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Don’t succumb to Lockdown guilt!

Social media has kept many of us sane during the COVID lockdown.

Whether it’s recreating dance moves for TikTok, following fitness classes on Facebook Live or scrolling through memes bemoaning lockdown life, it’s been a cause of entertainment at a time when we’ve definitely needed it the most.

The problem is, constant scrolling can also quickly turn into a guilt-fest as we see people showing off that they have become much fitter or documenting how many miles they have been running for charity.

This is the last thing you need when you’ve just about managed to get the kids up and dressed, juggling home schooling and working from home, let alone navigating a global pandemic.

So, as restrictions begin to be lifted and life returns to some kind of ‘normality’, maybe it’s time to ditch our old lockdown media pal and concentrate on the present?

Forgive yourself for a fitness dip
Lots of trainers wouldn’t allow their clients to come up with excuses as to why they haven’t kept up with fitness or missed a session.

But the fact of the matter is COVID has presented us with pretty exceptional circumstances. It is entirely justifiable that we have let our health and fitness drop, whether you are used to running around after the kids or you are a regular gym goer.

Don’t worry! This is completely normal considering the change in activity your body has experienced over the past six months. If we move less, then our muscles are going to get weaker and become tired more quickly.

Don’t feel guilty, feel motivated. Because you know you can get back on track. Start small, instead of going to the park for an hour’s kick about with the kids, keep it a little shorter at first and build exercise back up. Remember – if a marathon runner took a year off, they wouldn’t expect to run a PB on their first outing.

Don’t compare!
Instagram feeds during lockdown are filled with selfies of celebrities showing off their beach bodies by their pools or exceptional achievers who have run a marathon a week during lockdown.

But don’t beat yourself up, just because they are shouting about their achievements it doesn’t make yours any less. A cycle to the shops or a walk to the park with the kids may seem less ‘instagrammable’ but it’s still a worthwhile form of activity and will come with its own health benefits.

Government guidelines suggest adults should be doing about 30 minutes exercise a day, while kids should be doing an hour. It doesn’t have to be running or high intensity activity, as long as your heart begins to beat a little quicker and your breathing gets harder you are doing yourself good.

If you do fancy a challenge, it’s not too late to start. People used lockdown as an opportunity to do things they hadn’t had chance to do before, but now things are easing it simply gives you a wider choice when it comes to activities such as swimming or going to a new gym class.

Don’t get stressed, get moving!
Lockdown has been an incredibly stressful time, whether it’s been work, finances, childcare or the lack of freedom to do what you know and love. And as rules begin to be relaxed it’s entirely likely that you will begin to feel anxious about getting back into the ‘real world’ again.

Remember, exercise is a great stress reliever, and while you may feel a little worried about heading to a swimming pool or public gym, a long walk or run can help build your confidence and relieve some of the stress that has built up.

As well as helping you relax and unwind, you will also find that increasing your activity will ensure you sleep better and concentrate more, which of course is important for yourself and your kids if you are heading back into the office or school.

Any form of exercise is good for the brain and will be a good stress reliever. Being part of a team or taking part in a fitness class with friends, while respecting social distancing measures, is a great way to get you laughing and enjoying yourself, while running, swimming and walking have great meditative effects, helping relax you and keep you focussed, so it’s all doing you good.

And don’t forget – kids get stressed too and are also highly likely to be affected by what’s happening in the world, so be sure to include them in your activities too. A game of football, a walk up a hill or a game of hide and seek will do the whole family wonders!

Whether you have been on furlough, frantically juggling family life or the lockdown has affected your mental health, the return to ‘normality’ will come with its challenges.

If the social media feed that kept you going is now causing negative thoughts, leave it behind and concentrate on what’s to come!

A running engagement

Latest figures show that almost a million people in the UK have downloaded the Couch to 5k running app during lockdown – that’s more than double the downloads for the same period last year.

If you’re one of those people AND you completed the challenge, then well done! You should feel really great about your achievement. Perhaps you are now wondering ‘that next’? Or, if this isn’t you, it may well be that you are thinking of giving it a go – especially with lockdown restrictions now easing. Whichever camp you fall into, hopefully this will help.

I’m a real champion of running, it’s a great way to stay active, it’s fantastic at keeping your heart healthy and strong, and the whole family can do it together. All you need is a pair of trainers and comfy clothing – no gym memberships or specialist equipment required!
So, whether you’re new to running or looking to extend your challenge beyond the 5k, here are a few tips to make or keep running a regular part of your routine.

