No one would blame you for aiming a little low with your 2021 New Year’s resolutions. While, at this point, beating the COVID drum might be akin to beating a dead horse, there’s little doubt the pandemic will continue to have an effect on next year’s plans — ahem, like losing a few pounds and getting in shape.
With all of life’s responsibilities — work, school, children, etc. — converging under one roof, there’s little reason to leave home. The quarantine life has led to a separate pandemic: vitamin D deficiency and sedentary slothfulness. Grocery shopping has been replaced with intermittent junk food snacking and going to the gym replaced with binge-watching “The Crown” on Netflix.
While COVID has given us all a reasonable excuse to remain in our bubbles, it should not be an excuse for failing to reach fitness and nutrition goals.
We invited a couple of experts, Tripp Miller of Goss Fitness and Sunny Brigham of Complete Health by Sunny, to help steer our readers to the right path as we start a new year. The following workouts and recipes are not meant to be daunting. On the contrary, they’re meant to be simple, at-home activities to keep you fit, full, and COVID free.
These three exercises are meant to get your heart beating fast. Remember, a warmup is just that; it’s meant to make you physically warm, which decreases the chances that you’ll pull a muscle.
Tip: Once you complete a pushup, ankle walk your feet to your hands, trying to keep your knees locked.
Purpose: Mobility for the rear chain — hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Reps: 4 to 5 on each leg
Purpose: Opening up hip flexors
Tip: During the movement, remember to follow your elbow with your eyes.
Reps: 10 on each side
Purpose: Thoracic spine rotational mobility
Moderate Workout Routine
We recommend this as a good starting point for those coming off a sedentary life.
Tip: Remember to keep your toe pointed toward the ceiling.
Reps: 5 to 10 on each side before switching
Purpose: Hip mobility and thigh strengthener
Tip: If balance is an issue, you can hold onto a chair or dowel rod.
Reps: 5 to 20 before switching
Purpose: Balance and glute and thigh strengthener
Knee Plank to Lunge Reps: 10 on each side before switching
Purpose: Strengthening core and aerobics
Hip Bridge on Floor Tip: When you lift your hips, you want to actively pull your feet toward your body so it activates hamstrings.
Reps: 10 to 30
Purpose: Strengthening glutes and hamstrings
Down Dog to High-Flying Down Dog
Tip: Breathe in as you go up and breathe out as you push to the down dog position. Then, breathe in to plank and breathe out as you go down. Then breathe in to the up dog position and back.
Reps: 10 to 20
Purpose: Strengthening the upper body and core
Dead Bug Abs
Tip: Push lumbar spine into floor to flatten back and bring knees up. Resist knees with your arms.
Reps: 20 seconds. Rest and repeat 5 times
Purpose: Strengthening transverse abdominals — a deep core muscle
Results? If you do these exercises regularly (two to three times per week), you will start to notice a difference on the scale and in the mirror in four to six weeks. Adding this routine to a balanced diet will result in the loss of one to two pounds per week at the start. After four weeks, the weight loss will become more consistent and rapid.
Up-Level Workout Routine
For those who began with the moderate workout routine, as you feel ready, you can advance to these workouts. For those who are already working out, this might be the place to start.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Tip: Make sure to keep your heels on the floor. To do this, make sure your front foot is far enough away from the chair.
Reps: 5 to 20 on each leg before switching
Purpose: Strengthens thighs
Hip Bridge on Chair
Tip: The higher your feet, the more challenging this exercise will be.
Reps: 20 to 40
Purpose: Strengthens glutes and hamstrings
Dive Bomber Pushups
Tip: Make sure to sweep your chest as close to floor as possible
Reps: 5 to 20 depending on fitness level
Purpose: Strengthens triceps, shoulders, and chest
Tip: Bringing the knee to the elbow is forcing you to crunch and contract through the side of your body, which is your obliques.
Reps: 20 to 40
Purpose: Strengthening the upper body, chest, and shoulders. This is also an oblique core movement — aka, side core.
