A fitness expert offers advice on losing those pandemic-induced pounds 

Pre-COVID, you were cruising: Crushing personal records in the gym and keeping the physique lean and mean. But after a brand new virus, a few citywide lockdowns, and a lengthy quarantine or two, you’re still coasting along—just at about 108% of your former self.

Maybe it happened gradually, like a slow leak. Or maybe it happened all at once, like a busted pipe. Either way, you’ve been living your best life, and it shows. Your favorite white T-shirt is now off-limits, and your go-to jeans leave you looking like a busted tube of frozen biscuits. 

You’ve been moving less or you’ve been eating more. Or maybe you’ve been doing both and thus achieving the ultimate COVID 15 combo pack.

So, how do you get back to pre-COVID levels and reclaim the fitness of days gone by? I’m going to be real with you guys. To reverse the process, you’re going to need to do the same crap you’ve heard about before.

Jim Schultz found a way to stay fit and competition-ready during the COVID shutdown of gyms by working out regularly at home.

You need to tilt the energy balance equation back in your favor. You will need to consume fewer calories than you expend and start to starve out those fat cells.

Put simply, you need to move more and eat less. And just like it was easy to choose immobility and ice cream, you need to make it easy to choose activities and apples now. In other words, you need to make it mission-critical that you control your surroundings.

As studies have shown, and as author James Clear hammered home quite effectively in his New York Times bestselling book,  Atomic Habits, you have to equip your environment for success. Make it easy to make good choices. Make it hard to make bad choices. 

For instance, do you like training early in the morning? Set out all your gear the night before. Lay your training clothes out, unlace your sneakers, and place your keys next to your earbud charging station. Put your pre-workout powder in your gym bag, and put your gym bag in your trunk. At 5:30 a.m., you don’t want to be fumbling around trying to figure out what you need. You want to get up, grab your fuel and get going.

Or maybe you prefer evening sessions? Four times per week you set up your den for a band and bodyweight workout. It’s set and scheduled. That’s your time to focus on fitness. Your spouse knows that from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. you’re busy on those nights.  

And what about nutrition? In this new era of working from home, this one is both the simplest and most important part of the program. Keep the tasty treats out of arm’s reach, and you’ll find it easy to accomplish your goals. But if you keep those same scrumptious snacks within eyesight, you’ll struggle to gain any traction. It’s that simple.  

There’s no excuse. You can stock the cupboards with whatever you please, so if you’re stockpiling cookies within reach of the couch, that’s on you. If you’ve got a brood to nurture and feed, then it won’t be as easy. Captain Crunch will naturally take up residence at your house. That may test your willpower, but you can strive for moderation.

Start small. Eat a little bit less and move a little bit more. People often overestimate what needs to be done in a day, and they underestimate what can be done in a month. Control your surroundings, prioritize your training and grab hold of your nutrition. Before you know it, you’ll be back in your favorite jeans.

And not even the been-worn-for-three-weeks-and-super-loose version of those jeans. You’ll be sliding into the freshly dried, super-snug version of those jeans—no problem.

Jim Schultz, Ph.D., a derivatives trader, fitness expert, owner of livefcubed.com and the daily host of From Theory to Practice on the tastytrade network, was named the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation’s 2017 Novice Bodybuilding Champion. @jschultzf3