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Keeping fit is a challenge at the best of times, but being locked down most of the day can make it even harder.
It’s never been more important to stay healthy, with the value of keeping yourself fit and away from hospital there for all to see.
The Week has assembled some top tips, with help from Jonathan Shannon, editor of health and fitness website Coach.
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Going for a run is one of the best ways to get your mind and body fit, and it is totally accessible for most people.
Don’t try and throw yourself in at the deep end by aiming for a marathon straight off the mark. Ease your way in to running by starting with short distances at a comfortable pace, and work your way up slowly to higher mileages.
Pay attention to any niggles and pains. You will need to work out what is ordinary running pain (being out of breath and a bit of muscle soreness is to be expected) and what is your body telling you to stop.
If you’re new to running, or coming back to it after a few years serious carb-loading, follow Coach’s straightforward plan for beginners, which will get you running 5K without stopping within eight weeks.
Each week the first session is a mix of running and walking in repeated intervals. For example in week one you run for 30 seconds then walk for 30 seconds, with the pattern repeated 15 times.
The most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a decent pair of trainers. The Hoka EVO Mafate 2 Trail Running Shoes are perfect for riverside runs along muddy paths, while the ASICS Gel-Kayano 26 Lite-Show do a great job on roads and treadmills.
If you’re in need of some headphones, try the Aftershokz Aeropex. With nothing inside or over your ears, you have total awareness while you run which is great if you’re running near cars or bicycles, or just want to keep your wits about you in quieter areas.
30-day plank challenge
Planking is an exercise that looks incredibly easy to everybody who has never tried it, but requires more strength and determination that you’d imagine.
Coach gives some tips on how you should plan, and what you should aim for in terms of structuring your efforts: “Lying on your front, brace your abs and lift your body off the floor, supporting yourself on your forearms and the balls of your feet, with your elbows under your shoulders and hands together. Keep your back and hips aligned so you form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.”
A “high plank” is similar, but you support yourself on your palms (in a press up position) rather than forearms. A walking plank involves switching between the two, one arm at a time.
A superman plank, an ever harder variation, requires you to be in a plank position. Then “slowly lift and extend one arm and the opposite leg until they are parallel to the ground. Hold for the specified time, then repeat on the other side.”
Aim to complete Coach’s 30-day plan, below.
|Day 1||60sec plank|
|Day 2||70sec plank|
|Day 3||80sec plank|
|Day 4||90sec plank|
|Day 5||2 x 60sec plank|
|Day 6||2 x 70sec plank|
|Day 7||2 x 80sec plank|
|Day 8||2 x 90sec plank|
|Day 9||2min plank|
|Day 10||60sec walking plank|
|Day 11||70sec walking plank|
|Day 12||80sec walking plank|
|Day 13||90sec walking plank|
|Day 14||60sec plank + 30sec walking plank|
|Day 15||70sec plank + 30sec walking plank|
|Day 16||70sec plank + 35sec walking plank|
|Day 17||70sec plank + 40sec walking plank|
|Day 18||75sec plank + 40 sec walking plank|
|Day 19||80sec plank + 40 sec walking plank|
|Day 20||60sec plank + 30sec walking plank + 10sec (each side) Superman plank|
|Day 21||70sec plank + 30sec walking plank + 15sec Superman plank|
|Day 22||70sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 15sec Superman plank|
|Day 23||70 sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank|
|Day 24||75sec plank + 35sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank|
|Day 25||75sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank|
|Day 26||80sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 20sec Superman plank|
|Day 27||80sec plank + 40sec walking plank + 25sec Superman plank|
|Day 28||85sec plank + 45sec walking plank + 25sec Superman plank|
|Day 29||90sec plank + 45sec walking plank + 30sec Superman plank|
|Day 30||3min plank|
30-day squat challenge
Once you have a killer core and are ready to sculpt a pair of meaty quads, it’s time to move on to Coach’s 30-day squat challenge.
“The unweighted squat is a strong contender for the finest bodyweight exercise in town. It works almost every muscle in your lower body, hitting big muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings and glutes especially hard,” says Coach mag’s Joel Snape.
“The squat also improves your core strength by strengthening the muscles around your stomach and lower back, and if perchance you’re dreaming of owning a six-pack one day, firming up these other muscles with squats is an important first step towards helping the exterior abs shine.”
The best thing about the bodyweight squat is that, like the plan, there is no gym or flashy home workout equipment required.
To do the perfect squat:
- Your starting position should see you standing with your feet hip-with apart, core brace, head up, and toes pointing forwards
- Lower yourself down while keeping your back straight, and keep going until your thighs are parallel with the ground - “the best way to describe it is like sitting down on an invisible chair” says Snape. Your arms can be out in front of you, by your sides, or crossed. Just don’t rest them on your legs.
- Use your legs to push yourself back up to the starting position.
Aim to complete Coach’s 30 day plan, below.
High-intensity interval training gets a lot of press and has been adopted by gym-goers all over the world as a way of getting hearts pumping in a short space of time.
But Nick Harris-Fry at Coach says low-intensity steady state (LISS) is more appropriate for many people, especially those who haven’t done too much exercise in recent times.
But steady state isn’t just for those uninitiated in the ways of working out. Olympics rowers race over a 2km distance in around six minutes, pushing their bodies to the absolute limits of human endurance and capacity. But the vast majority of their training is steady state.
Huge volumes of less intense work - but still hard work - can build an aerobic engine, shed fat and not exhaust you so much you never want to return to exercise.
The benefits are clear, says Harris-Fry: “Lower-intensity exercise allows you to build your base fitness. This would be a foundational attribute that is highly recommended before high-intensity exercise. It is much safer and develops your ability to control your breathing, strengthens your heart and improves your overall fitness. For people who are highly stressed, this method of training may be more valuable because it could reduce stress.”
It’s easy to do - just exercise at an intensity you can maintain comfortably for more than 20 minutes, but is a little harder than a simple stroll would be. Cycling, jogging, and a spell on the indoor rower all work, but so would a brisk walk or pilates.
You can keep track of your heart-rate using the built-in sensors on machines, or using a watch with a built-in heart rate reader. One of the best multi-purpose sports and lifestyle trackers out there is the Fitbit Versa 2, which which gives you 24/7 heart rate readings so you can see how hard you’re working during exercise.
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