Couch to 5k

So, for those who are new to the concept, here’s a quick overview of what all the fuss is about.

The Couch to 5k is a running app for your mobile phone which aims to steadily increase your stamina with the end goal being to run for 30 minutes without stopping.

It sounds quite daunting, but each coaching session – divided into three sessions a week – steadily takes you from a mixture of walking and running, to running for longer periods until you can jog along for 30 minutes.

There are a few variations of the app so you can choose what appeals most to you. With the NHS version you can choose whose voice you hear as your mentor, from the calming tones of Sarah Millican encouraging you to keep going, to the no-nonsense encouragement and running tips from Michael Johnson.

The lockdown has been a great opportunity for people to take on the app while they are not doing their usual commutes etc. but it is available all year round – so it’s never too late to try!

Of course, you don’t have to use the app, there are plenty of running plans you can follow on line which you can complete it as a family or group – you just need someone keeping an eye on the time so you know how long you are running/walking for.

5k and beyond…

A common goal that follows the Couch to 5k is would be to join a running club or sign up for a fun run which the whole family can take part in without pressure.

But with mass gatherings and events banned for the foreseeable future, this is where you might need to be a little creative.

Why not map out a 5, 8 or 10k run in a location you haven’t run before? Mapping out a new route will make the run more interesting. A good starting point is to find a circular path that surrounds a field or lake so that you don’t have to worry about following directions. And if you are running with family members or with friends (maintaining social distancing) who are quicker/slower, you don’t have to worry about everyone staying together.

The advantage of a new route will also mean you are challenged in a different way. If you’ve stuck to road running why not find an alternative with some different terrain, or introduce some hills to your route which will also improve form, increase strength and boost your speed.

Go back to the beginning

The couch to 5k is great way to get you running and you can definitely call yourself a runner by the end. But if you want to continue to get fitter, then increasing your pace and distance will help.

If you have a smart phone that tracks your distance, you may even find that your 30 minute run doesn’t quite equate to 5k – or anywhere near! This is nothing to worry about, it all depends on your pace and even your leg length!

If you’ve never run before it’s likely you will have been concentrating on getting around without stopping without thinking about how fast you are going. Now you know you can do it you can look at refining your style and speed, and the simplest way of doing this is by resetting the app and using the intervals to switch between running speeds rather than walking and jogging. This way you can continue to increase your stamina and get faster.

Take inspiration!

The great thing about the Couch to 5k is that it’s accessible to everyone and designed for the beginner. Crucially, it’s also a great way of demonstrating how people can go from being a complete novice to achieving more than they might expect in quite a short time.

Which is why even if you try running and it isn’t for you…it isn’t for everyone…you can still take inspiration from the concept of starting small and building up. Why not set your own plan for you and the family to follow? This can be applied to walking, cycling, scooting or even playing a game of football with the kids.

You can increase time spent, or number of steps, repetitions etc. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are building up gradually to healthy habits that you’ll really benefit from today, tomorrow and well into the future.

A new era for cyling

There’s never been a better time to get out on your bike than during lockdown.

The lack of cars and commuters has meant cyclists of all abilities can ride on the normally busy roads with a new-found confidence. While gyms and outdoor sports have been out of action, it has proven to be a fantastic way for whole families to get active together safely.

Now, with lockdown rules relaxing and more people returning to work, you’d be forgiven for thinking your time on the bike could be coming to an end.

But don’t give up hope just yet! The public’s love of cycling hasn’t gone unnoticed, and massive investments are already being made to make Britain’s streets more cycle friendly.

Safer streets for the future

In May the Government announced a £2billion investment to boost greener, active transport. In some areas this has already led to the introduction of pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus only corridors.

It is hoped that this will not only encourage new cyclists to continue their love affair with cycling, but encourage people who have been anxious about the safety of roads to have a go too.

Dedicated cycle lanes mean you are kept within a safe space away from fast cars, you are less likely to encounter impatient drivers, and you have more space to negotiate obstacles in the road such as pot holes or people stepping out, so any investment is positive.

Health benefits

Cycling isn’t just a good way to stay out of contact with others while travelling during the ongoing pandemic, it’s also a healthy choice for your body and will significantly improve yours and your family’s fitness.

The Government recommends that adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, while children should be aiming for an hour.

Take into consideration your commute to work, a cycle to the shops or a family bike ride on a weekend and you are eating into a good chunk of this target with ease.

