While the last few months have been difficult to say the least due to the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting lockdown, the order to stay home has had surprising benefits for some. With no commute – or even no work for some due to the furlough scheme – more spare time has meant more workouts for many. But as the lockdown eases in the UK, how can you keep those good exercise habits up?
As the rules are slowly eased and life around the country enters a “new normal”, you might be concerned that your new fitness routine could fall at the first hurdle.
But given the benefits of regular exercise for your body and your brain, it’s well worth keeping up any healthy habits even if you do have less time on your hands.
A recent study by Sport England found that 63 per cent have been using exercise in lockdown to ease their mental health – making it more important than ever to stay fit.
However, it’s easier said than done, as places start to reopen, social lives are reinstated and work becomes busier as the lockdown eases.
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“It might sound painful, but waking up an hour early and getting some steps in before work, or even a run if you’re feeling brave, can really be a great way to kick start your day,” explained Alex.
“A recent BMJ study showed that morning exercise and breaking up regular periods of sitting resulted in higher levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is important for brain health and alertness. So it can also help your work productivity!”
As well as telling that to your boss if you get up for a quick walk to the kettle, you can also make use of your lunch break as you get back to your old routine.
“You’ll probably be used to having a little more downtime during lockdown, so use your lunch break productively,” warned Alex.
“Don’t go from sitting at a desk to sitting in the canteen; if the weather permits, get outside with a work colleague for a [socially distanced] short walk, it’ll amaze you how the little things add up.”
But while adding movement into your hectic working life is essential, keeping up your fitness plan is also about making your workouts work harder for you.
If you no longer have the luxury of time as your diary starts filling up with socially distanced meet-ups instead of Zoom calls in your pyjamas, you need to choose smarter exercises to keep seeing progress.
“Try a ‘superset’ style workout where you’re training opposing muscle groups simultaneously, e.g. quads and hamstring, back and chest,” advised Alex.
“This allows you to get the same amount of volume in half the time,” he added, warning that you might need to initially lower your weight if you’re not used to this kind of double training.
Don’t fancy using weights? Up the ante with HIIT training instead, suggested Alex.
“HIIT (that’s high intensity interval training) workouts often don’t need weight, as the pace at which you complete the exercises is sufficient stimulus,” Alex agreed.
“Just 20 minutes of high intensity training can make a great workout. The key to remember is if you’re not training for as long, you must be training a lot harder to make up for this.”
What you eat will of course be important too, as you’ll want to make sure you’re fuelling all of your hardcore workouts – but Alex explained there’s no need to buy into lots of products.
“If you’re keeping your exercise simple, it’s not necessary to stock up on dozens of exercise supplements right away,” the personal trainer insisted. “Start yourself off with simply upping your protein intake, whether this is with a high-protein filled breakfast, or, if you’re on the go, try something like Amazing Grass Protein Superfood. Available at Holland & Barrett, you can add it to your pre-work smoothie knowing you’re doing your body good too.”