Staying Fit and Healthy During a Lockdown
There is no escaping the severity of the coronavirus situation. It is hard to believe that only a matter of weeks ago we were all going about our lives normally, maybe slightly concerned about the situation in China, but otherwise conducting business as usual.
But things have escalated at amazing speed and all of a sudden we are now facing major disruption to many aspects of our lives for what may stretch to several months. Our friends, family and colleagues can only be communicated with via phone and computer screens. Working lives for all but essential service roles are either on hold or conducted from home offices and kitchen tables. Our childcare solutions (both paid and extended family based) have vanished over night. We are left trying to build workable solutions that will see us through the coming months.
The priority is to keep the vulnerable safe and the health service functioning, but that involves each and every one of us sacrificing freedoms that we took for granted only a little while ago. For many of us, one of those freedoms was to exercise at classes, gyms, sports clubs and with friends, and the restriction of our right to do so will be a bitter pill for many of us to swallow. However, this is not going to be forever and there are a number of ways in which we can continue to stay fit and healthy until normal life resumes.
Staying Physically Fit and Mentally Well During a Lockdown
Most people recognise that team sports, exercise classes and even gym workouts are pretty social activities, whereas sports such as running and cycling are considered solitary. Take away the privilege of being able to train and compete in groups and you realise just how sociable running and cycling can be. Many people rely on friends and fellow club members for motivation, encouragement, friendly competition, advice and consolation when things don’t go to plan.
Left to our own devices, away from our usual routines that help us to stay on track, it could be easy to let our exercise regimes fall by the way side and for our moods to plummet as a consequence. But we don’t think coronavirus should be allowed to break us that easily. There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself healthy in body and mind during a lockdown, and here are our favourite tips to come out the other side feeling fit, strong and ready to pick up where you left off.
Keep a Routine
Whether you are looking to maintain an exercise regime or just stay motivated from one day to the next, as your own four walls start to make you feel a bit stir crazy, many people find that it helps to have a set routine. It portions the day into bite-size chunks and allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment as you tick-off the day’s tasks.
Healthy Food Choices
With all the panic buying going on at the moment, it at may feel like you just have to buy what is left on the supermarket shelves and hope for the best! However, even if you have to be a bit inventive and scour smaller shops that are not taking the panic-buying hit that the bigger shops are, you will still be able to shop healthily during a lockdown. A balanced diet, with plenty of vitamin C, will boost your immune system and give you more energy. If you love a bit of chocolate or a few crisps now and again, now is not the time to deny yourself of all guilty pleasures. Have a treat or two in the cupboard to act as a much-needed pick-me-up when you really want it.
Take Your Class Online
Many personal trainers and gym instructors are taking their classes online. If you have been used to travelling to the fitness suite, yoga studio or village hall, you may now find yourself standing in your own living room and watching your teacher on a screen. It may not be the quite same and it may prove more difficult for your instructor to help you if you are struggling to get a particular exercise right, but it is worth persevering, as you will be supporting your instructor and helping them to maintain cash-flow during this difficult time. You will also find it easier to stick to your exercise regime if you have paid for a class and made a commitment to be online for it at a certain time.
Do Your Research
If you do not have a your regular exercise class or if your class isn’t going online during the coronavirus lockdown, you should be able to find a pre-recorded series of classes on YouTube. Don’t just go with the first one on your list of search results, as the instruction technique and target fitness level varies hugely from one series to another. Start trying a selection of different ones and choose a style and fitness level that works for your specific needs. Doing this will make you more likely to stay the course and actually enjoy it in the process.
Keep it Simple
Don’t feel tempted to start something new that requires expert tuition and a well-honed technique before you can do it properly. It may seem like you have all the time in the world to set up your own pole in the living room and practice regularly to become a proficient pole dancer. However, to avoid injury and losing motivation when it turns out to be way harder than it looks, stick to simple, effective exercises that don’t require too much kit (such as squats, press ups and sit ups). Also, steer clear of working any problem areas too hard. If you have a notoriously bad right knee or a weak ankle, exercising these areas hard without the benefit of an instructor to tell you whether you are doing the movements correctly could lead to injury, which at best will put you out of action for a few weeks and at worst could land you in hospital, which is definitely the last place you want to be at the moment!
