywhere in the world.

Everything is crazy right now, and there are so many things going on that are out of our control, but this is something we can control.

The Hidden Effects of the Pandemic

As I write this in early October of 2020, we’re roughly seven months into the Covid-19

environment of shutdowns, quarantining, home-schooling, and non-stop news coverage of the pandemic. (Although I realize people’s situations vary based on location and specific family health issues.) And even though it may not seem as scary as it did back in March or April, for many people it’s even more frustrating now. At the beginning, we all thought it was short term and would be over by summer. Now, we’re not sure when we’ll be back to normal.

People are stuck in limbo, and that’s a very disempowering feeling. There’s nothing more frustrating than being caught between two places. There are no definitive decisions being made right now, and families and businesses are still struggling financially. Add to that the annoyances of still being stuck inside, not being able to go places you want to go, not being able to go on vacation, not being able to hang out with friends, and in many cases not being able to see extended family or elderly parents or grandparents.

The effects of all this can be very destructive. When people are stuck at home, they tend to get bored and eat and drink too much. And that’s what we’re seeing during the pandemic: People overeating, under-exercising, and consuming too much alcohol. Combine that with other stressors (family health issues, job loss, finances, etc.), and it’s a recipe for feeling pretty “blah,” if not downright depressed.

Depression is a serious issue with Covid. We’re seeing the economic impact reported on the news every day, but what about the impact on our emotional and mental health? Domestic violence and divorce rates have increased with the stay-at-home orders. Covid is having a hugely negative impact on family life. It’s really sad. And again, it’s disempowering.

As I said before, during the Great Recession many people took control of their lives through fitness, which was great. But they were able to go to the gym and work out. With Covid, many gyms are still closed. And even though many have opened back up, a lot of people are afraid to go back to the gym, or they don’t want to have to wear a mask while they train.

Who Thought Bands Would Be the Answer?

When I started Undersun a couple years ago, obviously I had no idea there would be a massive pandemic that would cause gyms to shut down. I was just looking for a fitness solution that would allow myself and others to stay in shape without having to go to the gym. But then Covid happened, and not surprisingly, resistance bands proved the perfect solution to the problem of gym closings.

This isn’t just me trying to promote my products. It’s the truth: When you train with bands, being stuck at home and not being able to go to the gym becomes a non-issue. This style of training allows you to take control, do something good for your body and health, and empower yourself – even during the most trying times and with limited facilities.

I originally created Undersun with the motto of “fitness freedom,” because the bands allow you to train anywhere, anytime. That’s still the case, of course, but now I’m realizing that another motto should be “fitness empowerment.” If there was ever a time to empower yourself, it’s right now during the Covid pandemic. There are no more excuses left. You can use the bands at home, or at the park, or in your backyard.

And back to the financial impact. Millions of people are still out of work or experiencing pay cuts due to Covid. Even if your gym has opened back up, there’s a good chance you can’t afford the pricey $100+ monthly dues, not to mention buying gas for your commute. Again, bands can be your solution. Buy a set and you’ll have them forever. You can get rid of your gym membership. And you don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on expensive home gyms or cardio equipment.

(Not to call out any specific companies by name, but there’s one stationary bike in particular that’s crazy expensive and includes a monthly streaming fee. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials for it. Thousands of dollars up front and hundreds of dollars a year just to ride a bike!)

Giving into Excuses

Being able to train at home with a very affordable set of bands takes away a lot of excuses. It’s so easy to BS ourselves. I couldn’t go work out because the gym was closed. Well, now that excuse is out, and there are no more left. If you don’t do it, you have to look at yourself and say, I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to or I wasn’t motivated. And actually, it’s a really good thing when that happens. Because that’s when we create change in our lives.

I don’t care who you are, how long you’ve been working out, or how successful you’ve been with your fitness goals in the past. It’s easy to get derailed. Even the most disciplined people struggle at times. Life happens.

Full disclosure: I had a few bad months during Covid. Me and my wife happened to move in the middle of it, and then with Covid going on and having to homeschool the kids like everyone else, it completely threw me off. Things snowballed and became unraveled, and I skipped a lot of workouts. I’m normally a very disciplined person, but getting out of my routine was tough, and it took me a while to get back into it and establish a new routine.

I didn’t have any excuses. I had my bands, and the weather here in Florida is great, so I can work out anywhere I want. It was just a matter of me carving out time for myself to get in my workouts at home, and for a few months I didn’t do it. There were no obstacles. The only obstacle was me. If you find yourself in that same situation now, let yourself off the hook. It happens to everyone.

An Outdoor Band Workout in an Unlikely Place

Here’s a story for you. It happened just yesterday. My wife Annik had a band HIIT workout with two friends scheduled for 10:00 am. I decided to get a workout in myself a little before that, so I took my bands to the park. Well, Annik calls me at around 9:50, just as I had started the first set of my first exercise. She got a flat tire on the way to her workout, and she needed me to pick her up at the Goodyear store and take her to meet her friends for their workout. Problem was, I was 15 minutes away and her workout was supposed to start in 10 minutes.

I rushed to meet her, and needless to say I didn’t get there by 10:00. But when I pulled up, Annik and her friends had their mats laid out on the grass and their bands anchored to trees out front of the Goodyear store. They ended up doing their entire workout in front of a tire shop while her car was getting fixed!

