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Out of work and stuck at home, this couple uses fitness to 'stay sane'

Paul and Sandy Sklar use exercising together as a way to 'reset and reconnect' during quarantine.
The Sklars encourage their kids to join them in their home gym on weekends.
The Sklars encourage their kids to join them in their home gym on weekends.Paul and Sandy Sklar

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the U.S. last spring, fitness instructors Paul and Sandy Sklar were forced to shut down their gym, Prescriptive Fitness, for seven months. The couple, who live in Charlotte, North Carolina, suddenly found themselves under “gigantic stress,” according to Paul Sklar.

To alleviate anxiety, stay healthy and keep their relationship sane, the couple started exercising together regularly.

“It was a way to really clear our minds, reset and reconnect,” Paul told TODAY Health.

While brands like Peloton have exploded in popularity among people stuck at home during the pandemic, couples can save money by creating their own personal gym at home. Here are the Sklar's tips for creating a space to be active at home and making fitness a habit as a family.

Create a home gym

The couple created a small home gym in their garage with barbells, kettlebells and resistance bands.

“Even if you don't have any equipment, there's so much you can do by having a partner with just manual resistance with each other,” said Sandy.

The couple said resistance band workouts and body-weight exercise routines are great for couples who want to work out together, and can easily be found on YouTube.

Get competitive

The Sklars don’t just work out together: they compete. By making their home workouts competitive, they push each other to work harder.

“One person will hold a wall sit, the other one's doing some squats, and, you know, kind of take turns and play off each other,” Sandy said. “One person holds a plank, the other one is doing pushups. So make it kind of competitive and fun in that way to encourage each other not to stop.”

Set like-minded fitness goals

Exercise is an individual and introspective activity, according to Paul, but he said couples can boost their performance by bonding over like-minded fitness goals.

“When you exercise together and you go through the physical and the mental aspect of working out together, you form some sort of common ground and an understanding of not only what you're going through, but what your spouse or significant other is going through,” he said. “And throughout that process, it just makes the bonding aspect of it that much stronger.”

Make it an experience for the whole family

The Sklars encourage their daughter and son, ages 7 and 9, to join them in the garage on weekends.

Due to their young ages, the kids don’t follow the same structured workouts as their parents.

“They'll take any piece of equipment in there and throw it down on the floor, and they literally make an obstacle course and they have fun,” said Paul.

It’s a great way for the kids, who have been schooling remotely during the pandemic, to unwind, the Sklars said.

“We want them to have fun with it,” said Sandy.

Cook meals together

A family focus on fitness encourages a habit of preparing nutritious meals together, too. The Sklars, who follow Optimum Nutrition recipes (a sports nutrition company that the couple works with) for many of their meals, said the pandemic is a good opportunity for families to skip eating out and spend more time bonding in the kitchen.

“This is your time to make time to cook and look up recipes and try to be healthier,” said Sandy.