Focus on Functional Fitness

By THEA RACHEL ZUNICK, Ed.D.
Community Engagement Manager at The Jed Foundation

The world may seem as though it’s upside down right now, and it’s not because you are hanging from your gym’s pull up rings by your feet (though you probably wish you could do that right now). While we are in the midst of navigating the changes brought on by COVID-19, we tend to look for things that connect us to how things were before the pandemic. Many people have turned to fitness, as it benefits not only the body, but the mind and soul too.

Shifting your usual fitness routine to an at-home workout is more than just doing the same exercises you did at the gym and calling it a day. And for those of you using this as an opportunity to kick start your workout regimen, welcome! This is a great time to focus on fitness.

When adapting your workouts to your home environment, think about your space, equipment needs, and ways to create that sense of community, especially if you are someone who needs that motivation. It’s also important to make sure you are properly nourishing your body as you adjust to your new routine.

Movement and fitness have always been integral parts of my life. Growing up, dance and exercise became even more important to me as it was a chance to connect with others who shared a similar passion and focus on mastering the technique. As an adult, when things become overwhelming in life, I began to lift weights and soon found community and focus in Crossfit. Nothing else mattered in the word when you were lifting your own body weight over your head. Whatever fitness looks like for you, it can be a powerful way to stay active and take time out of your daily stressors to focus on your own mental health.

How have I been maintaining a workout routine while staying at home? Here are some tips that I have put together to help you through your commitment to functional at home fitness.

  1. No one wins quarantining. I had to tell myself that there is no contest or trophy for “winning” quarantine. Whatever you are doing is enough. These are unusual times, and it’s ok to miss your mark and try again tomorrow. Try your best to do some sort of movement each day, even if it’s a few paces back and forth in your living space.
  2. Get creative. You may not have the usual equipment that you are used to using, so you will need to improvise. My friend Vanessa who is a personal trainer suggests that bodyweight movements (just your body, no weights involved) are a great way to get a solid workout just using your body. At the rate stores and fitness companies are delivering right now, it could be another month or two until you see a dumbbell delivered to your doorstep. If you belong to a local gym, some of them have been renting out their equipment to members.
  3. Do some exploring. Check out some of the free resources local gyms, trainers, and teachers have been putting out on social media or book a virtual intro session with a personal trainer or movement specialist. My good friend Vanessa, who is a FitBiz coach and personal trainer has been teaching some incredible classes that will make you forget that you are not in a gym at that moment. She also always includes tips while teaching that are like little golden nuggets of information. Perhaps the best part of her workouts are the cameos from her two adorable doggos. Do note that some instructors are asking for small fees or donations. Consider giving if you can because they are small business owners struggling to create income.
  4. Get moving. Try something new and explore different types of movement, or stick to what you know and are comfortable with. If you love to dance, check out a virtual dance class. If you want to stretch, look into yoga. If you feel like lifting weights might be your thing, check out a virtual class from a local Crossfit gym. This is also a great time to safely try out a new style or technique, without discovering mid way during class that it’s just not for you. The other day I tried out some MMA and discovered some new muscles I didn’t know I had.
  5. Find an accountability partner. If you are someone like me, unless I am being held accountable by friends or coaches, I somehow forget to workout. Grab a virtual workout buddy to take classes with, create realistic goals for yourself with a timeline, and most of all, find some type of movement YOU enjoy. I have found success with a group of four of my friends and we each rotate who chooses the workout for the day. At least two members of our group get together each day on Zoom for a workout.
  6. Nourish your body. Give yourself permission to eat.  What you eat can mean the difference between feeling like you are either thriving or struggling during a workout. You might be hungrier than usual, especially if you are kick starting an at home fitness routine. Don’t restrict food. This is not the time to diet. You are home to protect your immune system. A large calorie deficit will not help your immune system. So go ahead and eat that extra carb or protein, it’s good for you and necessary for fueling and repairing muscles. Check out eatright.org, health.nih.gov, and hsph.harvard.edu for more resources.
  7. Be aware of your water intake. My friend Maria, who is a dietetic intern recommends having a water bottle so you can keep track of how much water you are drinking. Also, people are likely to want to drink more alcohol now, which doesn’t pair well with a fitness routine. Maria points out that If you want to drink and it’s an occasional thing, that’s okay. However, misusing alcohol is not going to protect your immune system.

While this is not an exhaustive list of tips and resources to make your at home fitness journey more functional, hopefully it can get you started or help you to pivot your efforts so that you are getting the most out of your activities. I hope to inspire and motivate while giving space to make permission for you to do the best that you can. While no one can win quarantining, you can feel good about your fitness and nutrition efforts. Remember, every workout you do is one more than you did the day before. Now go get it!

Fitness Resources & Membership Options 

Virtual Workouts:
Live virtual H.I.I.T. + Yoga + CrossFit Classes Daily – Crossfit Rittenhouse
Crossfit WODs – CrossFit
Cardio – Peleton 90 Day Free Trial
Total Body Workouts – Centr App
At Home Workouts – Orange Theory
Bar Workouts – Barre Fitness
Live Boxing on Instagram- Rumble
Live Dance Cardio Workouts @ 12pm and 6pm ET – 305 Fitness
2 Month Free Trial of Yoga – Do Yoga With Me
Tabata and H.I.I.T –  Pop Sugar Fitness

Fitness Resources 
Fitness Resources and Videos – PopSugar Fitness 
Training App – Nike Training Club
Tracking fitness and nutrition – myfitnesspal 

Nutrition Resources 
Eat Right: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Institutes of Health 
Harvard School of Public Health 

Thank you to the following contributors: 
A thank you for the input and advice goes to my good friends and coaches Vanessa Checchio, personal trainer, co-host of The Get Podcast and the creator and owner of Bachata & Barbells, and Maria Terry, dietetic intern at Tulane University, School of Public Health and tropical medicine and nutrition coach for Crossfit Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, PA (@vitamin_ri ).

For resources and tips around dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, visit JED’s Coronavirus Mental Health Resource Guide and for the latest on mental health, visit our News & Views page.


Thea Zunick, Ed.D. is the Manager of Community Engagement for JED. She has 15 years of experience in higher education, volunteer engagement, social justice, wellness initiatives, and training and development prior to joining The Jed Foundation. Thea earned an A.A. from Middlesex County College, a B.A in Psychology and Elementary Education from The College of New Jersey, an M.Ed. in Student Personnel in Higher Education from University of Florida, and an Ed.D. in the Design of Learning Environments from Rutgers University. She is a former collegiate cheerleading coach, dance instructor, Zumba instructor, and has toured with Nickelodeon as a professional dancer and actor prior to starting her career in higher education and non-profit.

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