Most of us will be finding it harder than ever to meet the government’s recommended target of 150 minutes of exercise a week. For the essential workers and business owners among us, while you are taking on extra shifts with reduced staffing levels or fighting to keep businesses afloat, sitting on the erg for 30 minutes every evening is not your number one priority just now. For those of us lucky enough to be furloughed, a sudden abundance of free time can also make it surprisingly difficult to find the motivation to get off the sofa and put on some fresh lycra.
A bad day in our house might start with the self satisfaction of making it out of bed before midday, sniffing yesterday’s leggings and sports bra to see if they’ll pass for another wear (don’t judge – no one outside my house will be coming within 6 feet of me and I’m in my pyjamas much longer than my day clothes at the moment). I’ll get distracted with some cleaning or washing for about an hour and every time I step over the rowing machine to get from room to room I’ll keep promising myself that I’ll get on it at some point. I’ll then end up pouring over a crossword in the kitchen for about 3 hours listening to true crime podcasts and playing on my phone before realising it’s time to get the dinner on. Obviously I wouldn’t want to do anything too vigorous on a full stomach and… woops! – I’ve drunk a bottle of wine so should really just call it a day. I eventually go to bed after watching TV until a ridiculous time in the morning.
As I said – that’s a bad day and thankfully they don’t happen too often. I have on occasions managed a few consecutive days of running, cycling, yoga, erging or even the odd living room circuits session. When I can feel the burn in my thighs as I struggle to lower myself down to the toilet or get up from a chair, I feel great! But then a ‘bad’ day follows and I can’t help feeling guilty that all the hard work will be undone in a matter of hours. Rest assured – Google informs me that someone moderately active could go several weeks without exercise before you start to lose muscle! Overall, I have been really enjoying my lock down exercise and I think I’ve achieved quite a lot. We are all human and we all have bad days. So, what keeps us motivated so that one bad day doesn’t turn into two and then before we know it we’ve spent a week changing from PJs to lycra to PJs again, not knowing if we’re showering enough or showering too often given that we’re doing very little to warrant the gymwear that we keep putting on?
We have been inundated with posts and adverts about virtual exercise classes. My personal favourites are the Rowhouse Go! videos on Facebook and Yoga with Adreinne on Youtube. The Asensei app for erg sessions, Couch to 5K audio courses, and of course, Joe Wicks’ PE sessions have also been very popular. I’ve also started using Strava for bike rides and British Rowing is a great resource for training programmes. The list is endless and everyone will have their favourites. Self employed gym instructors and fitness coaches are obviously struggling just now and most have tapped into the virtual market. So, we have access to this great plethora of programs, most of which we can get for free, and a lot of us have got plenty of time to do it. If we’re still struggling to pull on our trainers then what’s missing?
Although I don’t currently have one, I see value in gym memberships for more than just the getting fit part. I think most of us at some point, while paying upwards of £25 a month to go to a body pump class or use the treadmill, have thought to ourselves ‘I could do this in my living room with some baked bean tins or go for a run outside for free!’. We don’t actually pay the membership to get our heart rates up or build muscle. We pay for the motivation. For the company. For the instruction. For the routine. For the spa facilities, perhaps. For not having to make an excuse about the weather. Maybe the whole act of paying the money itself is the incentive. We can still get some of these benefits while the gyms are closed. A quick search brings up pages of online gym subscriptions that you can purchase and sign up to. Many of the online tutorials via Zoom or Facebook Live are scheduled so that you can plan and show up at a specific time. This may be particularly helpful if you think a lack of routine is having an effect on your fitness. To avoid using up too many words discussing the pros and cons of the gym and telling you things that you already know, I’ve come up with a few things that might prevent you from putting on your finest Reeboks to spend an afternoon binging box sets.
- If working from home, try to separate your work area from your work out area.
- Make sure the area is bright and you have enough space.
- Have a drink and towel ready and anything else you may need nearby.
- Go to the toilet before you begin.
- Spend some time making a new workout playlist to listen to during your session.
- Buy some new gym clothes that you’ll be excited to try out.
- Schedule a circuit class with friends via one of the many video calling platforms.
- Find a simple challenge or set yourself a goal. For example; aim for an achievable 2Km time on the erg; try to build up to a 3 minute plank; see how far you can erg, run or cycle in 30 minutes and try to beat it.
- Keep mixing it up. If you’re bored of running around the park then try something else.
- It’s better to move your goal post than give up. If you went into lockdown thinking you’d be able to run a marathon by the time it was over yet you peaked at 7Km and haven’t been for a run since then try for 10Km or cycle or row a marathon instead.
- Look back at what you’ve actually managed to achieve, not what you set out to do, and feel proud about it. (So, you’re not running a marathon yet but you managed to run 7Km – that’s fantastic! You haven’t beat your PB 5Km time but you’ve been on the rowing machine twice a week – good job!)
- Always have a plan. Don’t just sit on the rowing machine and see how you get on. Do a specific interval workout, distance, route or time.
- Get nerdy and learn about the exercise you’re doing, what muscle groups it targets, what the numbers mean, how to improve technique. Whether it’s erging, cycling, planking, running, rollerskiing – there will be plenty of scientific studies and information available to help you. Can you use your fitness tracker or phone for more than just counting steps?
- Finally, look after your equipment and learn how it works. Clean your yoga mat, search Youtube to see what servicing you can do on your bike or erg yourself*. Will your trainers benefit from some fresh laces or insoles?
I appreciate that video calls are not the same as actual gym sessions and these ideas cannot replace a sunny Saturday morning down on the beautiful waters of the river Tay. For now, though, there are plenty of things to try. Share your ideas, let us know what you enjoy and, most importantly, don’t feel guilty about those
bad rest days.
*I take no responsibility for that extra part you’ve just found if you’ve dismantled your equipment and think you’ve put it all back together again.