And that’s not all, cycling can also help keep your weight under control and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Get in gear

The great thing about cycling is that there are bikes, helmets and other pieces of equipment to suit all abilities and budgets – especially when you get hunting online.

Many buy and sell sites in particular will enable you to pick up a second, third or even fourth hand bike that is still in great condition. Just remember, if you do pick up an older bike or uncover one in the back of your shed, be sure to get it serviced before you go out on a ride as you don’t want it failing on you mid-cycle!

There are also many bikes available for people with disabilities, so check out Wheels for All and Cycling UK if you or your family can’t use a traditional two wheeled bike.

Keep it up

If you’ve become a regular peddler during lockdown then you already know how quick and easy cycling is. But as routines change and roads become busier, it’s easy to find excuses to go back to the car or public transport.

Don’t! You’ve developed a really good habit that will be harder to get back into if you stop.

And remember, if you are a bit anxious about the roads getting busier there are plenty of other options – why not take advantage of local parks, canals and towpaths, for example.

If you do intend to stick to road cycling it’s also worth reminding yourself (and this goes for cyclists old and new) of the Highway Code so that you are confident and don’t make any risky manoeuvres.

Just do it!

With massive investments in greener transport there has never been a better time to get into cycling.

And it’s not just about getting healthy. Getting active before work, or as a family, will also do your, and your family’s, mental health the world of good – reducing your risk of stress and depression, and boosting mood, sleep quality and energy.

Safer streets will mean you and your kids can take to the roads with confidence, whether it’s cycling to school, commuting to work or heading out as a group.

So, what are you waiting for!? Get on yer bike!

Now you’ve found your fitness stride…

Spring is now Summer and with the warmer weather and longer days, our fitness habits during lockdown have changed too. Many of us have moved from kitchen Pilates, staircase climbing and living room lunges, to bike rides in the park, morning runs and afternoon rambles (all keeping our safe distance of course!).

While life has been more than a little limiting it has felt great to move a little more to keep our bodies and brains active. Being able to do it all outside? Even better!

The thing is, as and when restrictions are eased and we start to get back to a new normality, it will be easy to forget some of the good habits you’ve been developing. With that in mind, here are a few points to help you keep up the good work this summer.

Remember when walking became, fun?

In the past, many of us viewed walking as something functional (possible something to be avoided!). Just a way of getting from a to b.  But, thanks to lockdown, we’ve become reacquainted with the activity as an enjoyable experience in its own right.

It’s a gentle way the whole family can get moving, enjoy the fresh air and get your heart pumping without requiring special equipment. It also helps build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier, not to mention the mental health benefits.

So, if you’ve re-discovered the joy of walking, don’t let this good habit slip. Why not look up some new routes you and your family can enjoy once we can all walk a little further? There’s no reason why getting out for a walk can’t become a key part of your new normal.

Sun potion – get your vit hit

We’ve all been making the most of our gardens and outside spaces for exercise during lockdown. Why? Because it felt so good to get out for a bit of fresh air and natural light.

Well, this is another habit we shouldn’t let slip. Because in addition to benefiting from whatever exercises we’ve been doing, we’ve all been getting an important dose of Vitamin D in the process.

Vitamin D is actually essential for regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, and, in turn, helps maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. What’s more, Vitamin D is wonderful for boosting our immune systems.

When life get a little more normal and more of our traditional freedoms return, that sofa might start to look pretty appealing again. If it does, just remember how fond you became of being active outside. No matter how dull the sky may seem, your body will benefit!

Just remember to slap on a minimum of factor 15 sunscreen if you’re outside in the summer (even in the UK!), and make that factor 30 and up for the kids.

Sleep tight

Getting a good night’s sleep has never been more important. It’s a time for our minds and bodies to recuperate from the day’s stresses.

It’s also another reason to keep up your outdoor exercise routine. Taking part in outdoor activities exposes your body to the elements and stimulates all your senses, adding a different layer of intensity to your workout and tiring you out for a good night’s sleep.

Our sleep cycles also rely on the sunlight to let our body know when it’s time to wind down or wake up, so you will also find that spending more time outdoors and less time in dark houses will help regulate your sleep pattern, which is essential when it comes to maximising your body’s recovery and repair!

Keep it up!

According to NHS guidelines adults need to get around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, while children should be getting around an hour. Lockdown has actually prompted many of us to hit these targets…simply for something to do. Don’t stop! But also don’t forget that you can mix activity with all the benefits of being outside.

