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Even as gyms begin to re-open, many are sticking to at-home or outdoor workouts.

As the year and the COVID-19 pandemic roll on, we continue to adapt to our new, temporary normal in all aspects of our lives. Fitness is no exception. Gyms across the country are either closed or re-opened with certain limitations, and it seems that now more than ever, living a healthy lifestyle is up to you.

For some, being solely in charge of their health without a guide is daunting. Others consider themselves health gurus and are in the loop on all the latest health info and trends. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, everyone could use a little help living a healthier life. We asked current and former MU athletes and staff for guidance on the ins and outs of living a healthy, active life.

Meet the panel:

Palmer Johnson: Assistant Director of Performance Nutrition for MU Athletics

Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana: Senior, MU Volleyball

Corey Fatony: Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Recreation Graduate Assistant at Southeast Missouri State University and former MU football punter

Atina Kamasi: Junior, MU Track and Field

Noah Surtin: Sophomore, MU Wrestling

Connor Flynn: Redshirt Senior, MU Wrestling

Healthy Eating

Should I count calories?

Johnson: “Initially, no, because while everything does come down to calories it can be really tricky. I like to teach portion control with your hands. For protein, what you need is about the size of your palm. Heavier carbs, like rice, pasta and potatoes, it's a closed fist. Same with veggies and fruits.”

Kamasi: “I recommend eating intuitively, which means eat when you are hungry and listen to your body. This will give you routine and more freedom when it comes to what you eat.”

Fatony: “If my goal is a strictly fat burning, counting calories would help, but is it necessary? Then again, it depends on the goals."

What are macronutrients, and why should I pay attention to them?

Fatony: "Macronutrients are exactly what the name sounds like. They’re nutrients that you need in large quantities. It’s your protein, it’s your carbohydrates, it’s your fats."

Johnson: "Protein is most commonly known for muscle health. Carbohydrates are the energy source. Fats are also an energy source, but fat plays a big role in overall health for a lot of different things.”

What are some common misconceptions people have about healthy eating?

Johnson: “Healthy food really isn't that expensive, and healthy food isn't complicated. It's basic food that you see in the grocery store every day."

Surtin: “Results are made in the kitchen. You want to get the summer body and look great? You have to eat clean and put the time into making quality meals.”

Flynn: “I think the biggest misconception is that you have to eat healthy 100% of the time. I loosely use the 80/20 rule and the 90/10 rule. If I’m trying to maintain my weight, then 80% of my intake consists of sticking to a healthy diet, and 20% I make more flexible. And if I’m really trying to make strides and stay disciplined, I will trend more towards 90/10. This allows your mind and body to have a break, especially when first trying to eat healthily.”

healthy meal

MU Track and Field athlete Atina Kamasi's favorite healthy dish is a mix of yogurt, fruit and Cheerios.

What is your favorite healthy meal to cook at home?

Kamasi: “I have been obsessed with strawberry or banana yogurt, that I top with bananas and strawberries and some Honey Nut Cheerios."

Flynn: “A good dinner would consist of chicken breast, sweet potatoes and some sort of vegetable."

Hollingsworth-Santana: “Grilled salmon with chickpea salad and avocados drizzled in oil. That's my favorite healthy meal right there."

What are some resources I can use for meal inspiration and to help me stay on track with my eating?

Johnson: “The website has millions of recipes, but they also give you a nutritional breakdown of the recipe so you know how many calories you are getting, those macros and other things like that. Based on your location, it will tell you what grocery store has the best deal on the ingredients, too, so if you’re shopping on a budget, it’s a great resource.”

Kamasi: “When it comes to staying on track, I think it is best to find someone who can keep you accountable like your friend, parents, spouse or whoever."

Social media has also become a great tool when it comes to looking for new and interesting recipes. Apps such as MyFitnessPal or Nike Training Club allow participants to build a community focused on a healthier life.

Is dieting bad?

Johnson: “Diet is really just the overall picture of what we eat as individuals. If it's to gain weight or lose weight is kind of up to the individual.”

Fatony: “There are bad diets that mislead you, but there are such things as a good diet, too. Eating things that come from the earth... and 'eating the rainbow,' all that stuff is good. Dieting as a whole? It isn't good and it isn't bad. It just depends on what you're doing with that diet.”


I’m a beginner. What types of workouts should I do at home?


Corey Fatony, a former punter for MU football, is now a kinesiology, nutrition and recreation graduate assistant at Southeast Missouri State University.

Fatony: “The best advice I could give you is to 'Keep it simple, stupid.' Focus on the 'Big Five' movements: squat, deadlift, hip hinge, push and pull. That is the easiest way to learn to move well.”

Kamasi: "I would recommend starting with something easy until your body gets comfortable with the movement. Yoga is great for the body.”

Flynn: “Regardless of what level you’re at, bodyweight workouts can be some of the most beneficial and low-impact workouts. Pushups, lunges, air squats, dips and core workouts can all be done with no equipment.”

I want to increase my cardio levels. How do I do that safely?

Fatony: “Progressive overload is exactly what it sounds like. You're progressively implementing overload over time. That way, you can keep progressing and experiencing grade relaxations."

An example of progressive overload would be to start walking for 10 minutes each day with a couple of days of rest. Then, the next week work up to 12 minutes of walking a day, and continue increasing over time.

The progressive overload method can also be incorporated with distance, pacing and strength training.

What are some resources I can use to guide my workouts?

Kamasi: “You can always use Google and YouTube to find inspiration. Even after 15 years of being in sports, I use those resources when I get bored of my workouts.”

Surtin: “One that I use fairly often is called MapMyRun, and it helps keep track of how long I’ve run when I run through town and on the trails."

Other great resources to find both fitness and nutrition tips include the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Westside Barbell.

I’m getting bored doing the same workouts over and over. What can I do to add variety to my workouts?

Flynn: "The biggest thing that I’ve changed is some workouts will be reps, some will be EMOMs (Every Minute On the Minute), some will be AMRAPs (As Many Reps As Possible), and others will be for a time. Switching up how I approach a workout has helped keep every day exciting, and it also keeps my body uncomfortable during workouts which, much like life, can be where you see the most growth.”

How do I prevent injury after going almost three months without a gym?

Fatony: “Baby steps. It's about the process, not about the product. Many people might get discouraged because their pre-quarantine one-rep maxes are not their current one-rep max right now, and that's okay.”

Hollingsworth-Santana: “Be gentle with yourself. Quarantine was rough on everybody, and trying to tell yourself you're such a disgrace or that you should have come out of quarantine with a six-pack or all that stuff, I feel like a lot of people have been into that self-deprecating talk. Just be mindful that quarantine was not easy on anybody and you weren't required to do anything. This is a growing experience."

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