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Jillian Michaels on Fending Off the 'Quarantine 15'

Jillian

When our Gorilla Bow workout arrived a few days late, it didn’t matter. It was like Christmas for me. For someone who loves working out, going to the gym and the camaraderie with my friends and trainers at 50th Street Equinox in Manhattan, this quarantine has been depressing.

What I wouldn’t give to see my quiet friend Simon, one of the trainers, stomp his feet before doing squats. Nothing sets me off more to fits of laughter than seeing his imitation of a horse. Ah, it’s the little things in life you suddenly realize you miss, that sort of made your day.

Surely, I’m not the only one out there who misses the gym, the workouts, and the conversations. The lonely Gorilla Bow workouts and long runs will be enough to tide me over. As a matter of fact, I think my partner looks forward to my 10-mile runs as his Zen time.

But there are those days when I think, This isn’t the same, and I struggle with forcing myself to keep pushing through — at least for 30 more days, according to the new government guidelines. How to keep the adrenaline flowing?

That’s when I decided to talk with someone about persevering. How do you motivate yourself through these tenuous and solitary moments, hours and days? Why not reach out and get some answers from a true expert motivator. 

We all know Jillian Michaels as a renowned health and fitness expert extraordinaire. She’s also a best-selling author and a true entrepreneur. Michaels is known to push, push hard, and push even harder after pushing hard. Who better to talk to provide some inspiration for my and others’ lonely and lopsidedly lackadaisical workouts.

Michaels didn’t disappoint. She’s energetic, humorous, and full of wisdom about becoming a better person, particularly during our shared confinement. But first, I wondered, how were she and her family coping with life’s new restrictions?

“I have several businesses that I’m trying to keep going through this crisis,” she said from her home in Los Angeles. “In addition, I’m working so hard to make sure I spend time with my two children. Some days, it gets super busy, and I look up and say, 'My kids!' I run to make sure they’re OK and occupied with something to do. It’s a horrible feeling when you think you’re letting your kids down as a working mom. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who feels this way. You just try to do the very best you can.”

Michaels said this experience of home isolation should provide all of us an opportunity to appreciate what we have, even the little things, and those thoughts of gratitude can help us stay more grounded. “We all have a variety of challenges, not only with trying to keep the kids busy, also with relationships and adapting to a new way of life,” she observed. “I feel lucky for everything that I kind of took for granted before. So what I’m trying to do is seriously let go of all the petty stuff that might have bothered me before all this started. It can be so difficult to try and be happy, optimistic, and positive when so much seems bleak around you.”

For those who find themselves in these situations and for others who worry about the ramifications of being stuck inside or are lonely and confused, Michaels feels this is the best time to reach out to as many people as possible and also to start a program — or anything — that makes you a better person during the crisis.

“We’re all being confronted with deeper and darker issues during this time, since many have more time on their hands or are isolated, and some despairing about the news they hear each day that seems to be getting worse,” she surmised. “This is a time for all of us to be cognizant about encouraging others and creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We need to take a lesson from this experience and grow and learn from it, and make ourselves better, wiser, and stronger.”

To that end, Michaels says that could mean anything from taking care of your neighbors, particularly if they’re elderly, calling and FaceTiming friends that you haven’t seen or talked to in quite some time, and finding a bad habit to break. “The road to improve yourself can be anything from quitting smoking, laying off alcohol, learning a new language, learning how to cook, or taking a master class,” she said. “And instead of gaining that 'quarantine 15,' really striving to lose 15 pounds.”

That’s what she’s trying to instill in her kids right now. “Look, the kids’ social structures have disappeared, their schedules are in flux, their extracurricular activities are stopped, so I’m hoping they take this opportunity to send more emails to their grandparents, video with their friends and keep those connections intact, and taking a little bit more time to move around, do some PE, and to appreciate our family and what we mean to each other.”

Michaels always finds time for PE and feels lucky to be able to have the wherewithal to do that on her own. Being a world-class trainer, she also understands the trepidation of some who are reluctant — or might not know how — to work out on their own.

“I’m really lucky to be an expert about home fitness, so I’m used to it. Yes, I’m like you and I love going to the gym for the social connections it creates, but now that the gyms are closed, it’s just important to try and push forward with a great workout on your own. Even, if it’s only 20 or 30 minutes. Anyone can take some time to jump rope, do jumping jacks, pick up a dumbbell and use it in varied ways. Anything to have your body moving.”

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, Michaels has offered free daily seven-minute workouts on her app, slashed the price on an annual subscription for those wanting to subscribe and started a live 10:30 a.m. (Pacific) Sunday workout on Instagram Live. “Even if it’s not my workout or not my app, try anything that suits you or your personality and that keeps you healthy and focused on self-care during this tough time.”

She pointed out that there is a wealth of online guides for 30- or 60-day workouts. “There’s a million yoga videos, and there’s kickboxing and instructional videos on how to use your own body weight. They are all better than just sitting around being stationary. You need to try to find time to move.” 

To her, this alternative living situation that we are all confronting is the perfect time to make a change. “You’ve just gotta make that choice. How am I going to make myself better? What’s going on with the virus and government regulations, they are all something we cannot control. But we can take control of our personal lives and our bodies.”

Michaels elaborated that this crisis might be difficult and stressful, but it should be used as an opportunity to improve. “Don’t let this valuable time go by with no results. Don’t let this quarantine and life change be all for nothing. Motivate yourself to turn this negative into a positive. Maybe it’s a 30-day program that gets your body ready for the summer? God knows, when this is all over and we all get released from our cages, people will flock to the beaches and parks. Everybody will be out and about, and you want to look great and not regret what you could have done during this time when you might have had the time to make a change.”  

It was tough to say goodbye to Michaels because her energy was infectious — um, maybe I should have chosen a better word? Nevertheless, after her conversation, I picked up that Gorilla Bar and those bands and went at it with a vengeance.

And as I started to do squats, I made sure to stomp like a horse, laughing to myself and appreciating my new home gym — alone.  

John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.

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