When the Coronavirus pandemic shut down New York City in March, I struggled to carve out a schedule when it came to working out. As you can imagine — and likely experienced for yourself — getting in a sweat wasn’t my No. 1 priority during those early, dark days.
Don’t get me wrong: I love most fitness classes, from barre to pilates, boot camps, and HIIT. But, in the midst of all the unknowns and not being able to attend 45 minute or hour-long sessions in-person, I lost sight of my exercise routine. Read: it was completely gone.
In late March and April, I started testing (and really liking) a few new at-home classes — a portion of which I streamed on Instagram and others I subscribed to on my laptop — but some days I’d take a morning class and other days I’d lose track of time and skip my workout completely. I was inconsistent. Also, I really missed cardio. And, needless to say: my New York City apartment is no place for jumping jacks or burpees.
In short: I have too much respect for my neighbors who live below. (Hi! And you’re welcome!). And, it’s also important to note that jogging outside was out of the question for me. (I sustained a running injury in May — but I digress.)
By September (that’s four months of zero cardiovascular exercise) and six months of watching my friends posting and boasting about their at-home bike arrivals — not to mention, bragging about their personal records on said stationary hardware — I had enough. (Read: I wanted one, too.)
Around this time, I began to realize how uninspired I was to work out and how that negative feeling was causing me to become unmotivated at work.
Enter: my Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike, which I got from Wal-Mart without hassle (unlike my friends’ waitlisted bikes that were taking weeks or months to arrive after purchase).
I set up my makeshift cycling studio (made space), pieced together the bike, and clipped in. With that, I challenged myself to cycle for 30 days and see if it had any impact.
Read on to find how this cardio challenge changed my motivation, my mood, and my month as a whole.
Admittedly, the first week of my challenge was the most difficult. After being super active my entire life, I had briefly lapsed in this department. Although I was eager to get back in the saddle (quite literally), my brain and body both needed a push in the right direction — I needed to find motivating instruction that was right for me. If my years of in-person cycling classes taught me anything, it’s that the person leading my workout can be the biggest motivator (or a real pain to follow).
And with that, I turned to the app to find my perfect match. They offer 20, 30, and 45-minute streaming and on-demand classes with different music and a variety of instructors. Pop music your thing? They have it. Rock more your vibe? It’s there.
By week two, I got into more of a groove with my schedule, waking up at 7 a.m. and clipping in for morning classes at 8 a.m. before the workday began at 9 a.m. It was a big change compared to my random-timed floor exercises that could take place at any time between 8 a.m and 7 p.m. prior to my bike’s arrival.
Previously, I had been sleeping a little later for the most part, but I noticed with each passing day that I worked out on the bike, it set a tone for the rest of my morning — and afternoon, too.
Having an active morning (even if that just meant cycling for 30 to 45 minutes), meant that I had already crossed something off my to-do list before my day really started. This not only made me feel productive, but it also motivated me to keep pushing forward with momentum to accomplish other tasks, big and small.
At the end of my 30-day challenge, I didn’t lose weight or discover my Olympic ability to become an indoor cycling athlete. I did, however, reestablish a long-lost sense of routine, not only in my exercise regimen but in my day-to-day schedule.
What I also realized was a positive change in my ability to get more things done in the day when it started off on the right foot (pun intended), which was something that had been missing from my life since early March (pre-Coronavirus pandemic).
Throughout the month, not only was I getting more done at work, but I was working smarter to navigate the most pressing issues when I had the most energy in the day (right after I worked out) and leaving not-so-important and low-energy tasks for when I was wrapping up my day. I also felt mentally lighter, and all-around happier, on days that I worked out vs. those that my body needed a rest. Although I set out to cycle 30 times in 30 days, it ended up being about 26 days (I gave myself a break once a week, and I have no regrets about that).
Although my challenge ended and I felt a sense of accomplishment, I’m not giving upcycling. (After all, I own a bike now — so it’s not going to collect dust and take up real estate for nothing!) But in all seriousness: I’m excited to continue working out to maintain motivation for my career — and a positive mindset, too!
Hilary Sheinbaum is an author, journalist and speaker in New York City. Her book The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month (HarperCollins) is available for pre-sale and will be published Dec. 29, 2020.