Since gyms have closed, we have all had to get a little more creative with our exercise regimes. A lack of weight machines, treadmills and cross trainers has forced many of us to go back to basics in order to stay active.
My biggest challenge when it comes to exercising without the gym is finding the motivation. I love to exercise but the truth is that in the absence of work and a proper daily routine, I have struggled to do much with my time besides snack, nap and watch TV.
In fact when my boyfriend discovered that I was writing a blog about staying active, he thought I was joking because – and I quote – “you spend all day napping!”
After sulking for half an hour because he had dared to speak the truth, I realised it would probably be best to begin this blog by stating that these tips are not for fitness fanatics or gym bunnies. These tips are for people like myself, who have struggled to get their backsides off the sofa since this pandemic began.
So you can’t run 10K or do 100 burpees consecutively? That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the benefits of daily exercise.
As well as being a great form of self-care, exercise can improve your mood and boost energy levels. The NHS recommends ’75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity’ or ‘150 minutes of moderate intensity activity’ every week. Now I don’t know about you, but in my current can’t-get-through-the-day-without-a-nap state the word vigorous gives me heart palpitations. Moderate, however, seems more doable and 150 minutes a week equals just 20 minutes of exercise per day, an achievable goal for any of us couch potatoes!
So here are several easy tips to help you hit your 150 minute weekly goal without a gym membership. And if you’re injury prone like me, these tips come with the added bonus of having little to no risk of resulting in a dislocated hip or other essential joint.
Disclaimer: I am clearly not qualified in fitness, these are just a few tips that have worked for me. Please do not sue me if you do actually injure yourself, I cannot afford a lawsuit on an entry-level marketing salary.
Commit to a virtual fitness programme
One of the best things about the internet is how easy it is to connect with people who have similar interests. Online fitness communities have always been popular but even more so now that many personal trainers and fitness influencers are offering programmes specifically for at-home exercise.
I personally recommend Lucy Mountain’s aptly named No Bullshit Guide (‘nobs’ for short) – it works your whole body and best of all it comes with a no burpee guarantee. Hallelujah!
If weight training and gym-inspired workouts aren’t your thing, I recently signed up to Joeley Bishop’s dance programme with the goal of becoming a pro-dancer before the clubs re-open. Although that goal becomes less likely as the weeks go by and I continue to dance like a robot malfunctioning, I always have fun with the routines thanks to Joeley’s relatable approach and teaching style.
For all the yogis out there, there’s also plenty of yoga sessions to try online. Nottingham-based Yoga & Well-being Centre at1.SPACE are currently offering daily classes through their weekly and monthly membership packages.
Rediscover the joy of skipping
Who else loved skipping in the playground when they were a child? Great news, it can be just as much fun in adulthood! Although I will warn you in advance, skipping is not as easy as it was when you were ten, but then again that’s why it’s a good choice for cardio.
I’m sure most of us have a skipping rope tucked away in the garage or loft but if not you can find one on Ebay or Facebook Marketplace for a couple of pounds. Obviously this tip works best if you have a garden or live near a park, but who am I to say you can’t skip around your living room if the mood takes you?
Buy some weights (or raid your pantry!)
Did you know the NHS also recommend we do strengthening activities at least twice a week? Yeah, I’m not too thrilled about it either. At least a pair of dumbbells won’t set you back too much money and if you don’t feel like paying out for equipment you realistically may never use, there’s always that timeless substitute to fall back on: two tins of baked beans. I have also found using a pair of wrist weights great for adding some extra challenge to daily walks. I bought mine from TK Maxx five years ago but you can get a similar pair from Amazon.
Make the most of YouTube’s free workout videos
There’s lots of free fitness resources available on YouTube, from HIIT to Zumba workouts. On those days where your energy levels feel non-existent, try searching for 10 or 15 minute workouts. You might be thinking ‘why bother with such a short workout?’ but remember that even 10 minutes will benefit you more than avoiding exercise entirely. You may also find that those 10 minutes give you the boost of energy you need to tackle a longer workout.
For added motivation and fun, why not convince your partner to get involved or persuade a friend to have a go at the same workout over Zoom?
Hit your daily step goal
Step count has developed a negative reputation in the fitness community because it is possible to achieve a certain number of steps without necessarily being very active. For example, two people could walk 10,000 steps in one day, but while one of them clocked up those steps by power-walking at a pace that leaves them breathless, the other might have reached that total after a day of wandering the high street on a leisurely shopping trip.
Despite this, I know from personal experience that if I don’t purposely commit to meeting my step count, I walk on average less than 3,000 steps a day. I use a Fitbit to keep track of my steps, but most smartphones also come with an inbuilt pedometer – you just need to remember to keep your phone in your pocket all day to ensure an accurate total!
Invest in a fitness watch
A fitness watch is by no means a necessity for staying active but if you are the type of person who thrives on rewards, it can really help. I need to see immediate results when I exercise in order to stay motivated and being able to track the distance I have run or the calories I have burnt during a workout helps me to push myself harder.
If you choose a Fitbit, you can also connect with friends and family and compete against them in exercise challenges. Feeding your competitive side in this way will motivate you to exercise more. I am not ashamed to admit that I have found myself pacing my living room like a mad woman at 10 o’clock at night on more than one occasion, determined to triumph in a daily step challenge.
Download a fitness app for extra motivation
I’m a sucker for a good fitness app. Something about downloading a new fitness app just makes me feel like I’ve got my life together, even if it’s 11am and I’m on my phone in bed. My favourite app is Couch to 5K because even the most unfit people can learn to jog by following a straight forward eight-week programme. The variety of celebrity voice-overs to choose from are also genius – that might not sound particularly important, but for some unknown reason it proves to be a very effective motivator… of course I know Sarah Millican isn’t actually cheering me on while I jog, but some part of me still doesn’t want to disappoint her by slowing down or stopping.
Another god send from the app universe is the 7 Minute Workout. If you are having one of those days where you can’t be bothered to do anything more than move from lounging on your bed to vegging on the sofa, this app is perfect for you. You will be surprised by how much exercise you can fit into 7 minutes; on average, I burn 100 calories during each workout! Aim to do the workout daily or even multiple times a day and you will see a big improvement in your fitness levels.
Go for a bike ride
Confession: I only learned to ride a bike two years ago. And thank god I did because my bike has been a life-saver during these months without public transport. As well as providing you with a way to travel from A to B, weekly bike rides make a nice change to the monotony of daily walks. You can bike to the nearby park for a socially distanced picnic or to your friend’s back garden for drinks (just be careful not to over do it with the Prosecco if you’re riding back home!).
Even if you do drive, try swapping your car for your bike where possible. Not only will it increase your activity levels and save you money on petrol, you also get a hypothetical gold star from Mother Nature for minimising your carbon footprint.
Go on a long distance walk
Now that restrictions have been lifted on driving to the countryside, it is the ideal time to embark on a scenic walk or hike at one of Britain’s best nature spots. The Peak District is one of my favourite places to walk. Provided you stick to social distancing rules, you could invite some friends to join you too. It helps to have a set destination in mind if the walk is going to be a particularly long or challenging one, so remember to search online for any pubs or restaurants in the area that may be offering takeout food or a click & collect service (like these businesses in Nottingham) and reward yourself with some good grub.
If you are still struggling to find the motivation to exercise after reading this blog, maybe it’s time to accept that your body is trying to tell you something. It’s OK to not be ‘living your best life’ right now – we are in the middle of a global pandemic and most of us are bound to feel the impact of that, both mentally and physically.
Remember, we might not be thriving but we are surviving and that’s still something to be proud about.