During this difficult period of social isolation, it’s essential that you exercise to stay fit and healthy, for the benefit of both body and mind.
At present, government advice dictates that we each have one opportunity to train everyday, so you should really treasure this privilege. In other, less-fortunate countries, they have much tighter restrictions placed on social movement.
Please remember that the official advice and rules for UK citizens may change over the next few days and weeks, so it’s very important to regularly check any updates on the official government website.
1. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
I’m sure that most people are feeling pretty worried, scared and anxious about what is currently happening in the world right now – I know that I certainly am. It’s really important to accept that the large-scale circumstances are completely out of your control and you have to adjust your mind-set and adapt your daily routine in order to cope with the incredible changes thrust upon our daily lives. But equally recognise that can all play our small part in the fight against the COVID-19. If we are all sensible, respect the rules and each do our bit – it will make a big difference to slowly down the spread of the virus. It’s good to talk, so make sure you chat to others members of your household about how you’re feeling (pick up the phone if you’re on your own).
This is why it’s so important to make the most of your running and training. Exercise will reduce your anxiety and negative thoughts whilst enjoying some much-needed fresh air.
Forget training for any races that you had planned and instead focus on the here and now. Enjoy your exercise and stay fit – that is the most important thing right now!
2. CHOOSE THE BEST TIME TO RUN
This tip is especially important if you live in a busy, urban area. For example, try and run early in the morning to avoid other people going to work or the shops. Stay away from busy streets/areas and wherever possible, you must minimise contact and engagement with other people. Some people are much more fortunate than others because they might live in quiet, rural areas. Whatever your circumstances, be sensible and use a common sense approach when it comes to exercising.
It is not advisable to travel/drive anywhere to exercise. Leave your car where it is and either run from home or exercise inside. Reduce the chance of seeing other people by running with a nearby radius of your home.
3. CHOOSE A QUIET ROUTE/TRAILS
Avoid popular trails, paths and ‘hotspots’. Study a map of the local area and choose a route where you are less likely to see/pass other people. Instead, study a map of the local area and plan a route where you are less likely to come into contact with anyone. For example, apps like KOMOOT and ALL TRAILS, will show you a map of all the trails in your local area. You can also have some fun in the build up to a run by planning new routes and exploring hidden trails. Websites such as Suunto Movescount will also allow you plan a route using mapping software.
Strava has also updated its features so help you find local routes, most of which are reasonably short in length and always use safe and well-established trails. In addition to this, you can now log up to 32 different activities, to include exercises such as Yoga, planking, crunches or even cleaning the house and gardening! The only limit is your imagination (and government regulations!)
4. KEEP IT INTERESTING
Challenge yourself. You could create a short local route (5k for example) and try to better your time whenever you run it. You could even challenge your family and friends (who live nearby) to try and beat your time, or run the route in reverse to keep things interesting and varied. Create a Strava segment/s to monitor and track progress. To set up a segment on Strava, you need to access the website on your computer or laptop. Click on the ‘Overview’ option for an activity you’ve already completed and select ‘Create Segment’ (see graphic below). Strava will then guide you through the remainder of the process.
Another thing I’ve been doing is trying to find a new local trail every time I go for a run – there are plenty of routes where I live and I’m safely exploring the local area by finding one trail at a time.
Pictured above: How to create a segment in Strava
5. TRAIN ALONE/OR ONLY WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS
In order to minimise the spread of the virus – do not arrange to meet and train with friends or groups of people. If you do see another runner or cyclist on the trail, then make sure you adhere to the 2m rule as recommended by the government. It is OK to train with other members of your household, but it might also be an opportunity for you to escape from the confines of your home and get some much needed fresh air. Perhaps even take it in turns to exercise with people in your house. Enjoying time to yourself will help to relieve tension and stress in this difficult period of social isolation. It’s also good to have a break from the news, the internet and social media!
6. DON’T TRAIN TOO HARD OR RUN TOO FAR
The rigors of long distance running temporarily weaken your immune system. Look after yourself and manage your training sensibly.