When lockdown lifts, perhaps continue to keep track of when you are getting outdoors and what you are doing – aiming to make sure you are doing one active thing outdoors each day.

If you look back at the week and realised you have spent most of it cooped up inside, try and introduce an outdoor workout or a walk around the block? It doesn’t need to be strenuous, as long as your heart beats a little quicker and you get warmer.

Whether you’ve used the lockdown to form new habits, or you’ve desperately missed the gym and sports sessions, don’t underestimate the advantages of these changes – and don’t be too quick to dismiss them in the future!

How to keep active when you’re a fish out of water

Harry is a former champion swimmer who runs Life Leisure’s performance gym for the elite athletes and manages a Tri-Masters Swimming Programme.

Swimming is a fantastic exercise, it works all the muscle groups, doesn’t put any strain on your joints, and is a full cardiovascular workout – meaning your heart has to work hard to pump blood around your body. And that’s all while holding your breath!

Unfortunately, it relies on one very important thing – a swimming pool, which under current circumstances, very few of us have access to.

Just like any exercise, a prolonged break from the water will result in a loss of stamina, fitness and skill. We will also begin to lose our buoyancy in the water, making it harder to regain our confidence, efficiency and speed.

So, what can we do?

While we can’t replicate the resistance of water, we can mimic some of the movements our muscles make while swimming. This will not only help keep our bodies strong and our muscles lean, but help us dive in with confidence when we eventually get back to the pool.

Jump for joy

They are not as enjoyable as gliding through the water, but burpees are the closest you can get to replicate the full body workout you get from swimming.

Most swimming strokes will work all your major muscle groups at once, which means your heart is also working overtime to pump oxygen around your body.

A burpee – jumping between a plank, squat and explosive jump into the air – also does this, challenging your heart to move blood from your legs up to your arms in a short amount of time.

Tip: Your muscles will still benefit if you slow down the motions. Alternative options are to kneel down, step your legs back and forward individually, and stand up rather than jump.

Strong legs

Swimming requires strong legs as most strokes involve kicking to power your body through the water. The best way to stimulate these same muscle contractions on land is by running.

Running is a weight baring exercise, so not everyone can do it, but it is a great way to keep up your stamina and leg strength when you can’t get in the pool.

Tip: If running isn’t for you, try walking against a resistance such as a hill, or carry extra weight in a backpack.

Twist and shout

Swimming involves a lot of twisting, whether it’s to breathe as you are doing the front crawl, or turning around at the end of the lane, so it’s important that you do some movements that keep your oblique and abdominal muscles supple.

A great option is a squat jump with a half twist – that’s jumping up from a squat and rotating mid-air so your feet land in the opposite direct (or 90 degrees if you find this a little difficult).

Tip: If you find the jump a little difficult, try moving from a squat to a standing position, twisting 90 degrees as you stand, varying the directions.

Core stability

A good swimming technique relies on a strong core, which allows you to lengthen your body, keep high in the water and be efficient in the water.

It’s not a fun exercise, but the plank – where you hold yourself in a push up position  and tense your core – is a great one for this.

Tip: You can improve it by alternating each arm in a swimming motion, or ease off the strain by doing it on your side, resting on your elbow, with your feet wider apart.

Front crawl

Front crawl relies on strong arms to power you through the water.

Working our arms can be hard without any specific equipment, so the easiest way to keep our strength up is by doing press ups, with our pectorals, arms and shoulders taking our body weight.

There are lots of alternatives for press ups so everyone should be able to find a technique that works. Try using your  knees instead of your toes, or raise up your hands so they are higher than your feet. You could do push ups off a couch, a table, or even a wall, it’s all working the right muscles!

Tip: Tapping your shoulders in between each press ups will also recreate some of the movement in the pool.

Back to basics

Swimming engages all your back muscles, whether it’s arching through the butterfly or twisting through front crawl as you come up for breath.

A great land-based version is the back arch – lying on your stomach and raising your arms and legs at right angles, similar to a skydiver. Once here pulse up and down – this is a great way to work your glutes and back muscles.

Tip: This is also a great one for posture, especially those who are hunched over computers all day. By carrying out back arches you will reverse this muscle movement and encourage you to stand straighter!

Go for it!

These are great exercises for all swimmers, whether you race down the lanes or you enjoy a leisurely swim a couple of times a week.

A good guideline is for beginners to do around 30 seconds of each exercise with 30 seconds rest, intermediates should aim for 40 seconds on and 20 seconds rest, and those who are more advanced should do 50 seconds on and 10 second off before repeating a set.