Enlist a Training Partner
If you are lucky enough to be isolated with a fellow fitness fanatic, your training partner can work out in the same room as you, offering friendly competition and encouragement. If not, buddy up with a friend online. You can either work out at the same time, using video chat to communicate while you do, or you can catch up post-workout and compare notes. Having someone else involved in your regime will make you more likely to stick to it and may motivate you to work harder and achieve more.
Use Your Imagination
Just because you no longer have the selection of equipment available at the gym or class at your disposal does not mean you have to spend your savings creating a home gym. Get creative with substitutions; using a sturdy chair or bed frame for tricep dips or substituting dumbbells with canned food. It may feel like this lockdown is going to last forever, but it won’t and we’ll have access to all the kit we need again in a few months time.
Try Virtual Racing
If it is your competitive spirit that gets you out of bed in the morning, and you are particularly disappointed that your spring races have been cancelled so that you cannot pit your performance against others, try virtual racing. Peloton, Zwift and Strava allow you to exercise in safe isolation, while ranking your performance against other users. Strava is free for the basic package and you can pay to upgrade to one of its premium packages. Zwift currently costs around £12 per month and Peloton is the priciest of the three, with charges starting at £1990 for kit and then a £39 per month subscription charge to access the online classes.
Zwift and Strava are available for both runners and cyclists but Pelton is currently only taking on new customers for its cycling package, as they have suspended delivery of their treadmill for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, as they do not feel that it is possible to deliver them and maintain social distancing guidelines. At time of writing, delivery of the Peloton bike is continuing as normal. If you would like to try Pelton or Zwift, both companies offer a free 30 day trial.
Current guidelines allow for us to go off for a solitary cycle ride or jog in the great outdoors, provided everyone in our household feels fit and well (no new, continuous cough or fever) and we are able to maintain social distancing guidelines. If you have been used to training with friends, make sure you take new measures to ensure your safety.
- Wear extra high viz, as a lone runner or cyclist is more difficult for a driver to spot than a group.
- Tell someone at home where you are going and when you expect to be back and ask them to come looking for you or raise the alarm if you fail to return.
- If you aren’t in the habit of doing so already, start taking your mobile with you when you go out. There are fewer people out on the road as a result of the lockdown and you may need to summon your own help if an accident occurs.
Take a Bit of You Time
Staying healthy isn’t just about eating right and maintaining an exercise regime, it is also about staying mentally healthy too. If you are in isolation with your family, it is easy to spend the day making sure they are happy, well-fed and adequately entertained, but don’t forget to take a bit of time for you. Do a quick meditation or yoga routine while the kids are watching TV or maybe just go into the garden and have a quick scream and take a few deep breaths to relieve some stress!
Take Social Media with a Pinch (or maybe a bucket load) of Salt
It used to be that social media was a light-hearted place for memes of cats that look suspiciously like dictators, for motivational quotes written against the backdrop of a sunset and for keeping in touch with friends and family. In the weeks to come, as we sit alone in our homes, we are going to love it for its capacity to help us feel connected and part of a global community battling this virus.
However, social media can be ugly; it is a place where inaccurate information is shared as fact, where panicking goes viral and where nastiness can get out of hand. Be aware of this and be strict with the way you use it. Check in on friends, send messages of reassurance and solidarity, but don’t take everything you see as the truth without looking to corroborate it elsewhere and don’t allow fear or anger to draw you into online arguments. It is harder to bounce back from cross words when you have been forced into isolation.
Don’t be Tempted to Drown Your Sorrows
There have been times, listening to the increasingly restrictive measures coming out of Downing Street, when the thought of making it all go away - even if only temporarily - with a few stiff gin and tonics has seemed far too tempting. The problem is that if you aren’t in a positive frame of mind when you start drinking, you are not going to be when you stop, no matter how many you have. So, enjoy a glass of wine now and again (we aren’t animals we don’t propose total abstinence, unless that is what you really want to do) but don’t drink the entire bottle to try and make it all go away. Because it’s not that easy, otherwise Boris would definitely have tried!
Join an Online Idea Sharing Group
If you have exhausted all the options you can think of for keeping yourself amused, entertaining the kids or remaining motivated to stay fit and healthy, look for help. There are online groups popping up all the time, where we can get tips to help us through lockdown and share our own ideas with others. In a time when it will be easy to feel more and more alone, it is good to get first-hand evidence that just down the road, in the neighbouring town, across the country and throughout the world, people are fighting similar battles. It’s been said a lot online recently, but it bears repeating: we are in this together (and it won’t last forever).