Pandemic Challenge: Keeping fit and healthy
By Eunice Barbara C. Novio
September 26, 2020 at 6:29 am
Jenny Ordonez, during her dancing days in 2018 (left) and in September 2020. CONTRIBUTED

Jenny Ordonez, during her dancing days in 2018 (left) and in September 2020. CONTRIBUTED

One day, I woke up feeling sore. Pains in the joints shot up when I tried to move. The inevitable old-age-pain? I refused to believe that. I am in my 40s and I believe that this is the new 20s – flourishing career, a reinvigorated sex life, and so on and on.

Yet, here I was, suffering from various ailments – hypertension, gout, depression, high LDL (low-density lipoproteins, known as the bad cholesterol) and a gall stone! These are all result of a poor diet and lack of physical activities. But my weight was between 48-49 kilos at 5 feet. The heaviest I got was 53 kilos. At home, I have a bench, set of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells – in case I have time to lift them.

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC), 6 in 10 adults in the United States are suffering from chronic diseases.

Jenny Ordonez, a 40-year-old Girl Experience Specialist at Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland also felt some illnesses creeping in. In May, at the height of the pandemic, she found out that her cholesterol level was high.

“I used to dance a lot and for me, that was my main exercise. However, when COVID hit, that had to be put on pause. I don’t really gain much weight whether I exercise or not that’s why most people think I’m healthy,” Jenny narrates.

Jenny stands 5’4 and weighs 55 kilos.

Maricar Paglicawan, 41, was struggling with fitness after giving birth. At 5 feet, she was 60 kgs. and had limited choices in clothes. Now, based in Canada, she is an accomplished triathlete, having participated in Ironman 70.3 in Cebu, the Philippines in 2019.

 Maricar Paglicawan during the Ironman 70.3 in 2019 held in Cebu, Philippines

Maricar Paglicawan during the Ironman 70.3 in 2019 held in Cebu, Philippines.CONTRIBUTED

“In May 2018 when I was still in Dubai, a colleague asked me if I wanted to join her on some swimming lessons, twice a week after office hours, 7-9 p.m. I signed up although I didn’t know how to swim yet,” Maricar shares. Since then, she has been unstoppable.

It may seem impossible for working women? Not really. Consistency and discipline are the keys.

Gyms or apps

Starting in March, gyms and fitness centers closed down. In May, Gold Gym, one of the leading fitness centers in the world announced bankruptcy and permanently closed its 30 company-owned locations in the US. Lack of precautions in some gyms also hinders fitness buffs to return so that even Arnold Schwarzenegger was disappointed to continue his fitness session at his favorite gym.

Despite the seeming bleak business of physical gyms, fitness apps or online coaching is fast becoming a multibillion dollar industry. According to Business Wire, the Global Fitness App Market will grow by USD 1.68 billion during 2020-2024. There are also free fitness apps available for Android phones.

Jenny enrolled in Beachbody on Demand online apps in June. It has several programs like Cize which is cardio through dancing; ‘Barre Blend’, a fusion of ballet and Pilates; and ’10 Rounds’, which is based on boxing. Each program has 4 to 8 weeks duration, and can be repeated anytime.

Maricar used the free gym in her place. During the lockdown, she bought an indoor trainer to continue cycling.

“I seldom use the gym because I’m an outdoor person. I use it once a week for core exercises. I do Zumba or Tabata (from YouTube or Facebook videos) at home,” Maricar says.

Time management

Whether you are using the gym or apps, time management is essential. Jenny wakes up at 5 in the morning to do her routines that last for 30-45 minutes before going to work.  Jenny advises to allocate at least 30 minutes of your day to work-out or meditate.

Maricar does swimming, running and cycling.

“I do each discipline twice a week, a total of 6 days for these 3 disciplines. I do them before or after work. I wake up at 5 a.m., then doing it from 6 – 8 a.m., shower and start work at 9 a.m. If after work, leave the office at 6 p.m., train from 7 – 9 p.m. I usually run in the community where I live,” she shares.

Diet and nutrition

So, what to eat? This is the most challenging part of being healthy and fit, especially if you “love” to eat and drink alcohol. Depriving oneself of food could create a negative feeling towards fitness and health. It can do more harm than good.

Quality carbohydrates, lean protein, fluids are readily available in the market. But not all have the discipline to follow the diet prescribed by athletes and fitness guru.

Eat what you like – in moderation.

Maricar and Jenny cut down on sugar, salt and cooking oil.

“I don’t have a particular diet. I eat what is readily available or what I’m craving. I eat almost everything but in moderation,” Maricar laughs.

Jenny doesn’t eat pork and rice anymore. But she has cheat days, when she eats junk food, sweets, and wine.


Body positivity

If a woman is fat, thin, muscular, and dark-skinned, she is subjected to all types of criticism. There is no perfect body, but we can change the way we look at ourselves.

“We were told that you can only be beautiful if you are fair-skinned and skinny, and I also believed that for a long time. Now, I know better. Love yourself and be confident with who you are, how you look and what you have, that makes you beautiful,” Jenny says.

Maricar says, “it’s not just about fitness, this kind of multi-sport is about endurance, physical and mental strength, and power.”

Jenny also mentions that weight is not always a basis for being healthy and fit.

“I noticed that my weight didn’t really change after I finished the program but my body is more toned and I have more stamina. I’m focusing on non-scaled victories to stay on this journey,” Jenny claims.

 Maricar and son, Steve, after their run within their neighborhood in Canada. CONTRIBUTED

Maricar and son, Steve, after their run within their neighborhood in Canada. CONTRIBUTED

However, weight is also an important indicator especially if one has a history of diabetes, hypertension and other diseases. It is always best to consult with your doctor before going into any advance fitness regimen.

Motivate yourself

Don’t compare yourself with others. Be inspired when someone had reached her fitness goal. We all have different goals and level of fitness, but it doesn’t mean making excuses. Women tend to forget their health and fitness regimen when they got married, have kids, have jobs or getting older. Studies suggest that exercising particularly lifting weights reduces muscle atrophy, and increases bone density among the elderly.

“It’s never too late to start. Being fit cannot be achieved overnight. It’s hard to keep motivated at first, but being consistent and improving one per cent a day would give great results,” Maricar advises.

Maricar also shares that exercising is also an opportunity to bond with kids or spouse. She did a 5-kilometer indoor run during the pandemic with her eight-year old son, Steve, who did a 3-kilometer run.

“My training helps me to be my best.  My son is proud of me. He thinks, he is lucky to have a Wonder Woman mom,” Maricar proudly says.

Finally, after months of exercising and lifting weights, I can celebrate my 40-plus birthday by eating a King Whopper on Sunday. Without guilt.

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