Even with 24 hour access to a pool, elite swimmers still spend time in the gym, so think of these exercises as a natural accompaniment to improving your swimming technique and skill once you get back to doing what you love!

Click here to see Harry demonstrate these exercises or for more fitness tips.

Family fitness? It’s all about finding the right activities

The UK has now been in lockdown for some time and while you may be keeping up with your own fitness routine, keeping your wider family and friendship group active can be difficult.

In order to make exercise part of everyone’s lockdown life, it’s important to choose age appropriate ideas that are fun and accessible. To help, here are a few suggestions of activities by specific age group.

Seniors

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese martial art combines relaxation and deep breathing with careful flowing movements. It is ideal for seniors as research suggests it improves mobility, decreases stress and also supports a strong posture. Not much room is required meaning anyone can take part anywhere, but it is a lovely excuse to get outside for practise too.

As it is a low impact exercise, it doesn’t put excess strain on joints which makes it the perfect gentle form of fitness for the older generations. Why not send some Tai Chi moves to your older relations and challenge them to give it a go?

Gardening

Getting outside is a great idea if the weather is fine, as exposure to fresh air and a boost in vitamin D is great for all of us. But did you know that going out to do some gentle gardening is also a great form of exercise? In fact, one hour of gardening can burn between 200-400 calories.

Why not order some seeds for older friends or relatives as a gift? As well as showing them you are thinking of them, it also might end up giving their green fingers (and the rest of their body) a workout.

Daily walks

Now is a great time to discover the beauty that’s just beyond your front door. Why not dig out a map and help an older person you know to plan different routes around their neighbourhood? To add a new element of interest, you could even ask them to report back on what nature they spot along the way.

Walks are a great low impact activity and according to Age UK, just 15 minutes a day can help decrease our risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer while helping to keep bones strong and spirits lifted.

Virtual tours

For seniors shielding and not able to venture outdoors, another option may be to make use of many virtual tours of stately homes, gardens, parks and attractions that are currently being shown online. Walking on the spot while taking a virtual trip around a fascinating spot may be just the ticket for physical and mental stimulation.

Teens

Make it competitive

Many teens love a challenge, especially when it comes to challenging Mum and Dad, so why not use this to your advantage?

Maybe you love to run or lift weights, so challenge your teen to see if they can keep up. Then switch to one of their favourite exercises and see if you can give them a run for their money. You could even make it more interesting by introducing a forfeit for the loser – who knows, they could end up owing you washing-up!

Provide purpose

Some teens struggle to see the point of exercise, so by creating a purpose you can encourage them to move more.

Maybe they could take a walk to post a letter or earn some screen time or pocket money by cleaning windows or pulling up weeds. Once they start to see how much better they feel for moving a little each day, they may even catch the fitness bug themselves and offer to take on more jobs? OK, maybe not – but it’s worth a shot!

Retro gaming favourites

Although many modern games consoles encourage sedentary play, why not dig out some old classics to get your teens moving? Whether it’s Wii Fit or even a retro dance mat, some of these older games provide a bit of nostalgia that can get your teen joining in with fun for all the family.

Kids 

Make learning physical

By setting up a simple grid pattern in pavement chalk, you could create a life size board game for your little ones.

Quiz them on a chosen subject and for every right answer they can take a step forwards. Attribute certain moves to certain squares for example 10 jumping jacks or hopping on one leg for 30 seconds. Not only is this a fun way of learning, it keeps brains and bodies active at the same time. Win, win!

Tournament time

Kids love playing games, so why not root around the garden shed and devise an at-home Olympics for your kids? Even simple toys can make the basis for hours of fun. Who can do the most hula hoops in a row? Who can keep bouncing the ball for the longest time? Introduce small prizes along the way to keep everyone engaged and prepare for some tuckered out tots by the end of the day.

Work them into your work outs

One thing kids love is joining in with Mum and Dad so think creatively about how you can make this happen.

They may not be able to keep up with your cardio workout but could they join you on their bikes for your daily jog? Or perhaps they could boogie along to your Zumba practise? They may not know all the moves but they will love being part of your fitness routine. What a great way to lead by example too!

Not ever exercise suits ever body or ever age – what’s great for you might be too demanding or boring for others in your family. But there are so many solutions out there, especially with a bit of imagination. By looking at activity with the rest of your family in mind, you can ensure your whole household is making movement a bigger part of their lockdown life and having fun at the same time.

