Struggling to Stay Fit During the Pandemic? Celebrity Trainer Percell Dugger Offers Suggestions On How to Preserve Your Sexy

Illustration for article titled Struggling to Stay Fit During the Pandemic? Celebrity Trainer Percell Dugger Offers Suggestions On How to Preserve Your Sexy
Photo: Neriah McBain

This global pandemic has been a trying time for each of us, and many of us are finding significant difficulty in our attempts to free ourselves from the rampant stress, anxiety and depression that are more prevalent than ever before.


Exercise can work wonders in alleviating these afflictions, but as many of us have learned, it’s not exactly easy to get a workout in when our daily routines have been thrown into chaos as so many gyms throughout the country remain closed in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

However, Percell Dugger, a celebrity trainer who’s worked with the likes of NBA players and Winston Duke, insists that while achieving your fitness goals might present more challenges than before, all hope is not lost. And in speaking with The Root, he was happy to provide some guidance on how to preserve your sexy during this global pandemic.

“One of the things I’m passionate about with my brand GoodWRK is our mission is to make wellness and fitness more accessible and inclusive,” he began. “And I think part of being accessible is meeting people where they are. If you’re fortunate enough at this time to have WiFi, to have a place to live, [...] I would certainly encourage you to check out the many accessible and free YouTube workouts that are out there.”

And if you struggle with working out alone, Dugger recommends enrolling in virtual classes. As the co-founder and president of Fit For Us, he’s one of many Black fitness professionals offering services that you can take advantage of from the comfort of your own home. He’s also keenly aware that many of us are facing financial challenges at this time and offered working out outdoors as an excellent solution.

“A lot of folks are spending a lot of time inside due to COVID, whether you’re quarantining or you’re social distancing, and the idea of being around a lot of people is really a challenge to absorb and execute without feeling like you’re compromising your overall health,” Dugger said. “Maybe start your day off with a 20-minute walk or somewhere in that range. But getting outdoors, frequenting some parks, going to different gardens, going to different community recreation spaces is really a great way [to stay in shape].”

“We always visualize the dude in the park with his du-rag on, doing pull-ups with the gloves. Or, the woman over there with a group doing boxing or kickboxing and Tae Bo in the field. I think any of those options really make sense and they’re easy to do if you have the means. So if you don’t have a budget, get outdoors. Go for a walk, go for a jog, go for a run or hit up your local park. Go play basketball, get some shots up or you can go to the track or field. Do some sprints, do some push-ups, etc.”

Percell Dugger getting in a good workout.
Percell Dugger getting in a good workout.
Photo: Courtesy of Percell Dugger

As previously noted, these are all excellent suggestions for cardio, but the absence of gyms also makes weight training much more difficult without access to dumbells, kettlebells and other weight training equipment. Thankfully, Dugger has an answer for that too.


“I think a great place to start is calisthenics,” he said. “You don’t have to lift a weight to have an effective workout. [...] If you use strength training and don’t have access to weights, there are a number of different ways that you can have effective workouts indoors. We call it isometrics and eccentrics—which are different types of contractions. You can do those without using any weights.”

He also sings the praises of high volume training—meaning more reps and sets—as a great way to improve muscle mass and hypertrophy.


“If you want to build more lean muscle mass,” he said. “If you set a goal of 100 push-ups every day, maybe start off with 20 pushups in a day or 20 pushups every hour throughout the course of the day. If you do that over the course of a month you’ll see some slight changes in your overall physique and conditioning.”

But to achieve maximum results, you can’t be solely reliant on exercise; diet plays a key role as well. There are also medical conditions, such as heart disease and hypertension that Black folks are far more susceptible to.


“My community at large deals with a lot of macro health disparities and inequalities that contribute to our relationship with fitness and staying in shape during COVID,” Dugger said. “Heart disease is the highest killer in terms of our communities. And to unpack that, you understand that most Black and Brown populated counties in America are considered food insecure or food deserts, meaning you don’t have [immediate] access to adequate produce and nutritious food. But we’ve got plenty of Popeye’s, Burger King and McDonald’s and gyms that serve us pizzas on Tuesdays. So I like this idea of wanting to actualize your relationship with wellness and continue to make progress.”

To that end, Dugger and the Fit For Us team have made it their mission to address these issues head-on. In Self Magazine’s September issue, he wrote an open letter to the fitness industry calling to bridge the racial health gap in America, launched a therapy relief fund to make therapeutic services more accessible for Black women and formed a coalition with other fitness professionals in order to amplify Black voices and foster diversity and inclusion in the health industry.


There’s also his Digital Wellness Conference, a 3-day virtual event that was designed to empower and serve Black fitness and wellness professionals.

“Therapy with our community is very much stigmatized and looked at as being something that you don’t really engage with,” he said. “When was the last time you were having a rough day and the wellness industry, the fitness space specifically, said, ‘Hey, here’s an outlook for you. Here’s someone to talk to about how you feel; these emotions and the tough time you’ve had and whatever you’ve got going on mentally.”


“Fitness isn’t just about the numbers on the scale or before and after pictures. It’s about community and serving that community. It’s about allowing our community to have access to what other communities have access to that don’t look like us.”

And with compassionate leaders like Dugger leading the charge to address these health disparities, we’re in the best possible hands.


To learn more about Dugger’s incredible work with GoodWRK and Fit For Us, visit their websites.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.


...? I think twenty a month might be more realistic in my case. I think the article writer has grossly overestimated my starting fitness level.