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June 1, 2020
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Staying healthy and fit at home can be as complicated as an online spin class or as simple as soup cans, according to Stacy Meisner of Essex. Photo courtesy of Stacy Meisner

Staying healthy and fit at home can be as complicated as an online spin class or as simple as soup cans, according to Stacy Meisner of Essex. (Photo courtesy of Stacy Meisner )

Stacy Meisner: Keeping Fit in a Crisis

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Couch potato used to mean an out-of-shape viewer sitting on a sofa with a beer and a bag of chips watching sports on television. Now, of course, there are no live sports to watch and, with sheltering in place, we are all in danger of becoming couch potatoes.

Even when some businesses in the state resume, coach potato syndrome will remain a concern. Gyms and exercise studios are not among those scheduled for reopening in the first phase.

Exercise professional Stacy Meisner of Essex has some advice on beating the lack of usual exercise as well as some cautions on how to be active in this unusual time.

“Be realistic. This is not the time to get six pack abs or to lose 20 pounds,” she says. “Online exercise programs are fine, but don’t do something you didn’t do before.”

She adds there are many free online programs doing the same kinds of exercises that people once did in classes at gyms and studios, from aerobic workouts to Pilates movements.

Stacy suggests for indoor exercise picking something you like and sticking with it. She adds that it is important to create a space without distraction where you can regularly exercise, and put on workout clothes.

“That really gets your head into exercising,” she says.

For people doing exercises that they once would have done in gyms, she suggests making a playlist of favorite music.

“The relationship of exercise to music, it’s unbelievable,” she says.

And if people don’t have their own sets of weights, the kitchen has a solution: soup cans.

What’s more, Stacy says weights aren’t always necessary. Many exercises depend on bearing one’s own body weight, among them push-ups, squats, lunges, and dips, which strengthen the arm’s tricep muscles. She points out the dips can be done on anything from the end of the bed to a raised fireplace hearth.

She advises that this is not the time to be hard on yourself about things like how long or how strenuously you are exercising.

“It’s the idea of being active. Do 20 minutes, even 10,” she says. “Try stretching.”

For some lucky people, exercise can continue just as it did before the pandemic.

“If you’re a runner,” she observes, “nothing has changed.”

And for everybody physically able, walking can be both great exercise and a great anxiety reliever.

“Take in nature, take a deep breath,” she says. “Walking is terrific, a great stress reliever.”

Stacy, who lived in Deep River before moving to Essex a year and a half ago, didn’t start out as an exercise instructor. She majored in industrial psychology at Michigan State University and got a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations there as well.

She had a 15-year professional career in the field, mostly focusing on advising start-up companies. She gave that work up when she had children. Stacy and her husband Christian have two sons, Jackson, 17, and Rowen, 12. The shelter-in-place directive has provided a new challenge as the family looks toward the future for Jackson, now finishing his junior year of high school.

“We doing college visits electronically,” Cindy says.

In college, Stacy had started kick boxing classes and in Chicago, while working in the corporate world, she found a local boxing coach with whom she continued to study. When her husband’s job brought the couple to Connecticut, Stacy began working as an instructor at local gyms where she met Chester resident Cindy Lignar another instructor with an interest in boxing.

The two did a year-long pilot program at the Valley Shore YMCA, before opening their own boxing gym, Squared Circle Studio, in Deep River.

“The YMCA program gave us the confidence to move on,” Stacy says.

In addition to regular boxing classes, the gym moved into offering Rock Steady Boxing, a program for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and also added various kinds of strength and aerobic conditioning classes for the general public.

The philosophy for all classes remained constant.

“There were no mirrors on the wall. No comparing to anyone else. No dressing in fancy gym clothes. The idea was to come in and do your best,” Stacy says. “At first women were hesitant to come in, but after 15 minutes, the endorphins were going and they loved it.”

When Stacy felt energy in the boxing classes flagging, she would tell students to imagine something or somebody they didn’t like on the boxing bag.

“You should have seen the energy then,” she says.

Some two years ago, Stacy and Cindy, having run the gym almost a decade, sold it to one of the regular exercisers there, Jackie Shay.

“It was important to us that we find the right person,” Stacy says.

Now, Stacy is training private clients—and keeping herself in shape as well. She uses one of the spinning bikes that comes with computerized exercise programs. In addition, she is doing a cardio-weight routine that includes three minutes of cardio exercise, sometimes riding the spin bike, umping rope, or using a rebounder, which looks like a small trampoline. She follows the cardio with a one-minute weight sequence, and continues to alternate the pattern.

Despite it all, she reports what many other people have observed about themselves of late: She has gained a little weight


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