 

Missing the social aspects of the gym? Exercise in collaboration with these tips

 

It’s not just the endorphins that gym-goers are missing right now – the social side of exercise, the group classes and sense of community can’t be underestimated.

While we’re living through extremely strange circumstances that make socialising more difficult, with a bit of creativity you can bring exercise, fun and collaboration back together.

Get active with the family

In the normal run of life, we’re very often passing ships in our own homes. If there’s one positive to come out of self-isolation – building closer bonds with family could be it. How long have you been trying to reconnect with that teenager!?

  • Schedule sessions – get active, hold each other to account and use this time to encourage everybody in the home to form positive new routines. Exercising together is much more fun and it could be a great way to break down the barriers of normal life.
  • Make it fun – a rummage in the attic or that precariously over-filled cupboard will likely unearth some old rackets, bats, balls and equipment that could make exercise much more fun. Missing out on the gym specifically? Have a competition with the family to see who can find the strangest weight to lift. Embedding fun will definitely make exercise feel sociable.
  • Digital retox – if you don’t have equipment at home, or perhaps digital is more your thing, give that old Nintendo Wii a new lease of life. Games such as tennis, bowling and even ski jumping are fun, interactive and offer a fantastic way to bring some competition to light exercise at home with the family.

Log on for sociable exercise

At this time when we crave personal contact more than ever, why not exercise with the online community? Whether this is something you do to break the monotony, as a way to catch up with friends, or to feel more elementally human – online fitness has never offered up more opportunities.

  • Live virtual classes – yoga, pilates, Zumba, Salsa instructors and personal trainers everywhere are holding online group classes – and not just the famous ones. Why not weave sessions into your routine? And why not sign up with friends so you can be sure there’s another friendly face?
  • Keep your pastimes alive – many of us make friends over hobbies, so why not stay in touch by setting up a weekly video meet or a friendly competition – perhaps the first to complete a virtual cycle, rowing or running challenge. Think of this as the exercise equivalent of the virtual pub quiz.
  • Complete a video workout – often you just don’t know when time will free up – so keep the flexibility by watching online exercise videos and completing sessions in your own time. Some of our favourites from the Life Leisure archive include a full body workout ideal for people keen to push their fitness and this 30 minute home Pilates session.

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you maintain the inspiration, build your fitness and stay connected while you keep up the social distancing.

Work out to work better: healthy body, healthy mind, healthy productivity

We all know that exercise is important for physical and mental health, but did you know that regular work outs can actually improve your productivity and help you to work more efficiently?

While so many of us are working from home, it’s more important than ever before to make sure we’re getting enough physical activity. In fact, this could be the secret weapon you need to supercharge your working day.

The benefits underpinning healthy body, healthy mind

The physical benefits of regular exercise have been well documented, but many people are not aware of the myriad ways it can boost productivity and brain power.

  • Reducing stress and improving stress response – the current pandemic is causing increased anxiety for us all, but trying to manage work stresses on top of this can be particularly tough. Incorporating regular exercise into your daily quarantine routine, is an important tool for lowering stress levels and ensuring you are able to handle whatever work throws at you.
  • Improved memory and concentration – isolation can make us all feel like we’re not firing on all cylinders but getting moving can supercharge your brain to ensure you are getting the most out of your working periods.
  • Getting the creative juices flowing – physical exercise provides an important mental break. This can allow you to take a step back from the detail and come up with some fantastic out-of-the-box ideas when you return to your desk.
  • Mood boosting – getting those endorphins flowing can seriously improve your fire power at work, not to mention the day-to-day benefits of feeling great!
  • Building mental stamina – it’s not just physical stamina that is improved by regular exercise, you will be able to work more productively and for longer periods if you break your day up with well-timed work outs.

Turn that working week into a workout week

Juggling life in isolation with home working is certainly a challenge, but as a bonus you do have extra time. Here are a few ideas on how you can find the time to boost your daily exercise regime while working from home:

  • Cash in on the former commute – why not reallocate the time you used to spend commuting at the start and end of our day for regular exercise? It’s time you never had before so why not make the most of it!?
  • Diarise that exercise meeting – just as you would put a meeting into your diary, put some time for a workout into your diary and stick to it. The handy reminder will even serve to hold you to account.
  • Pump up your lunchtime – breaking up your day is important and lunch is a great time to get moving. Getting active at lunchtime can even help you beat the afternoon slump and maintain productivity throughout the day.
  • Get creative with home exercises – we’re all familiar with the office manager’s advice about doing leg exercises at our desks – but there’s far more exercise potential in our own homes. Perhaps you could set yourself a challenge – maybe to clean the kitchen in less than 15 minutes before your next call or meeting? Or could you sneak in some press-ups nobody will ever know about by turning the video off during an online meeting?
  • Fuel for brain and body – dietary choices also have a huge impact on our productivity, not to mention your energy levels for that next work out. Make sure you are providing your body with enough fruit and vegetables to keep your brain sharp and your head clear for a busy workday at home!

