Finding fitness in 2021

I had never consistently exercised. It has always been like extra work — without any enthusiasm to begin or immediate results to achieve. In a world full of instant gratification — why would I go to the gym every day for months on end to gain muscle mass instead of watching YouTube?

I visited the gym at my university a couple of times and have seen the gym at my office more than a few times. In fact, my resolution for 2020 was to go to the gym 5 days a week.

And then hit the COVID

The lockdown and closing down of the office and gyms were more than an excuse not to go out and go to the gym; it was no more a possibility. For the first couple of months, I stayed under shelter-in-place; the things I missed were office food and laundry more than anything else. I didn’t exercise, run, or even took a walk outside, thanks to Amazon Fresh delivering groceries on my door.

I switched from rewatching the same shows to something new for a change. I watched Bodyguard, Broadchurch, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul, among others. I went on over six months without meeting another human being in real life. I had many video calls with family, friends, and colleagues, but that was all, just video calls.

Until I started seeing symptoms of constant anxiety, and I started gaining weight. A few online tests suggested I may even have mild depression.

A couple of months in, I realized I wasn’t enjoying the way I was living. I was not happy. I wasn’t even close to comfortable. With an overwhelming flow of thoughts at times, my mind recycled past negatively. I longed for friends and conversations while at the same time despising conversations and being anxious about any chance of meeting people.

It was already November, and I felt I had not moved even a step ahead towards my goals in the last six months (or even more). Or perhaps, I was many steps back. I had wasted the great opportunity provided by the lockdown to work on myself, build myself, and repurpose my time in productive work instead of traveling to and from work. I was failing in all parts of my life, except my job. I was resentful, regretful, and worse, every regret brought with itself, recollections of every guilt from the last 10 years.

I decided to change things

Of course, the problem was far more profound, far older. I went over the moments of my past and compiled lessons that I could learn from those moments to let go of those times to move ahead.

Continuing the spirit of letting go, I sold my TV. I reduced furniture.

Learning minimalism from various resources over the years, I decided to finally start acting upon it. I started using iPad Pro 2020 11“ to replace multiple paper notebooks for nonessential temporary notes.

I still keep a note and two pens for writing at times when I want to avoid screens.

Further, I decided to organize myself better to free up a few brain registers. I started with deleting a myriad of online accounts I had created for just anything. I deleted my Facebook account. I anonymized my accounts where they could not be deleted or used CCPA.

For the rest of the accounts, I started using a password manager and finally understood how essential a password manager make sure I don’t have to reuse passwords again. Paul Stamatiou‘s Getting started with security keys inspired me to invest in security keys. Security keys are essential to make sure I don’t lose access to my accounts if I lose TOTP for an account due to a phone reset or otherwise.

I started using nextdns for enhanced privacy protection.

Hello Health!

With a more organized workflow and freed up mental space, I was ready to create newness rather than focus on maintaining the tired, failing self of my past.

Headspace made me happy

And then when you’re ready, just gently open the eyes again. — Andy

Headspace app is perhaps the quickest to make its way to the homepage of my phone. I get a free Headspace subscription at my workplace, and it’s the perk I’m enjoying most during work from home.

I started using Headspace earlier in 2020 when a colleague mentioned that meditation was his resolution for the year. But I was never consistent. I went for weeks or even months without using it. However, following the previously described changes, I became consistent with Headspace beginning in December. In the short days of winter and the loneliness of lockdown, Headspace made me happy, meditation kept me motivated.

While I’m not as consistent with meditation as I want (and am always pushing myself to be consistent), I’ve observed myself becoming more cheerful and confident with it. I feel that I have a clearer mind, and I’m calmer in many situations that would’ve been anxiety-inducing for me.

On a side note, there are various opinions on the usage of an app for meditation, and I understand that it can create a dependency on the app for meditation. However, even at times, I could not use my phone, I followed Andy’s techniques, and I think Headspace did not create a dependency.

For those looking for light movement after meditation, the Headspace app has a move option that has many exercises.

I feel fit with Fitness+

Apple launched Fitness+ in December, and since then, I’ve been working out 30 minutes almost every day with it. I feel that time spent with Fitness+ is one of the most valuable times of my day. I’ve not tried many other fitness programs like Fitbit premium, so I can’t compare it to other platforms, but I find it more useful than searching and following random videos on YouTube.

It also provides another productive use-case for my iPad, where I use the Fitness+ app.

My workout schedule consists of HIIT, Strength, and Core for the most part, with Yoga and Mindful Cooldown at times. Fitness+ has many trainers, so it’s always a good idea to try out different 10-minute sessions to find what works best for you. I find Jamie Ray’s HIIT, Sam’s Core, and Kyle’s Strength workouts to be some of the best.

I don’t know how much I will use Fitness+ once lockdown is over and I (hopefully) become a regular at the gym. Fitness+ has guided workouts for the gym as well, like treadmill and rowing. But it remains to be seen how easy it’s to use on an iPhone on a gym machine.

Conclusion

These changes make me feel healthier, energized, cheerful, and I think it’s easier for me to get started and continue more challenging tasks. Since January, I’ve relearned C++ after 4 years of working solely on Java and Python. I’ve done over 100 Leetcode questions in the last month.

Correlation does not imply causation. But, exercising and similar activities release endorphins in the body, and they help reduce pain, stress and increase positive feelings. Better organization and reducing redundant tasks by using productivity apps like password managers clear up time in my calendar and space in my mind to be more creative work on productive tasks.

I think this helps me in feeling more motivated to work towards my goals.

So, I guess I’m finally finding fitness in 2021.