Literally, no excuses. In any other situation, that workout wouldn’t have happened. If she needed to go the gym, she would have had to miss it. Sure, it’s a little odd to be working out in front of a Goodyear store, but it doesn’t matter. Her and her friends got in their workout and felt great afterward.

And you know what else? It’s inspiring. Maybe one person driving by that Goodyear saw them working out and decided to get a workout in herself (or himself).

At the end of the day, people want to be inspired. You may be thinking, What’s the big deal about working out outside? Do you know how inspiring it feels to be able to work out wherever you want, wherever you happened to be, and wherever you dream of going? Maybe no one’s ever worked out at the top of this mountain or at the cove of this beach. I bet nobody’s gotten in a band workout looking down on Machu Picchu like I did last year!

I have the ability and the freedom to go explore and be able to not just work out, but to be able to do it in amazing places. It’s not just about working out on vacation or at the beach, though, because that’s not available to everyone. It’s about being able to train and improve your fitness anywhere, on your own terms. Maybe you’re stuck at work and you’re able to train in the breakroom or in your office, and you feel great the rest of your workday because of it. Or maybe you take a break from sitting on the couch watching TV this evening and go grab a band workout in the other room. Being able to train anywhere, anytime, is highly productive. And it’s empowering.

My message during Covid is this: Despite everything that’s going on, don’t let it get you down. Take control. Do something for yourself. Empower yourself. Do something productive that makes you feel good and makes you feel like you have some control over your own destiny. Because you do have control.

3 Empowering Exercise Tips

Have your Undersun bands and TA2 program in hand but still need some help getting motivated to exercise? I totally understand. Just because you have everything set up for an at-home workout doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Here are three strategies you can use to get going:

1) Make a Simple Plan for Workouts

It’s nearly impossible to be disciplined if you don’t have a plan. First thing you need to do is create some structure around your workouts. I’m not just talking about the workout itself; scheduling your workouts is critical for success.

Keep it simple and consistent. Have a plan to work out on the same days every week, at the same time, and in the same place. As opposed to just squeezing in a workout “whenever I have time.” If you’re counting on that, you probably won’t have the time. You have to make time.

Schedule your workouts in advance. For example: I’m going to do my TA2 Bodyshock workout every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 9:00 am in my guest bedroom, where I have my bands set up. Or whatever days, times, and locations work for you. This is the plan you’ll follow.

2) Create a “Countdown Sequence” Leading Up to Your Workout

It’s very difficult to stop whatever you’re doing, change gears, and start working out. If you have trouble “starting cold,” so to speak, make the transition easier with a countdown sequence – a series of events you do that leads to starting your workout.

The trick is to make those events super easy. Literally, one event will be putting on your workout clothes and shoes. Another event may be to turn off the TV or computer so you’re not distracted. The next event could be going into the room where your bands are and putting on your favorite song. Notice that all of these events are very easy to do, and yet all of them are leading you toward starting your workout.

Do these things consistently before every workout, and before long they’ll end up being part of your routine. Instead of focusing on the daunting task of doing a full workout, these countdown sequence events give you very easy things to do. Think of it like this in the moment: I don’t have to do my workout right now – all I have to do is change my clothes and put on my running shoes. After that, I just have to walk into that room and turn on the music.

Doesn’t sound too daunting, does it?

3) Commit to a Bare Minimum Workout

We all have those days where we feel like we don’t have the bandwidth or motivation to work out. Where the thought of a 30-45-minute workout seems as daunting as climbing a mountain or running a half-marathon. These are the days where it’s very easy to skip your workout altogether. Don’t do that. Instead, just commit to a shorter, easier workout.

Remember this: The worst workout is always better than no workout. If you don’t feel like doing a 30-minute workout, set a lower bar for yourself. Commit to a bare minimum – even just a few minutes. After that, you can decide if you want to do more.

The premise here is to start with something really basic to create momentum. Doing difficult things is all about momentum. On those tough days, build your routine around how you’re going to get started. Whatever it takes to get you in motion and create the energy needed to build momentum.

Here’s an example of what I do. When I know I need to work out but I don’t feel like doing it, I commit to a bare minimum of jumping rope for two minutes – basically a short, simple warm-up. That’s all I hold myself to. I tell myself this: If you don’t want to work out after two minutes of jumping rope, fine, you can be done after that. But just go do two minutes. You don’t have to do an entire workout. Just do two minutes of jump rope and start with that.

With that mindset, it’s not daunting, because it’s only two minutes. And I usually find that, once in motion, with that momentum created, it flows into the rest of the workout. I almost always end up doing the full workout after I get started with that bare minimum warm-up – in this case, two minutes of jump rope. I did that today, in fact, and it worked.

You always hear that your last rep of your last set is the most important. I believe the exact opposite. I think the very first rep of your first set is the most important, because that’s the one that gets you in motion. That’s the commitment. That’s the hardest rep to do. Maybe physically it’s the easiest, but mentally it’s the hardest.

If you’re not going to finish your workout, it’s probably not because you got halfway through and quit. It’s probably because you didn’t start at all. So, do whatever you need to do to make sure you start that workout.