Don’t let COVID put your fitness on hold

Local trainers give tips for getting fit and staying healthy for the new year.

Getting in shape consistently ranks among the most common New Years Resolutions, and like any good habit, we’re experts at coming up with reasons to get out of doing it.

On top of ‘Not enough time in the day,’ ‘I’m tired after work,’ and ‘Gyms are too expensive,’ you might have heard coronavirus tossed around as a justification for putting exercise off.

But COVID-19, just like people’s opinions about it, is probably not changing anytime soon.

The Courier-Herald spoke to two local gym owners to get advice for those who want to get in shape while remaining wise to the virus.

Liz Martinez and her husband Bobby are co-owners of Enumclaw gym Take Back Your Life, which in August 2020. They’d both worked for other fitness-related companies before and had long wanted to open up their own operation.

While they do have some independent gym-goers, “TBYL” is mostly class-based, Liz Martinez said. In addition to general fitness and personal training, Bobby teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Liz teaches a bit of dance and yoga.

Their goal is really all in the name.

“Certainly lots of things happen to us that we don’t have any control over, but when we take responsibility for the things we do have some influence on, our quality of life just gets so much better,” Martinez said. “That’s where our name comes from.”

Plateau Athletic Club is a family-owned personal training studio on Cole Street. Vanessa Pons and her husband Nolan McSheridan are the lead personal trainer, while Vanessa’s father Francisco Pons is the cycling and triathlete coach.

They offer personal training as well as small-scale High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), karate and cycling classes, along with a virtual personal training program.


Going to the gym can present a few challenges for the virus-averse, like crowding or the difficulty of working out in a mask.

First, the obvious advice: Don’t workout around others if you’re not feeling well. Go when the gym’s less crowded, practice good hygiene and exercise in less-busy parts of the building. (Just remember to put things back where you found them.)

“A lot of gyms, I really wish they had been as stringent in their cleaning before COVID,” Martinez said with a laugh.

If you’re working with a trainer, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, Martinez said. You’re paying them to help you reach your health goals, and most trainers will listen and help you adjust.

“People sometimes don’t feel like they can speak up,” Martinez said. “Trainers will be understanding.”

On masks, Pons had this advice: “I recommend to wear a mask that you feel is the most comfortable for you to breath in. Masks like the N95 are more structured and allow space between your nose, mouth and the mask itself so you can breath without feeling restricted. Focus on a mask that protects others when you wear it since maximum oxygen intake is vital during exercise.

Also remember that working out is just one piece of the puzzle.

This time of year, it’s not just cold and flu season that can hamper progress, Martinez said: “People are sleeping less, drinking more alcohol with the holidays, eating lots of ‘special-occasion’ foods, spending less time outside on physical activities. Oftentimes we’re drinking more coffee and not enough water. All those things combined weaken our immune system.”

And while the principles of health and fitness are fairly universal, they look different in application for each person.

“If I could give someone just one piece of advice, as far as making lasting change, is to be realistic about what fits their lifestyle,” Martinez said. “We have to make some changes, but if you know you’re always exhausted after work, maybe 7 p.m. workouts aren’t the best option for you. Be realistic about … what you can stick to long-term. It’s so cliché, but that’s a real thing.”

Both trainers said that group training can help people stay persistent in their workouts.

And Pons had this nugget of wisdom to share: “Your exercise should not feel like punishment but rather a celebration of what your body can do.”


What if you want to skip the gym altogether and build your own fitness operation?

Pons said that aside from gyms, you can take exercises outdoors, plan a virtual workout with a friend or seek out smaller classes or personal training at a local fitness studio.

Both trainers offered these suggestions for at-home exercisers seeking to build a home gym at three different budgets.

Martinez said she takes a minimalist approach to exercise equipment: “If I’m going to spend a good amount of money on on something, I want to be able to use it for a lot of different things.”

Pons echoed that idea, pointing out that anyone can get a good workout in with just bodyweight exercises alone. Look for versatile equipment and don’t buy something you won’t know how to use properly, she said/

Keep your workout space organized and dedicated, Martinez advised, because the less you have to move equipment around to use it, the more likely you are to use it.

She also recommended keeping an eye on Facebook Marketplace and other places selling used workout gear, which will help stretch your dollar further.

High-tech, all-in-one workout gear like the Peloton bike or Tonal machine can be great for those who use them, Martinez said. Just make to read reviews before you buy, and keep them in good repair, especially if multiple people are using them — they can be pricey and should be treated as an investment.

Pons agreed: “I think these are incredible innovations that take home-workouts to another level for fitness connoisseurs, but from experience, if you don’t have the motivation, discipline and the knowledge to use these high-end workout stations, I feel like it’s only a matter of time until the equipment will start gathering dust and become clutter in your home.”

And a screen can never replacement the value of training with a real person, she added.

Finally, the weight of equipment you’ll want will depend on your current fitness level, Martinez pointed out: “A 72-year-old woman who’s never worked out is going to look a lot different than a 25-year-old who’s been an athlete her entire adolescence.”

At a $100 budget

At this price range, it’s all about versatility and equipment that will help you get your body moving.

Martinez: “I would definitely prioritize a modestly heavy kettlebell. … (Practicing) a kettlebell swing, (which is) an essential human movement, you can go heavier with it than people tend to think. And probably two pairs of dumbbells, one lighter, one heavier.”

Someone getting into fitness can get a lot done with those, she said, and if there’s a little money left over, a pair of resistance bands is also a good investment.

Pons: “I would recommend getting the P.E. essentials that will help you start moving your body,” including a soft mat, a sturdy step bench, resistance bands for stretching and engaging muscles, a light pair of hand and ankle weights and a fun piece of cardio equipment like a ball, hula hoop, jump rope or agility ladder.

At a $500 budget

At this price range, both trainers suggested looking into weighted exercises.

Martinez: “I’d definitely go barbells and a couple plate weights. … That’ll go that next step, a long ways to getting really fit at home. … And some kind of simple weight lifting bench. It doesn’t have to be a crazy, adjustable one, but a simple bench can add a lot.”

Pons: “I would recommend getting a set of light, medium and heavy weights,” like a pair of dumbbells between 3 and 15 pounds each. She also suggested getting a barbell with light, medium and heavy weight plates. Both will help with learning the fundamentals of weight lifting, she said.

At a $1,000 budget

At this price range, it’s worth getting something ambitious and fun that will keep you physically and mentally happy, the trainers said.

Martinez: “Probably a squat rack, or some kind of squat cage, tower. … Ideally it would also have a pull-up bar on top. A few companies make foldable ones that attach to the wall and swing out. If you have the budget for it, that’s an awesome addition. … Otherwise, just additional weights, so you have more choices for different exercises you want to do.”

Pons: “For many, this is the cardio equipment. The machine that you seem to spend the most time on because it gets your heart pumping and becomes therapy for your mind. This could be a punching bag set up, a Stationary Bike/ Outdoor Bicycle with a conversation stand for optional stationary riding or a Rebounder Trampoline. These tools don’t need to be $1,000 but you get what you pay for and it’s always ideal to invest in quality.”