Metro Weekly

Six tips for staying fit and healthy while social distancing

Handy advice from the experts at Balance Gym, SWEAT DC, and VIDA Fitness

home, gym, fitness, health, coronavirus, exercise
Fitness at home — Photo: Ivan Kruk

“Since the gyms closed, I have been in touch with my clients on a daily basis,” says Enrique Perez, an expert trainer at VIDA at the Yards. “The whole idea is to not only keep them motivated in working towards their fitness goals but helping them adjust to the situation we’re all living in right now.”

Perez is determined that his clients, who are trying to socially distance themselves from others in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic, not lose any progress while they’re at home. “I want to give them some sort of workout, to keep them moving and active,” he says, “because some people, if they don’t have that external motivation, they won’t do anything.”

While the lack of access to a professional gym may tempt many people to write off exercise as an afterthought, there are several things local trainers recommend to ensure you can remain active and stay fit, whether in the house or your backyard.

1. Start your day with physical activity. (Ahem.)

“Fitness is a really good way to start the day, because it’s tough to be inside all day,” says Lissa Piercy, a group fitness and Lagree instructor for Balance Gym in D.C. “You’re sitting down more than you usually would, you’re not walking across the hall to talk to people, your lunch break is in your home. So creating a schedule, and starting with some kind of fitness in the morning is ideal. And it doesn’t have to be a full workout. One of the things we’ve been doing on the Lagree Facebook page is having an instructor lead a live stretching session in the morning. Even if it’s just stretching, designating a specific time for an activity is really helpful.”

2. If you have a regular workout schedule, stick to it.

One of the things Perez recommends for his VIDA clients is adhering to the same schedule, whether that’s going outdoors or logging on virtually to the VIDA website to follow a series of instructional videos and online classes that can be used to guide their workouts.

“Social distancing has disrupted our normal routine, so it’s important to get back on a normal schedule,” says Gerard Burley, a.k.a. “Coach G,” owner of SWEAT DC. “Keeping on their schedule will help people, both physically and mentally, just to have some type of normalcy.”

3. Invest in fitness equipment, or utilize everyday items.

While gyms have been closed, VIDA, SWEAT DC, and Balance Gym have been renting out or loaning equipment to members that they can use at home while waiting for the social distancing period to end. But not everyone has a personal home gym at their disposal, so fitness lovers may have to improvise.

“You have to be creative with the space you have,” says Gene Sun, a master trainer at VIDA Gallery Place. “While it’s ideal to have fitness equipment at your disposal, not having as much — or any at all — doesn’t mean you’re not capable of pursuing your fitness goals.”

If you can afford to purchase equipment, opt for pieces that are affordable, versatile, and portable. Sun recommends a yoga or exercise mat, or employing a bath towel as a substitute, for your daily workouts. You can purchase exercise tubing, in the form of pliable rubber bands with handles, to workout the upper body and back through a series of “pulling” motions. For your core and legs, exercises using your own body weight as a counterweight are generally sufficient.

Burley, of SWEAT DC, says household products can take the place of free weights in any workout. “Use cans of soup instead of small dumbbells, [or] detergent containers, any other household products you can find.”

To get cardio while stuck indoors, burpees, push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, lunges, and planks both strengthen your core and get your heart rate up, says Balance’s Piercy. Employing the EMAM, or “every minute on the minute” approach — where you break up your exercises into several smaller, more manageable pieces and do them at regular intervals at the start of every minute, followed by rest for the remainder of that same minute — is a good substitute for a long run.

4. Use virtual workouts to add variety to your routine.

SWEAT DC, Balance Gym, and VIDA are all using virtual platforms to provide resources for gym-goers. By accessing their websites or Instagram accounts, people can unearth several instructional videos with different types of workouts, including high-intensity interval training, bootcamp, yoga and dance classes, and meditation exercises meant to foster mental wellbeing.

Allison Rand, director of marketing at VIDA, says that the gym has set up a Vimeo channel that includes 12 free, pre-recorded workout videos, and will be adding additional workouts each day. “We want to make fitness available to everyone,” she says. “I urge people to follow us on social media for daily written workout suggestions.”

5. Stay hydrated and avoid snacking.

Naomi Osborne, chief operating officer for Balance Gym, says sticking to a healthy diet is essential at a time when people are social distancing. “It’s important to stay hydrated, but you want to stay away from drinking all your calories,” she says. “As we’re confined, we lose energy, we lose motivation, and we tend towards things in the junk-food wheelhouse.

“I’m guilty of it,” she admits. “I’ll have a 10-hour day at home, and I’ll be eating 150 percent more calories than I’m used to, because the food is 10 feet away in the refrigerator. But plan out your meals, and don’t snack throughout the day just because you’re bored. It might even help if you continue to do your meal prepping beforehand to reduce the urge to snack.”

6. Get creative to stay motivated.

“You can get a phenomenal workout anywhere in your house, from your back deck to your living room floor,” says Osborne. “Dips or incline push-ups on the side of the bathtub aren’t off limits. Gravity-based workouts have been around forever. There are countless body weight movements you can do from anywhere that will tax even the fittest of people.

“You can be innovative during these times, and I think most people will find that when you get creative, you end up unwittingly injecting some fun in your workouts,” she says. “You can grab a pair of water jugs for walking lunges, some heavy books held tight to your chest for squats. You can walk or run the stairs in your house. We’ve seen exercises run the gamut from people putting on their socks and doing ‘mountain climbers’ or ‘wheelbarrows’ on their kitchen floor, to people doing sit-ups with small dogs or cats held to their chest.”

For more information on Balance Gym or to access its virtual platform, visit

For more information on SWEAT DC or its “Sweat Anywhere” virtual platform, visit

For more information on VIDA Fitness, visit For free workout videos, visit

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