While we may all be limited to leaving the house only once a day for exercise at the moment – by making sure your workout regime is creative and less limited, you will provide a serious boost to your physical and mental health as well as your working day.

Keeping Fit at Home: Tips, Tricks & Traps…

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock since December 2019, you’ll know that we’re going through a pretty rough time of it at the moment and with gyms and leisure centres being closed across the country, it’s no wonder why people may be worried about how to stay active while under lockdown. Alternatively, boredom might be kicking in and you’ve decided now would be a good time to dip your toe into fitness.

Well, worry not folks, this is the blog for you! We’ve come up with some useful tips and tricks that will make your time in quarantine a little more interesting, a little healthier and even a little less stressful.

Tip 1 – A time and a place

It can be helpful to your productivity if you designate a specific time and place to carry out your exercise. This adds a little more structure to your day and is easier to plan other activities around.

Tip 2 – Mix it up!

Home exercise is often perceived as boring, but this is only the opinion of people that do the exact same workouts, with the exact same exercises, day in day out. Variety is the spice of life, and also of fitness! Aim to try something different each time you do a workout, there’s plenty of suggestions online, especially on our Facebook page and Youtube channel (check it out if you haven’t already!).

Tip 3 – Consistency is key!

If you’re completely new to exercise, as little as 1-2 workouts per week can give you significant improvements in strength and muscle tone, however if you’re more experienced, as many as 5 workouts per week may be more beneficial, but no more.

Tip 4 – Target the whole body!

This applies especially to beginners, as this will help you to master the technique of important compound movements required for improved fitness. Each of your workouts should involve one of the following:

  • An upper-body vertical pushing exercise (pushing above your head).
  • An upper-body horizontal pushing exercise (e.g. push-ups).
  • An upper-body pulling exercise (e.g. pull-ups).
  • A core-focused exercise, preferably involving trunk rotation.
  • A squat.
  • A lunge.
  • A hip-hinge (e.g. a glute bridge).

Tip 5 – Get friends and family involved!

If you find it easier to exercise alone then by all means do so, however exercising with your friends and/or family can make it so much more fun! Social media comes in very handy here, as you can use FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype etc., to connect with your friends and work out together in isolation!

Tip 6 – Track your progress!

Beaten your personal best? Write it down, along with the date you beat in on. It becomes much easier to motivate and push yourself when you have your own personal records to beat!

Tip 7 – Stay hydrated

Arguably the most important tip here is keeping on top of your hydration levels. Several studies show that people should be drinking approximately 2 litres of water per day, moving up to 3 litres if you’re exercising that day. Keeping properly hydrated will help to increase your alertness and energy levels, two things very necessary to not just exercise but all your daily activities! Here’s an article about the topic if you’re interested in further reading here.

By following all these tips you’ll have all the tools you need to keep you fit at home during these trying times, or at the very least you’ll have something to do! It should be noted that if you display any symptoms of illness, no matter how mild, you should rest and follow NHS/Government guidelines until you’re back to 100%, and, until you’re back to 100%, exercise is not recommended.

Regardless of whether you’re ill or not, stay safe and stay at home, and we’ll see a fitter and healthier version of you on the other side!

No gear, no fear! How to make everyday items your home gym heroes

One of the things which has been put into real perspective recently is just how much we all tend to take for granted in daily life. The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ has new relevance.

Socialising with friends, gathering with family members, having the freedom to go out wherever, and whenever we want. These are, quite rightly, the things most of us are probably thinking of in this way. But while these may be the biggies on our respective ‘things I miss’ lists, the truth is we miss normality, and normality is actually made up of lots of little things. Which is why suddenly not having them can really throw us.

Take gym equipment as an example. In a Coronavirus reality, it seems such an insignificant thing. But if heading down the gym and using all the machines, weights, ropes, and resistance kit is your normality, then feeling a bit down about not having access to those things is perfectly normal.

