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How I Write and Learn

Staying Active in Remote Environments

By Lucia, a Learning Center Peer Tutor

The one year mark of the pandemic has come and gone, and I’m not sure exactly when or if things will go back to “normal.” However, I do know that I have adapted somewhat to remote school and work. Even though technology governs much of our lives right now, I have found ways I can still use it for good—especially when it comes to physical activity.

Unfortunately, like many people, remote learning has caused me to be significantly more sedentary than I was before. Pre March 2020, I was walking from South to North campus multiple times a day, going between classes, the dining hall, the gym, and my dorm room. Now I walk from my room to the kitchen, and sometimes to the mailbox. My average step count used to be around the 15,000 mark, and now I’m lucky if I hit 5,000. Yet, I’ve found that technology can actually be a great help in staying active.

Since it’s not always possible to exercise outside, over the past few months I have found plenty of online resources to help me move around. One thing I have found helpful is stretching tutorials on various platforms (such as Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and If I feel restless during a class or during studying, I can easily (with the camera off) do a couple of stretches for my neck or shoulders, or get up and stretch my legs. The tutorials are easy to understand and ensure that I am loosening my muscles in a safe way.

 A yoga mat laid out on the floor behind a desk.
My yoga mat is great for stretching and other floor-based exercises like pushups!

On days when I want some intense practice or have too much extra energy, I can go on YouTube and find full-length workout classes for free. Personally, I enjoy classes like Zumba or kickboxing that incorporate fun music and movements. The video instructors (from channels such as POPSugar, Madfit, or The Fitness Marshall) are super encouraging and make me feel good for even attempting to move around. And if I feel like I look silly, I am comforted by the fact that I’m alone in my room and there is no one to see me!

Other times, I come up with my own HIIT workouts using the tutorials and videos that I’ve already learned from. HIIT, or high intensity interval training, involves repeatedly doing a certain exercise for a period of time, resting for a short period, and then moving onto another exercise. My HIIT workouts consist of 10-12 different moves, one minute at a time, with a 15-30 second break between each move. These workouts are fast enough that I can schedule it into a busy day, and the freedom to choose the moves means I can pick ones that are possible in a small space.

Checklist of various exercises ranging from push-ups to squat kicks to planks, with half of them checked and the rest unchecked.
This is my list of potential HIIT exercises. Depending on my mood or the muscle groups I want to target, I check 10-12 of them and use those moves for my workout of that day. The checklist feature makes it easy to pick exercises for each session without having to rewrite a new routine every time.

Finally, I love taking quick walks whenever I only have a bit of free time for physical activity and want to clear my head from a stressful day. It reminds me of the 15 minute walks I would make between class changes on campus. When I walk, I often listen to something on my phone so I’m not worrying about the next thing I have to do. Some of my favorite artists right now are Hozier, Rina Sawayama, mxmtoon, or Weston Estate, and although they aren’t necessarily in the same genre, I enjoy that their music styles can parallel the relaxed state I am in. If I’m feeling more lively, I might put on a podcast like Rhett and Link’s Ear Biscuits or You Can Sit With Us by the Try Guys/Try Wives and listen to the hosts talk about their lives and daily experiences.

Trees and other vegetation on a forest trail.
This is a trail in the North Forest in Chapel Hill. Since the forest is a wildlife preserve, the land is mostly untouched, resulting in terrific views like this one. It’s a wonderful place to get some fresh air!

Staying active reminds me that there is more to life than school and work, and I always feel better after moving around. It’s improved my mood, strength, and focus, without having to work super hard at the gym or train for a marathon. In my opinion, staying active is the best way for me to press pause and get the blood flowing before moving onto the next task of the day.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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