For obvious reasons, whether this comes as welcome news or a huge blow, the gym is off-limits for the time being. But as many of us who have tried to save money, live somewhere off-grid, or simply can’t stand the pumping music, bright lights and so many other perspiring humans so close by, it’s no huge revelation that we can work out and stay physically fit from the comfort of our own four walls.
But for the gym bunnies amongst you, now facing serious CrossFit or Zumba class withdrawal, how can you go about beginning to work out at home?
Ways to Work Out At Home
Cardio at home
As much as now is a great time to prioritise rest and recuperation – the longer lockdown goes on, the more likely it is that you are itching to get your heart pumping again. On the other side of the coin, lockdown lethargy may have you feeling heavy-limbed and less inclined to get your body working than ever. In both of these scenarios, your body could really use the oxygen and endorphin boost of an at-home workout.
Don’t worry – this doesn’t have to be the Bootcamp-style routines you see on your Instagram feed (at least, not to begin with!). Right now, any effort is a good effort. Not only should you be proud to get through each day holding your head up high, but any additional push towards keeping your body well is something to be celebrated. And the best thing? The more you do, the more you will crave!
Start out with some basic exercises to get your heart rate up (after whacking on your favourite mood-boosting playlist, that is!) such as starjumps, lunges, or simply jogging on the spot. The meditative qualities of these repetitive aerobic exercises are an added benefit. But if the monotony of these movements gets boring, then rather than stopping altogether – look for some exercise videos online. This, of course, could be anything – from traditional aerobics, to Zumba, to hip-hop dancing. Whatever gets your body moving but gets your heart smiling at the same time.
I recommend the Fitness Marshall for a huge range of fun and mood-boosting dance workouts.
Muscle Toning at home
If you’re concerned all this sitting at home will undo any muscle tone you’ve slowly achieved over years of struggle (or just thought now is a better time than ever to finally start giving muscle tone any attention at all…) then fear not! It’s not necessary to hit the gym or have any fancy equipment to build your core strength and muscle. Again, the right playlist here is key to success, as “no pain, no gain,” was never more true than when you embark on a muscle-building journey.
Squatting at home
First things fast – don’t forget to stretch and warm up, whatever you do! For muscle work, this is crucial to avoid tearing, pulling, or simply too much lactic acid buildup that will only leave you feeling even more sorry for yourself in a day or two’s time. Then start out with some deep squats – see how many reps you can do and how long you can hold them for. Just a few of these a day can work wonders for your legs and glutes!
Next, try holding the plank position for as long as you can, and even some push-ups if you’re feeling particularly daring! If you’re out of practice then these may hurt – but they are also a very powerful workout move due to the many muscles that you will be working at once. From your arms, your shoulders, your legs, and your abdominals.
Don’t forget the core
Speaking of your abs – sit-ups (or crunches) are another great move to do at home. You can start by doing so while hooking your feet under your bed or another suitable piece of furniture. Bear in mind though, that this can strain your back – and may not even be the best ab workout, contrary to what we have always been told.
A less dynamic and yet, according to some research – much more effective way to strengthen your abs and fast, is to lie down flat on your back (on a towel, yoga mat or blanket to avoid too much pressure on the spine) and to then raise your straightened legs off the floor. You can try one leg at a time to start with, feeling your abs twinge on alternate sides. And then, for the full impact, raise both legs – still straight and taught – off the ground in unison.
The closer they remain to the floor, the deeper the pull (and the burn!) You can play around with this, seeing how long you can hold it, and how close to the floor. It’s also a great way to keep track of your progress, as you may hold for the same time each session but a couple of inches closer to the floor each time. Alternatively, you may raise your legs to a set angle, but for a slightly longer time each session. Just see what works for you and your body!
At home Yoga & Stretching
This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to remain physically (as well as mentally!) strong under the current limiting circumstances. The good news is that whether or not you’re kitted out with a yoga mat and whatever other apparatus out there these days, you can still get a lot out of this practice.
In the absence of a mat, simply lay down a couple of towels on top of each other (or as many as is enough to avoid discomfort on your knees when you put your weight on them. Alternatively, simply stick to the upright moves and skip the floor work.
To pick out just a few simple moves that you can try each morning or evening – even if you don’t manage to fit in a whole class:
Stand up straights with your arms straight in the air, and then gradually fold down so that you eventually touch your toes – or the floor. As long as you feel the stretch behind your knees, simply reach as far as you can! Then flex or hold it there. Also, try it with your legs apart – you may be able to reach further and even get your elbows to the ground! And your inner-thighs will feel the stretch. You can also do this sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you or both angled from side to side.
Sit comfortably on the floor, either cross-legged or with your legs in front of you. Now, without moving your legs, put your right hand on the floor beside your left hip, while your left arm is raised. Look behind you to complete this side-body stretch and hold it there. Then repeat on the other side.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Then, push up off the ground so that your torso is lifted and your shoulders carry your weight. Now feel the release in your lower back and the stretch of your abs! Then, if you can and know how – turn this into a full bridge.
Online live classes
Most yoga studios and gyms are now live streaming your classes so even if you never made yoga a habit before, now could be your chance to get a taste of how the classes are, without having to travel or even be seen by anyone else.
YouTube is another great resource. I recommend Yoga with Adriene for plenty of quick and spirituality-focused yoga videos.
Or, if you prefer a more practical and physiological approach to yoga, check out my own instructor Mike Doyle‘s videos – now streaming full classes to see us through the lockdown.
The Bottom Line
Working out – when done so in a safe, positive way and in tune with your personal body and goals, is a great way to improve your mental clarity, decrease anxiety and insomnia, and of course – better your overall physical strength.
We tend to fall into two camps – those who despise exercise and those who can’t live without it. This is, quite simply, due to mindset. Sure, we all have days (or weeks…) where any effort at all is a huge and seemingly insurmountable slog. However, if we develop enough willpower to push ourselves when need by, and yet enough self-acceptance to not let this determination sour into punishment or dissatisfaction with how your body is at right now, then you can achieve that perfect balance – where you love and crave exercise, but know when enough is enough, or respect that sometimes your body needs rest.
In the current circumstances where the gyms are closed and even jogging in the park seems like a huge risk, gathering the motivation to continue working out is even harder for many people. But the good news is that the situation has caused many gyms and studios to put their classes online – either to try for free or for a small fee. So now may be the perfect opportunity to try out some new classes.
Your body and mind deserve it, darling!
Have you been working out at home during lockdown? Any more tips and tricks to share? Let us know down in the comments!