It’s also something we can…to an extent…do something about. Because the truth is there are actually lots of ways that you can use things around the home to replicate kit in the gym. No, it’s not the same. But if it helps you feel just that little bit more ‘normal’, then I’d say it is worth a go!

With that in mind, here are my top tips for turning everyday items into home gym heroes!

Weight a minute…isn’t that a tin of beans

Ok, so most of you will have heard this one before but it doesn’t make it any less true. Using tins of beans, tomatoes, or any old cans of soup you have laying around, is a perfectly good swap for free weights. What’s more, as most tinned foods carry weight information, you can get an accurate idea of what you are lifting.

Depending on your hands, grip might be an issue. If so, another winner is putting empty plastic bottles to good use by filling them with rice – these can be much easier to keep hold of. Also worth keeping in mind are things like laundry detergent bottles, the built in handles are great for things like rows and curls.

Any kettle bell fans out there? Well, you might want to dig out your bags of flour or sugar. Not very healthy normally but when popped into a bag for life…tote bags work particularly well…they can provide a good kettlebell alternative for lifts and swings. Just be careful you don’t swing to high or things might get messy.

Missing TRX? Then throw in the towel

No, I don’t mean give up. I literally mean use a towel. Two actually. Bear with me. So firstly, you need to find yourself a smooth surface…maybe a tiled bathroom or laminate flooring area. Assume a basic plank position (forearms on floor) but pop two small towels under each foot.

For one exercise, very slowly move your legs apart and then gently back together, keeping your feet on the towels at all times. Nope, it isn’t TRX but I promise your core and legs will feel like it is!

Another option is to assume a full plank position (arms straight) with our feet on the towels (or one larger one for this). Gradually try and pull your bottom up and legs towards you as if doing a pike on the TRX ropes, then return your legs slowly to the starting position and repeat. Again, while not exactly the real thing you will certainly recognise the muscle workout! Fluffy socks can work just as well if you don’t want to get your towels dirty.

Of course, if you happen to have some spare rope hanging around the garage and an obliging tree in the garden or sturdy structure, you can also create your own TRX for movements such as rows or squat jumps. Just make sure whatever you have it tied to is good and strong and that the rope is tightly tied.

A swap you won’t be able to resist…without a bit of muscle

One of the simplest pieces of gym kit, but not necessarily something we all have at home, are resistance bands. Supporting good stretching, arm and leg workouts, the idea is simple…pulling against a resistant force makes the body work harder.

Actually, a towel can work here too – especially for example if lifted overhead, using your arms to pull either side outwards. Same behind the lower back. But another excellent resistance band substitute is a dressing gown tie. Simple but effective and easy (yet gentle) to tie around a leg/arm to provide that force to pull against.

For greater stretchiness, tights are also worth considering. Gentlemen, please ask your other halves first!

Backpacks…the new sandbag

If using a sandbag at the gym – to make squats, lunges etc. harder – is something you miss, look no further than your old backpack. It’s perfect for the job. Simply fill it with clothing or anything to give it the desired bulk, and then weigh it on your bathroom scales so you know exactly what you are dealing with.

Pop it on and complete reps of whatever your preferred exercise may be, perhaps building up gradually, for example if you start off doing squats wearing it, gradually build up to squat jumps or alternatively – keep the exercise the same but increase the weight/number of reps.

Sled push? Keep it clean!

Pushing/pulling a gym ‘sled’ is a pretty popular exercise in our facilities and for good reason – it blends cardio and full body strength training for a really great all-round workout. But how can this be replicated at home?

The humble hoover might provide the answer. Popping additional clothing on top of your vacuum to give it a bit of extra weight and then pushing it around your living room will give you a pretty good sled-style workout. For the pull, tie one end of a rope around the body of a backpack to loop over your shoulders and the other end around the vacuum. Don’t be tempted to pull by the hose…your vacuum cleaner will not thank you for it.

Back to basics…your own body

So as you can see, there are plenty of items you can find around the home that can double up as your favourite piece of gym kit, all of which can help you feel (sorry, no pun intended) ‘at home’ with your new workout regime.

But in all this, don’t forget the absolute best piece of kit at your disposal is your own body. Using your own body weight to squat, jump, stretch, lift and hold is incredibly powerful…whether that’s as part of a cardio workout, Pilates style session or a rep-based strength routine.

Whatever your preference, for more tips on how to put your body to good use, check out our home workout videos right here.

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