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Easy and Free Fitness Routines in the Time of COVID

Who among us doesn’t ruminate on our B.C. (before COVID) lifestyle, remembering fondly how easy it was to make a simple Target run without hand sanitizer, rubber gloves, and mask in tow? On Saturday mornings in particular I think about how I’d normally be on my way to kickboxing class.

Six months later, my gym declared bankruptcy and I have no plans to find a new one. 

This is coming from someone who used to believe that I hadn’t truly “exercised” for the day unless I had set foot in a gym. But COVID did more than just shut us all down; it altered mindsets. For me, it helped shape a new notion of what “exercise” meant. In the absence of professional trainers and traditional equipment, I was left to my own devices to figure out how to maintain my weight during a time when most of us were performing sedentary work. 

Read on for some (not-so) pro tips to staying active in the time of COVID! 


Find time to walk every day. 

This one was big for me. I’m a New York City teacher, and as such, normally spend very little time sitting down on a typical day. Distance learning changed that; I was now conducting classes on my couch. Bad enough that I’d lose all the steps I was used to taking while teaching and commuting to work; if I couldn’t hit the gym in the evening, I was going to have to figure out something to remain active.

I started taking my young son to a park he really likes about a mile and a half away from my house. The walk back and forth, plus the activities we did while there, really added up. When we both got bored with that I researched other parks and started making daily trips. Try walking in some new places– a state park, a beach boardwalk. Aim for 10,000 steps (approximately 4-5 miles) a day. You can also take the stairs, for those of you who are back working on site, or add steps to your commute by getting off the bus or train a stop early. The extra fresh air doesn’t hurt, either. 


If you can’t go to the gym, bring the gym to you. 

YouTube is full of free workout videos for any level and any type of workout. If you’re a novice  and aren’t sure where to start, I suggest PopSugar Beginner Fitness. The beginner videos are 15-20 minutes and mostly low-impact, so you can ease your way into a routine. 


Basic home gym equipment like free weights has been harder to find since the pandemic started. (I still haven’t been able to track down 5-pound weights anywhere; if you’re reading this and have a stash, holler at me in the comments.) Fortunately, you can use objects around the house as substitutes. Water bottles or canned food are good stand-ins for 1-2 pounds. Bags of rice or sugar weigh between 3-5 pounds. And a box of wine is about ten pounds. Not that I have any of those lying around (and if I do, they’re certainly not full). 

Consider socially distant fun with friends and family.

One surefire way to burn calories is to hang out with people who have little kids. I should know; my son is not yet two. If you offered to babysit your nephew and niece so your brother and his wife could go for a nice outdoor dinner while the weather’s still nice, I’m sure they wouldn’t be mad. Shoot some hoops or play tennis with the kids at the park. 

Speaking of parks, many offer free, socially distant group classes. NYC Shape Up offers classes across the five boroughs for all ages and abilities. The program was on pause during the height of the pandemic, but classes are slowly coming back, some in virtual form. Classes include calisthenics, strength training, tai chi, boot camp, Zumba, and many others. Sometimes the best exercise happens when you don’t realize you’re doing it!

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Elizabeth DiPietro

Liz DiPietro has been a staff writer for In The Zone since 2011. She is a New York City public school teacher working at a middle school in Brooklyn, NY. Liz has a Master's of Creative Writing from Queens College and a Master's of Special Education from the College of Staten Island. She is a diehard Yankees, Knicks, and Jets fan and exercise enthusiast. Liz lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband Dave and 2-year-old son Christopher.
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