Health and Well-Being Improvements by: monisa YUSRA ASSt. Features editor and Lena Perry Asst. entertainment editor

Being quarantined and learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic gave students lots of time on their hands. Everyone has spent their time differently, whether it was trying new activities or hobbies they never thought they’d try, getting better at something they already enjoyed doing, or completely changing their lifestyle for the better.

When it comes to exercising more, eating healthier, or meditating, most of the time we stick to it for a week or two but return our old habits. Some Warriors, however, are making use of their time at home to change their lifestyles for the better -- not just sticking to a plan for a few weeks, but making long term, permanent changes instead.

“One of the most difficult things about changing my lifestyle was figuring out where to begin,” junior Riya Patel said. Patel decided to start small by finding workouts online that she could follow at home, running in places with enjoyable scenery and listening to the right kind of music for herself. As expected, she didn’t find the perfect workout routine to follow right away, but with lots of experimenting and exploring, Patel found what worked for her.

Junior Karla Rodiles began with setting the right mindset for herself, instead of relying on external incentives. “Motivation comes and goes, and self discipline doesn’t. I trained myself to think that this new lifestyle was better for me physically and mentally,” Rodiles said.

In a nation whose culture and entertainment is often defined by fries at Steak N Shake, burgers from Paradise Pup, or sitting around eating snacks with friends, eating is a big part of the American lifestyle. Patel and Rodiles both changed their eating habits and started being more aware of what was going into their bodies; the goal isn’t necessarily to lose weight but to be more thoughtful about treating our bodies well. Patel started incorporating whole foods into her diet, cooking her own meals, and finding healthier alternatives to foods she normally ate. Rodiles tried doing a calorie deficit, eating the same foods she would normally eat but in moderation.

“I try not to restrict myself from eating certain foods, I still eat unhealthy foods that I crave, but in moderation,” Patel said. Similarly, Rodiles said, “I still eat small treats or small meals that I enjoy but in moderation because I know it won’t affect me.” Rodiles also mentions that knowing that eating your cravings every once in a while is important. “If I'm hungry, I'm going to eat. If I want spicy chicken nuggets from Wendy’s, then I’m going to go get them. I just get back on track the next day.”

Whether it’s investing in new workout gear, seeing her progress, or reminding herself of the end goal, Patel continues to keep herself motivated. “Keeping track of my mile times and seeing the numbers bring me joy that I've never experienced before, therefore, further motivating me,” Patel said.

As does anyone’s journey, Patel had to persevere through many obstacles. A couple of months into her running plan, she had foot surgery and could not be on her feet for three weeks. “I found myself being unmotivated because I couldn’t keep up with my usual habits, but after I recovered, I forced myself back into my healthy habits and felt like myself again,” Patel said.

Rodiles found herself to be in a similar, unmotivated rut. After the lockdown was lifted, she found herself going back to her habits of constantly eating out and not working out anymore. In September, she slowly started returning into her healthy habits and in October she was completely back to her old ways. “I go back into better and healthier habits because it makes me feel better about myself,” Rodiles said.

Patel has tried to get others to join her on her quest.. “I’ve made my friends and family more aware of what they put into their bodies,” Patel said. Instead of ordering take out, Patel suggests to her family that they should make a healthy home cooked meal instead. She cooks dinner for her family and makes smoothies for her parents before they go to work. If she’s working out while her parents are at home, Patel encourages them to come join her.

As a result of improving her lifestyle, Patel said that it has changed her as a person and has altered her views on healthy eating and working out. “This made me realize that food is fuel, and when I fed my body the right foods and took care of it, I felt way more energized and productive throughout the day. This changed the way I thought about food and made me realize that when you set small goals for yourself and celebrate the smaller victories, the end goal doesn’t seem that far and hard to reach,” Patel said.

Rodiles began doing more than just working out and eating healthier to improve her lifestyle during the lockdown. She began meditating and focusing more on herself. “I take out 15-20 minutes out of my day to meditate to clear my mind,” Rodiles said.

Meditation has improved more than Rodiles’ lifestyle but mental health as well. “It lets negative thoughts leave my head and has made me realize it was just anxiety and stress that made me feel bad about myself,” Rodiles said.

Junior Edith Gonzalez has also begun meditating over quarantine. Meditating has caused her to see great improvements in her workouts. “Meditation could also reduce the pain you have after a workout because sometimes it’s all in your head,” Gonzalez said.

Meditation lessens the pain and soreness from workouts simply by focusing more on the mind than the body. Feeling discouraged and worn out can sometimes register in the brain as pain, whether physical or emotional, which makes it harder to keep pushing yourself. Gonzalez uses a couple minutes before and after her workout to encourage herself to get in the right mindset so she is able to push herself.

Meditation is a great habit to get into, according to Maine West P.E. teacher, Mike O’Brill. “Now more than ever, it’s of extreme importance to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself mentally. So that when you are participating in sports or anything, you’re really focused,” said O’Brill.

Although many students may not have used the past seven months to become more in tune with themselves it’s never too late to start getting the benefits. Since being back in school, many P.E. classes have incorporated mindfulness exercises into their schedules every Monday.

Getting into meditation initially was just as confusing and awkward as one might think, according to Gonzalez. Gonzalez didn’t take it seriously at first and found it hard to stay focused on actually meditating, without wanting to just sleep, daydream, or simply get bored of it. “At first it was on and off, I thought: ‘this isn’t going to help me. I’m just bored at home,’” Gonzalez said.

Over time, Gonzalez found meditation videos and relaxing music that she enjoyed. She began to meditate more consistently and eventually figured out how to make it work best for herself. O’Brill also found that once he really forced himself to take a couple minutes to himself everyday, he was able to focus better on the tasks before him. This brought O’Brill and other P.E. teachers to begin talking about mindfulness and meditation more and even building it into their courses.

With our lives slowly returning to our former ways, pre-COVID, it is questionable if people will actually continue their new hobbies they picked up during quarantine or drop them completely. “I would like to incorporate it if we get to go back to school, but I know the time after practice at school is different. You feel more exhausted and worn out,” Gonzalez said.

Although virtual classes make it harder for teachers to truly connect with students, O’Brill is grateful for the time it’s given him and the rest of the P.E. department to focus on lessons relating to mindfulness, which are fairly new this year for many classes. “The pros are that you have the time to present it and to be able to really talk in depth, the cons are not knowing who’s actually going to be doing it,” O’Brill said

Thanks to mindfulness training, Gonzalez has found that she is overall more motivated during her actual workout sessions and even began to perform better. “With my meditating and breathing exercises, I was able to drop two minutes off my mile time,” Gonzalez said. She accredits this improvement both to the mindset that meditating puts her in, as well as that extra encouragement she is able to give herself in those times.