Lockdown Exercise whatever your Fitness level
If you’re a regular gym bunny or simply looking to start losing a few pounds the restrictive measures brought about by coronavirus has meant the world of fitness has had to change. I’m Stuart, David’s brother, and he asked me to take over the blog this week to discuss tips for hitting your fitness goals depending on the stage of training you’re at, discuss my own favourite lockdown training methods and offer weight loss tips for those of you looking to get in shape for that elusive summer holiday.
‘I don’t really exercise’: Starting back after a lengthy period of inactivity
The thought of starting back can be a daunting prospect. Potentially too many late nights at the office or countless sleepless nights has meant that exercise is just something for other people; those with time and energy, and no children, you could only dream of. If you’re finally in a place that exercise is back on the radar here’s some advice for starting back:
1. Don’t push too hard too fast. Rome wasn’t built in a day and unfortunately your dream body won’t be either. Fitness takes times and although early enthusiasm can have some benefits, training too much after a lengthy period of inactivity often results in injury. Furthermore, if you start off training five days a week it can be very demotivating when your early levels are not sustained, often generating feelings of failure and apathy towards exercise. So start with small steps and enjoy the journey.
2. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy. It sounds simple but if you hate running then you don’t need to run. This is your time!! Instead, maybe go for a brisk walk with a good audio book and use the time to catch up on all those books you have been meaning to read. Exercise should not be a punishment.
3. What gets tracked gets measured. Keep a diary for your training, do not just note down times or reps but also how you feel. After a month of doing so you will be able to see what has worked well for you and hopefully some small changes in fitness levels. Tracking can also keep you accountable, in particular tracking food means mindless snacking is far less likely.
4. Do not worry about others. Social media can be a dangerous and intimidating place if you are starting out. Being bombarded with images of models or fitness pros with low body fats and chiselled abs will just serve only to demotivate. Do not be put off if you’ve run 1km and your best friend has just writing about their ultra marathon, this is your journey.
5. Small changes make big results. Think about the small changes you can make in your life that over a sustained period will make a big difference. This might be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the lift, doing 10-pushups everyday before you go to bed or having a healthy smoothie in the morning. Regular positive habits are far better than big bang unsustainable changes.
Tips for the gym junkie
For many the gym is a place of belonging. A place to switch off from the world and be with their own thoughts, sweating away the stress of their day. With the gyms now closed, and likely to be for some time that does not mean that training must stall. Check out these tips for keeping your training on track despite the closures.
1. Try something new. Your old routine of heavy lifting might not be available to you now, but this can be an opportunity to try something new. Maybe dust off those old trainers and take them for a spin or get on your bike and take a ride. The body reacts well to new stimulus so now is a good time to try something new and hopefully find something you might enjoy, even when the gyms open back up.
2. Work on your flexibility. For a lot of people, years of lifting weights for several hours per week often means that your muscles have become shortened and tight. With the gyms closed, it is an ideal time to work on your flexibility as it can be done with no equipment but requires time and dedication. Once the gyms open again your new flexibility should translate into greater range of motion and in turn better technique.
3. Use your own bodyweight. Although the gym may be closed there are still methods of working on and building strength. This can still be done with minimal equipment, often just your bodyweight with compound exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups and split squats all being effective. Just increase the time under tension and range of motion to optimise your results.
4. Set some goals. It is always important to have something to work towards. Take some time to write down some goals, making sure that they tick of all the parameters of SMART goals (S – specific, M – measurable, A – agreed, R – realistic, T- timeframe). Goal setting will give you a focus and has been shown to increase adherence and motivation.
5. Improve your knowledge. Although it may be a challenge to develop your training physically it is always an opportunity to develop your knowledge. Maybe try using the time to develop your knowledge of nutrition, training principles or sports psychology maybe signing up for an online course or expanding your reading library.
Our favourite types of home exercise
You could be excused for thinking that Yoga is a series of backbreaking stretches exclusively for athletes and fitness enthusiasts with superhuman levels of flexibility. Particularly when images of individuals with their legs behind their heads or holding their full bodyweight on their fingertips are commonplace amongst celebrities and fitness influencers.
