FIGHTING FIT // how to exercise at home when you can’t go to the gym

how I'm exercising from home - shot of gym equipment

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I’ve been trying to make the very most of this time in lockdown.

I know it’s not the answer for everyone, but my way of coping with the anxiety and uncertainty is to keep busy; being productive makes me feel more in control, while working out from home helps me keep on top of my health and fitness. 

A year ago I rejoined the gym after not going for a few years, and it quickly became so much more than a place to work out – it was where I went to decompress, destress and reenergise. I went almost every day, and – as well as feeling the overall fitness benefits – I noticed a lot of my niggling aches and pains were disappearing and even years-old injuries were improving (have you read about my accident-prone life?)

My flexibility and posture improved, which massively helped with my hyper-mobility and balance issues. I was sleeping better, feeling more energised and my self confidence shot up too.

Then, just as I was really hitting my stride, the coronavirus landed and – of course – all the gyms shuttered up. After working so hard to move forward with my fitness and feeling all the benefits, I didn’t want to start sliding backwards again, so I’ve had to be a bit more inventive. 

When it became clear lockdown was looming I knew I had to quickly figure out how to start working out from home. I already had some hand weights and a yoga mat, so ordered some resistance bands, a foam roller and a kettlebell. Voilà! An instant mini home gym.

However, my issue has never been equipment, it’s motivation and accountability. I wake up with the best intentions to work out, but by the time I’ve homeschooled and done some work and had something to eat and pottered around, it’s late afternoon and I can’t be bothered anymore. Also, I need the formality of a class and someone telling me what to do, otherwise I don’t push myself.

I started looking for a better compromise, something to inspire me to exercise until I could return to the gym, and was pleasantly surprised by the range of clever, effective options that have sprung up in response to lockdown. As the quarantine has dragged on I’ve built up quite the library of ‘gym-away-from-gym’ resources; this is how I’m working out from home:

• My regular gym, David Lloyd, froze their memberships as soon as lockdown began and immediately began filming online fitness videos to load on to their app. If you’re not a member, you can pay £5 a month to access the online content.

There’s a brilliant selection now – everything from cardio dance, to resistance band workouts, to yoga for flexibility. They have live classes, but I’m not usually organised enough for those. Each day I go into back catalogue and pick the class that appeals the most that day – most often pilates or yoga – which I either watch via my iPad, or cast through the television. But if you can’t spare even a few pounds, simply search YouTube and you’ll find a wealth of free workout videos (you’ll just have to tune out the adverts!).

• Like hundreds of thousands of other people around the world, the girls and I will sometimes join Joe Wicks for a workout. I turn to him when I feel like an old-fashioned personal training session, but once a week is just fine – I can only take so many burpees!

• If you don’t fancy joining a traditional gym, one of the silver linings of lockdown is that the digital fitness industry has exploded. Now you can choose from a huge range of online classes, from yoga and pilates, to bootcamps and general fitness. Many offer a free introductory period, so you can ‘try before you buy’, including Results Wellness Lifestyle (formerly known as Results With Lucy), set up by TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh. This fitness app has live sessions and over 1000 on-demand workouts, a supportive community of over 10,000 women, and a team of professionals on hand for advice and motivation.

• When I’m feeling energetic I prefer something a bit more fun; in the first week of lockdown I ordered a Zumba dvd via Sky – at £5.99 for a permanent digital download, it was an expense I could justify – so I’ll play that and go through a few of the dance routines. Not only does it get the old heart rate up, it gives me a real energy boost for the rest of the day. If you’re a subscriber, Sky has now added a huge range of exercise videos to the ‘Buy & Keep’ section of their Sky Store (if you want to find out how many calories you’re eradicating with each workout, pop your details into an online exercise calorie calculator – I find these are great when I want to ‘work off’ a naughty takeaway or one too many chocolate biscuits).

• On the flip side, when I’m not feeling particularly inspired, I roll out my yoga mat and do some stretching for half an hour. When I’m under stress I tend to hold tension in my lower back and between my shoulder blades, so I find this both relaxing and a great way to release sore muscles. Also, the increased flexibility helps with my other exercise, as my muscles and joints move more easily.

• Often, while I’m watching telly or scrolling through my phone I’ll use the resistance bands and hand weights to sneak in a few additional exercises – a few bicep curls here and a couple of leg lifts there. In fact, if you’re looking for little ways to get started, there’s a fab blog post that addresses working out from home and how to keep fit without gym equipment from personal trainer Charlene Hutsebaut: ‘Top 10 Sneaky Fitness Tips for Busy Mums‘.

In addition to my home workout regime, I’ve accidentally overhauled my diet. Takeaways and gratuitous shopping trips are both on hold as we save as much money as possible, so I’ve found myself cooking a lot more from scratch – both because it’s cheaper, and also because I’ve had more time to devote to planning and making family meals.

I’ve also been trying to reduce food wastage, which has meant loads more mixed veggies and stir fries as I make more effort to use up what’s in the fridge. So, in a strange positive twist, we’re also eating healthier than ever!

It’s made me really rethink this strange and worrisome time and view it as a chance to make some positive changes to our lives, changes that will continue long after lockdown ends.

So that’s how I’m working out from home – check out what these bloggers have been doing to keep fit during lockdown. What tips do you have?

If you’re hoping to use lockdown to also improve your health and wellbeing, you might find it useful to start with a health test to identify any issues that you need to focus on. Don’t worry about social distancing – these days it’s as simple as submitting an online blood test to identify concerns with your metabolism, thyroid, cholesterol and iron levels and much more. 

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