End the hibernation; stay active and healthy during the pandemic


By Jaclyn Morgan

At the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, I struggled to find ways to stay active. I felt overwhelmed with schoolwork and rarely set aside time to focus on my own wellbeing. A few months into the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year, however, I began to prioritize my emotional health. And because of the changes I’ve implemented, I’ve become better adapted to life during the pandemic.

Throughout the past six months, I’ve made it a priority to spend at least thirty minutes outside daily, designed as a moment for relaxation, catching fresh air and listening to my favorite songs. Staying active has also helped me alleviate a lot of the pandemic-manufactured stress. Here are some strategies you can try, too!

Online workout classes

The internet offers virtually unlimited benefits that help make our lives easier.  One that I particularly like is that it brings world class fitness experts right to my house, whenever I want. One of my favorite trainers is Pamela Reif, who offers full body and core workouts. Like a great personal trainer, Reif seems to intuitively know exactly what I need and what my limits are. She offers workouts for beginners and experts and has an ear for the perfect songs to match each exercise. All you need is your floor, your computer and an eagerness to exercise — but having a mat definitely helps.

 In general, fitness instructors all seem to have the same mantra at the beginning of every class, which is to congratulate you simply for showing up. They accurately and compellingly note that just by “being there,” you have accomplished something. Reif’s workouts have a similar quality. After just 20 minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve done something worthwhile with your whole day. 

Getting out of the house

Between class time, homework and consistently checking in with teachers to review material, online school has become more time-consuming than previous in-person years. Some days seem to slip away from me; it can be difficult to regularly spend time outside. But simply leaving my house helps improve my mental health. Going for runs outside, even if only for half an hour, has helped me release small amounts of serotonin and greatly improve my mental health.

Sometimes I’m not exactly in the mood to run or hit the gym. When this happens, I usually find myself going for a leisurely afternoon stroll to spend more time outdoors. To me, walks are just as important as runs or intense workouts, and they never fail to leave me feeling better than I did before. 

One of my favorite locations for a more active walk is the Billy Goat trail adjacent to the C&O canal in Potomac. The hike is demanding, but in return for your hard work, it offers breathtaking views along the way. 


If “pounding the pavement” isn’t the ideal activity for you, cycling is a great way to get low impact aerobic or anaerobic exercise while having fun. 

Since not everyone has access to their own private gym, there are a number of local cycling options readily available, including Equinox Bethesda and Bethesda Sport & Health. I’m lucky enough to have a gym membership at Bethesda Country Club and I often use their indoor biking equipment. While it’s not always easy to motivate myself to work out, I’ve realized that it makes me a happier person.

If you’re not looking to join a public gym, I’d recommend putting a “Peloton bike” at the top of your birthday wish-list — Peloton offers world class instructors and every kind of exercise imaginable, both on and off the bike. 

Of course, the best “gym membership” is nature itself. No stationary bike offers a more interesting or challenging ride than cruising the Crescent Trail, which links Bethesda to Georgetown. 


Along with working out or just staying active in any way I can, I’ve grown to enjoy cooking healthy meals with my dad. Our favorite recipe is a spinach artichoke dip, but we have found so many fun, healthy recipes online. I recommend going outside of your comfort zone and giving in to your culinary instincts. Not only is cooking an enjoyable activity that you can take on with friends and family, but it’s also an exciting way to improve your abilities in the kitchen. And, on top of that, it keeps you both active and nutritious. 

There are so many ways to stay healthy during the pandemic. I recommend at least spending thirty minutes outside a couple times per week, even if you can only make it to your driveway. Grab a snack and some headphones, and give yourself the opportunity to breathe. You deserve a break and some fresh air.