However, the reality is the physical Asana practice of Yoga is just one part of the overall philosophy and can easily be tailored to meet the ability level of the participant. So it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or have been practicing for years, Yoga practice is unique to the individual and will be an entirely personal experience. A vast number of yoga forms are available to try.
Give it a go and enjoy not just the physical benefits but the mental health benefits too. For online yoga, I recommend taking a look at TriYoga, which offers a number of different forms of Yoga via Zoom or FLY LDN.
Modern day Pilates is based on Joseph Pilates original concept called Contrology. Contrology was initially developed by Joseph to help him overcome the physical ailments he suffered as a child including rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. Using a combination of Yoga, martial arts, weightlifting and boxing he eventually developed a series of exercises designed to improve both mental and physical wellbeing. The moves emphasised conscious movement, with a focus on breathing and engagement of the correct muscle groups was the basis of Contrology.
With only an exercise mat required, any online Pilates session will take you through a sequence of moves aimed at improving your core strength, building buns of steel and overall proprioception. Exhale Pilates in London offers a number of classes online.
With the inability to cycle great distances the world of cycling has brought the world to your living room. Platforms such as ZWIFT and Peloton have meant that you can compete with friends, join a live class and cycle parts of the world you never thought possible. So, if you do have access to an exercise bike or turbo trainer saddle up and get exploring.
If you don’t have any equipment then fear not, many online options now offer classes that can be done with our without simple equipment. One of my favourites is the recently launched GRNDHOUSE, a high intensity interval training membership class which was founded by a collective of incredible master trainers including Connor Minney, Izy George, Nik Naidoo and Louis Rennocks.
P-volve is another online sensation, originating in the US, that involves a basic equipment set for bodyweight exercises that can be purchased alongside a very affordable subscription pack of classes. It is suitable for any fitness level and there are over 200 classes per day to choose from!
Weight Loss Tips
For a number of people, the goal might be to lose weight for health or aesthetic reasons. Either way it is important to recognise that like when starting to exercise this should be a slow and steady process based on habit changing rather than an all our nothing approach that can lead to binges and an unhealthy attitude towards food. After all food is to be enjoyed and appreciated, although all things in moderation. Here are some simple weight loss tips.
1. Don’t become obsessed with the scales. Although the scales will give a measure of weight, they are not the be all and end all, so do not become obsessed by the number on the scale. Weight will constantly fluctuate depending on hydration, menstrual cycles and a magnitude of intercellular processes. It can be very demotivating if a week of sacrifice and good habits is not reflected on the scales. For this reason, other tracking measures such as how your clothes feel, or progress pictures are often a better sign of progress.
2. Keep hydrated. Hunger signals are often mistaken for dehydration, so if you do feel hungry try having a glass of water first and see if it subsides. Having a sufficient water intake is also particularly important for overall health. Supplements can help, particularly when it comes to nourishing the tissues and David’s SkInfusion drink is ideal to take when you are doing exercise to help deliver key micronutrients to the skin and other tissues.
3. Track your intake. Using a tracking app such as MyFitnessPal, particularly in the early stages, can give a lot of information about your eating habits. So maybe your weakness is portion control or a tendency to over snack recording your intake will illustrate this. It will also highlight if you are indeed in a caloric deficit which is fundamental for losing weight.
4. Have a high protein diet. Protein is our body’s building block and is important for maintaining lean muscle mass. In addition, protein will help keep the body fuller for longer so it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got plenty of protein on your plate.
5. Up your NEAT. Neat is known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and is just a fancy way of saying moving. The more active you are the more calories you will burn and in turn be more likely to be in a caloric deficit. So try to take all the small steps you can to keep moving. This may be simply doing the housework or getting your daily steps up.
Although coronavirus has made fitness difficult there are plenty of ways to keep on track and hit your goals. If you’re starting from the beginning, don’t be dismayed, a little daily exercise can make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing.