It’s been twelve days since our schools here in Ireland closed their doors, and in that time  we find ourselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. During the last week, more non-essential services and shops have closed, and people are struggling to navigate the landscape of new phrases like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”. 

Non-specific, conceptual recommendations like “practice social distancing” can be unclear and confusing. It is far better to deal in known quantities and specifics: if you ask people to “maintain a distance of at least 2 metres with people you don’t live with whenever you leave the house”, their goal is clearly understood and measurable and they are more likely to follow it.

In the same way, we at Intelligent Fitness like to deal in specific, measurable goals rather than concepts, and now more than ever we can apply this to our exercise and nutrition plans. What are your goals for the next few weeks? “Try not to get too fat” is the most common answer we’re hearing!

We’re in the unprecedented situation of being restless and housebound, of having large stockpiles of food and alcohol at home, and of being incredibly worried. The temptation to comfort eat  and drink is huge, and now more than ever we need to plan what we buy and what we are cooking and eating. 

As well as practicing a bit of expectation management over the coming weeks (it may not be realistic to have weight loss as a goal right now), the goal of simply maintaining your current body composition until we can get back to normal is probably a good one. But how are you going to change that from a non-specific, conceptual goal to a measurable one? 

The odds would appear to be stacked against you. For a start, your NEAT is way down! At 15%, the second  greatest daily calorie expenditure for most people (after metabolic functions) comes from NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Which is a fancy way of saying activity that is not planned exercise. Running for the bus; taking the stairs at work; walking to the shop for a pint of milk – in short, all of the things that we are no longer doing. 

If you make an assumption that, being housebound, you are moving, say 10% less, then to maintain your body weight, you either need to eat 10% fewer calories to compensate, or get out and move 10% more. Having a daily step goal is a great start – it’s measurable and specific. If you can’t get outdoors, you can set a calorie goal and use a tracker app like MyFitnessPal – again, it’s specific and measurable and therefore more likely to work as a strategy.

We are now offering daily Virtual Bootcamp classes that you can do from your own sitting room, with a WhatsApp support group to help you with your exercise and nutrition at this very challenging time (contact us on 087 963 7666 to sign up!). Like all trainers and nutrition coaches at the moment, the way we work with our clients is changing. But our goal – to help you be the best version of you – as always, remains the same.

Meredith and Noel