Reverse Lunge to Split Jump
Tip: With one leg, take a step back and hop into a lunge and then begin jumping.
Purpose: Strengthens thighs and hips
Full Body Crunch
Tip: Breathe in, and with the exhale, take your arms to your knees and your knees up to your chest.
Reps: 10 to 20
Purpose: Strengthens abs and helps with cardio
Plank to Lunge
Tip: You can make this exercise a little more challenging by adding soup cans by your feet. As you step forward, pick up the soup cans and bring them above your head.
Reps: 5 to 10 on each leg before switching
Purpose: Helps with hip stabilization and strengthens core and shoulders
Tip: You can substitute a chair with a coffee table, windowsill, or toolbox. If your shoulders hurt, take your hands wider. If they still hurt, skip this exercise.
Purpose: Strengthening triceps and shoulders
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup steamed broccoli
1/2 cup beans or cubed/shredded chicken
1 cup spinach (as the base on the bottom)
2 tablespoons fermented food (fermented carrots, kimchi, etc.)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds or pecans
Drizzle of olive oil
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) or lemon juice to taste
Make rice and beans (or chicken) according to package instructions.
On the stove or in the microwave, steam broccoli.
In a bowl, put in 1 cup of spinach.
Top with rice, beans (or chicken), then add your broccoli and fermented foods.
Add toppings (almonds, oil, and ACV).
Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics, which boost the immune system and help with digestion.
Almonds and olive oil are high in healthy fats. Healthy fats increase HDL (the good cholesterol) and keep us feeling fuller longer.
Beans, rice, and chicken provide protein for muscle growth or sustainment.
Beans, rice, broccoli, and spinach are high in fiber, which keeps digestion healthy and keeps cholesterol levels good.
Spinach is high in folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, iron, and calcium.
Broccoli is high in vitamin A, C, and K as well as zinc and chromium.
Tip: If using beans, use BPA-free canned beans.
Quick Chicken Wraps
Butter or Boston lettuce (for wrap)
Rinse lettuce and separate the leaves.
Shred some chicken from the rotisserie chicken.
Slice the avocados and place a few sliced in each leaf.
Top with chicken and add on some salsa according to taste.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats to help boost good cholesterol and keep us feeling fuller longer.
Chicken is a good source of protein, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Boston lettuce is a great way to save on calories but also provide you with vitamin A, K, and B9 (folate).
Tip: Get in the habit of reading labels; most don’t know that popular brands of salsa have added sugar.
Sweet Potato Surprise
4 sweet potatoes (or enough to feed the family)
1 – 2 BPA-free cans of black beans
Diced grape tomatoes (or canned diced tomatoes)
Wash sweet potatoes and poke them with a fork, then place them in microwave to cook.
In a bowl, rinse beans, add diced tomatoes, and mix.
When potatoes are done, slice open and top with beans and tomatoes.
Squeeze lemon juice on top and add cilantro.
Beans provide protein for muscle growth or sustainment. Protein is also important to new cell formation in the body.
Beans and sweet potatoes are high in fiber. Fiber is great for keeping your digestion healthy, and it binds to “bad” cholesterol (LDLs), helping to keep cholesterol levels good.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C as well as manganese.
Cilantro helps support bile production in the liver, and good bile production helps to keep your liver healthy.
Tip: Use canned diced tomatoes with green chilies for an extra kick.
Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl
1 – 2 bags frozen quinoa
1 red bell pepper
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 package of hummus
Cook quinoa in the microwave according to package instructions.
While the quinoa is cooking, dice the cucumber, bell pepper, and tomatoes.
Place bowls on the counter and add 1/2 to 1 cup of quinoa to each bowl. Evenly disperse the vegetables in each bowl. Add in some artichoke hearts and 1 to 2 scoops of hummus.
Top with fresh lemon juice.
Quinoa is a great source of fiber and protein, and it contains a complete amino acid profile, which is great for maintaining good muscle structure and creating new cells.
