Our 2020 Wellness Hacks
With all the, well, everything that has made up 2020, we've all had to find our ways (besides wine) to cope with the sheer extent of stress and insanity that we've had to deal with in this dumpster fire of a year. (And that comparison feels on the charitable side, let's be honest.) The Houstonia staff has come up with all kinds of methods for getting zen, staying fit, and just managing it all, and now we're sharing what we've learned on how to handle it all with you. Here's how we've dealt:
Walking, Night Walking
I should’ve meditated more, read more books, and chilled out more often in 2020, but that’s for 2021. I have, however, taken plenty of night walks during this stressful year. Once the kids go to bed, I go into the streets, podcast in ear, and stroll for about an hour or more. When I lived in the Heights, I’d often crawl out to Woodland Heights, or down to Buffalo Bayou, or even up to the 610 Loop. Now in Westbury, I’m learning how to waste an hour getting lost in a small circle very close to, but never touching, Chimney Rock.
Night walking has helped me maintain my weight, important for a food editor and writer who—doing the rough math here—eats more than 250 non-home-cooked meals per year. It’s also been a perfect anxiety reducer after a long workday. Plus, since I’m out past sundown, I’m usually accompanied on the streets by nothing more than white noise—well, and those damn mosquitoes in the summer. It may seem basic or elementary that I’m advocating walking, but in a year when chaos reigned and the unusual became the usual, doing something so simple as a constitutional routine really checked me. I'd come home calmer, happier, and just feeling better. Go night walking, and if I see you out there, I’ll casually nod as I pass by. —Timothy Malcolm, dining editor
The Yoga App
I wouldn’t have made it through this year without endorphins, but while my daily runs have truly become clutch over the course of this chaotic year, my biggest discovery has been the app, Down Dog. See, before we all started wearing masks, I reveled in my yoga classes. It was 60 minutes of time spent away from my phone, a place where I could bend and breathe and work toward yoga-centric accomplishments, like finally getting the side crow arm balance. And then that place was gone. First, because it wasn’t the best idea to be in a small space breathing and sweating with others anymore, and second when my yoga studio shut down.
Initially I just focused on the runs, but I found my mind missed the calm and reflection time that doing yoga gave me. That’s when I found Down Dog. The app is available for free (or for $9.99 a month, if you want more control over the options) and offers instruction at all levels, and sequences run anywhere from just a short 15-minute stretch to a thorough 90-minute wringing out of your entire body. I still miss real class—there’s nothing like time moving through a good sequence with a great teacher—but Down Dog has helped me not go completely round the bend, plus I am finally able to do side crow! — Dianna Wray, editor-in-chief
Running it Out
I’m a runner, so I just keep running. To me, it's like meditation. It helps clear my mind and gets me outside, away from doom-scrolling and all things digital. Shout out to my Asics and Brooks, my CEP compression calf sleeves, my stomach’s (questionable) agreement to behave on tempos, fartleks, intervals, and weekend-long runs, and the Competitive Runner's Handbook, which I read daily like it’s a self-help book. And, of course, the team at Fleet Feet for always being ever helpful. — Gwendolyn Knapp, managing editor
YouTube Workouts, FTW
Even before the pandemic I had discovered the wonderful world of free workout content on YouTube. Yes, I said FREE. No contracts or memberships or cancelling after 30 days. Maddie Lymburner (YouTube channel MADFIT) is based out of Capetown, South Africa, and is a former ballet dancer-turned-fitness and health influencer. The main reason why I can’t get enough of her workouts is the duration. None are over 30 minutes, and most are only 15.
You can work out glutes and abs one day, upper body the next, and get a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) ass-kicking the next. Or stack them as you choose. There are dozens of videos to choose from and bonus … she sells healthy cookbooks on the side, maddielymburner.com. She’s pretty soft-spoken but inspirational all at once. During the tough times of lockdown she held back tears thanking all of her followers (there are now over 5 million!) and providing encouragement to stay healthy while at home, and she’s constantly asking for feedback on the workouts. I can’t say enough about how much it’s helped me stay fit and motivated during this hellish year. — Monica Fuentes Carroll, art director
In the first months of the pandemic, when nobody really knew what was happening (and really, we still don’t), by the end of my workday, I was mentally exhausted. I needed to decompress, but I couldn’t just sit still. While others took up miter saws and home improvement projects, I dug deep into the back of my closet, and pulled out all my old T-shirts that I’ve been swearing I’ll turn into a quilt for the better part of a decade, if I could find the time. Well, Covid-19 found the time for me, and for almost three months after work, I’d sit down with a podcast, needle, and thread, and start sewing. I knew I could get it done faster if I used a sewing machine, but nothing could induce me to give up letting my mind go blank while I mechanically weaved my needle in and out of the fabric after another long day. Plus, I had a cozy blanket at the end of it. — Catherine Wendlandt, digital editor