How to Modify Your Exercise Program During COVID-19

April 22, 2020

Back in the ‘olden days’ (aka 2019), you probably had an exercise program you were following.

This program was designed to help you reach your goals. Whether your goals were to improve your general health, build muscle, get better at your sport, keep your bodyweight at healthy levels, or just stay happy, your exercise program was geared towards getting you there.

And then COVID-19 hit. And one of two things happened. Either, you threw your hands up in despair and your exercise program ground to a halt, or, you threw your program out the window and started again from scratch – working within the newly imposed limitations.

But here’s what SHOULD have happened to your exercise program.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Business as usual (with maybe a few minor tweaks).

But how is this possible?

You’ve been locked out of your gym.

You don’t have any equipment at home (except a little pink dumbbell you bought during your two week ‘fitness surge’ of 2012).

How is it possible to stick with the program you were following? And why is it important to do so?

We’ll answer that second question first.

The world is in turmoil, and your routine has evaporated (but it might be a good time to build a new, better one). You know that strange uneasiness you’ve been feeling? That’s the feeling of your habits and routines going away. Your mind is looking for a constant, a remnant of a time long ago when you didn’t feel like you were being judged for touching your face in public.

And your exercise program can be the constant you’re looking for.

Chances are, your goals haven’t changed. You still want to be stronger, run faster, look sexier or be happier (or whatever your motivation for exercise is). And if the exercise program you were following was geared towards helping you reach these goals, you should probably still be following it.

But how is this possible?

In this crazy world with no gyms and little pink dumbbells, how can we continue what we were doing?

We can continue by understanding that if you’re exercising for general health and fitness, your exercise program was not about giving you squats for the sake of squats, but about giving you squats to make your legs stronger. It wasn’t about pull-ups to make you better a pull-ups, but to improve your strength relative to your bodyweight. It wasn’t about Olympic lifting to make you better at Olympic lifting, but to improve the power that Olympic lifting gives you.

Your program wasn’t about what you were DOING, but about what it GAVE YOU. It was about the end result. The ‘bigger muscles’ or ‘better fitness’ or ‘happier mind’.

It was about the INTENT of that exercise program. It was about the STIMULUS your exercise placed on your body, and the physical and mental RESPONSE to that stimulus.

Want the good news?

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. There’s more than one way to exercise to help you achieve the outcomes you’re chasing.

As soon as you throw your old exercise program out the window, you’re wavering from the path that’s been paved to lead you to your goals.

So here’s what you should do instead.

Stick with the program, but modify it to suit your newly imposed constraints.

Want to build a bigger squat but don’t have any weights? Use techniques like eccentric training and unilateral work. You can read more about staying strong in The Ultimate Seven Strategy Guide to Getting Strong Without Equipment.

Want to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance but don’t have a treadmill? Run outside! Worried about losing fitness? Read this.

Want to improve your Olympic lifting but don’t have bumper plates? Improve your power through the use of plyometrics.

Struggling to modify your exercises with a lack of equipment? Check out our free video resource here that will allow you to do just that.

Unfortunately, the supposed answer to a lot of people’s problems now is push-ups and sit-ups and running and burpees. No sure, that MIGHT be the answer to some people’s question, but I bet it’s not the answer to yours.

Get back into your routine. Get back on the program. With a very small amount of thought and planning, you’ll be back on track to achieving the goals you’ve been working towards.

Check out our full library of COVID-19 articles here.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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