Bell peppers are high in vitamin C.
Artichoke hearts are a good source of vitamin B9, copper, and magnesium.
Hummus, aside from tasting awesome, provides you with protein, fiber, copper, iron, zinc, and vitamin B9 (folate).
Tip: You can make nonpackaged quinoa if you’d like; just make sure to rinse it well before cooking. Saponins can cause a flare in allergies or digestive issues.
Black Bean Tortilla
1 – 2 BPA-free cans of black beans
1 BPA-free can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 white or yellow onion
1 bell pepper
1 – 2 green onions
Drain and rinse beans and place them in a bowl, add can of diced tomatoes and seasonings, and mix well.
Dice onion and bell pepper and add to bowl and mix well.
Top with fresh chopped cilantro and sliced green onion.
Serve with a handful of tortilla chips to scoop or a warmed whole-wheat tortilla.
Tortillas (or rice) are a good source of whole grains and provide fiber for healthy digestion and maintaining, good cholesterol.
Black beans are a good source of fiber, vitamin B9, folate, magnesium, and manganese.
Cilantro boosts bile production, helping your liver stay healthy.
Tip: Use lettuce wraps instead of a tortilla to save on calories or to add a nice crunch.
6 ounces firm tofu, drained and lightly pressed
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cups frozen broccoli
1/2 zucchini, chopped
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 teaspoon olive or coconut oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: any additional veggies you have on hand
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Sauté onion. When translucent (2 – 3 minutes), add broccoli and zucchini. Sauté for an additional 2 – 3 minutes.
Add in remaining veggies and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes.
Crumble tofu over veggies and mix well. Allow for the tofu to slightly fry.
Add turmeric and any additional seasoning you’d like.
Continue to cook until the tofu is hot.
Serve and enjoy.
Tofu is high in calcium, iron, and manganese. It’s also a great source of protein. Whole foods soy (not processed like soybean oil and soy milk) is good for the heart.
Turmeric is great for lower inflammation in the body and has been shown to be just as effective as NSAIDs.
Tip: For an extra nutrient boost, wrap your tofu scramble in a whole-wheat tortilla.
For many, it’s difficult to drink water. The very thing that enables life on earth is devoid of taste and triggers far too many trips to the restroom, making its consumption a hard habit to implement. You should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For instance, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water daily. While that might seem like a lot, it’s very attainable if you set mini goals. Drink 10 ounces of water as soon as you wake up. Then, right before lunch, drink another 10 ounces. At lunch, drink another 10 ounces. The day is halfway over, and you’re halfway to your goal.
*For those who don’t like the taste of water, add some fruit to your clear concoction to give it some flavor.
**Also, carbonated water, such as Topo Chico, counts toward your daily intake.
The Truth About Tofu
Tofu has a bad reputation as being a source of high estrogen in men. Study after study has proven this to be false. Most people would benefit from tofu. Only a small portion of the population needs to limit their soy intake — those with thyroid issues and those who have a soy allergy.
Add Some Green to Your Plate
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. By and large, this is where most of our nutrients come from. Make it a point to eat a cup of vegetables at lunch every day. Once you’ve mastered that task, add vegetables elsewhere in your daily meal plan. As you’re adding these healthy habits and behaviors, the habits that you deem not so healthy start to fall off on their own.
We cannot say the same for canned vegetables. The longer vegetables sit, the nutrients will leak into the water. So, unless you’re considering drinking the water from the can, it’s best to stick with fresh or frozen.
Don’t Sweat the Frozen Veggies
Feel you don’t have enough time to cook fresh vegetables? Frozen vegetables are perfectly fine and can also cut down on expenses.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is in a lot of can lining (such as canned vegetables) and can have a negative effect on our hormones. Now, by hormones, this includes more than estrogen and testosterone. Our bodies run on hormones — thyroid hormones, insulin, cortisol, serotonin, dopamine, etc. — so anything that disrupts this could be devastating. So, be sure to look for canned goods that say they’re BPA free.