Currently we are allowed to train once a day to help us improve our physical and mental health. There isn’t a limit on how long or far you can run, but common sense should dictate what is a reasonable and acceptable amount. You certainly don’t need to run a marathon every day – all races have been cancelled. Minimise the chances of seeing other people, by keeping your runs down to a sensible distance and don’t flout the rules by running more than once a day.
7. ALWAYS TELL SOMEONE ELSE WHERE YOU ARE GOING
Safety first – tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be out. Ideally take a phone with you and if you are going up a hill or two, always carry extra kit in case of an emergency – racepack/bumbag with extra clothing etc.
Now is not the time for heroics – don’t plan any runs that are dangerous or leave you feeling exposed. Save your ambitions of scrambling over Crib Goch or Jack’s Rake for the future. Minimise your risk of injury and exposure – you don’t want to put any extra pressure on our emergency services, especially if Mountain Rescue need to be called out. Over the Easter weekend there were 20 call outs for Mountain Rescue teams in the UK. A smaller number than usual, but given the current circumstances, it’s still 20 too many.
8. LEAVE YOUR KIT AT THE DOOR
Leave your trainers next to the door (outside if possible). Don’t walk them through the house and when you’ve finished running, make sure you take off as much of your kit near the front door. Wash your kit as soon as possible. Try and avoid touching gates and stiles during your run – you could even wear gloves and take them off before you enter the house. Make sure you always wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Before I go for a run, I leave a basin filled with hot water, some soap and a hand towel outside the front door, so that I can wash my hands as soon as I return. I also spray the door handles regularly just to be on the safe side.
9. TRAIN AT HOME
There are no restrictions on the amount of exercise you can do at home. Set up a room in your house where you can relax, stretch and workout. There are some fabulous online workouts that you can use for ideas and much of these do not require any equipment at all. I’ve been making the most of the free LIVE workout sessions on the Sportsshoes.com and inov-8 Instagram accounts.
Pictured above: This week’s Sportsshoes.com LIVE instagram programme
I’ve downloaded an app called the 30 Day Ab Challenge and I’m currently at day 21. Regrettably I started on the Intermediate level and 5 days into the exercises I was really starting to suffer. Unless you already have a strong core and a decent set of abs, I’d definitely recommend starting at the beginner level!
Pictured above: The 30 Ab Challenge App
I also have a chin-up bar which hangs on the frame of my bedroom door. Our ‘house rules’ dictate that you must do at least 5 pull-ups every time you walk underneath it. Unfortunately this means that I try and avoid going upstairs at all costs. I’ve also walked head first into the chin-up bar more times than I’ve actually done pull-ups. My top safety tip is to hang a tea towel over the bar whenever you’re not using it, just in case!
If you are lucky enough to own a treadmill, exercise bike, turbo-trainer or weights, then you have everything you need at home. I’ve really been enjoying my treadmill sessions, mostly because I can watch films and documentaries on the TV whilst I’m running. There are some fantastic things to watch on Netflix at the moment – check out the various documentaries on the Crossfit Games, The Least Expected Day and my personal favourite The Last Dance. Sources of inspiration can go a long way to helping you train that little bit harder, especially with the absence of races and competition.
Pictured above: The Zwift app in full swing
Apps and software such as Zwift and RGT Cycling are other great ways to get you motivated. It’s worth pointing out that the latter is offering all premium features for free during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zwift now supports running and not just cycling, something that was a welcome surprise to me, especially as it provides free workouts and training plans (you have to pay for the privilege if you’re cycling). To connect to Zwift, you either need a very expensive treadmill, or a footpod with a bluetooth connection that links directly to the app. The other alternative is to buy a pair of shoes which have the Bluetooth technology built into the shoe itself. I’m lucky enough to own a pair of Under Armour HOVR Machina, which are pricey at £139.99 RRP, but it does mean that you don’t have to buy an additional footpod or an expensive treadmill with the latest up-to-date technology.
Pictured above: The Under Armour HOVR Machina
10. BUILD STRUCTURE & ROUTINE
During this current lockdown, it’s important to build a good routine so that you don’t just spend all day sleeping, eating, drinking (excessively) or constantly glued to your phone or tablet.
There has never been a better time to learn a new skill, or improve an existing one. One thing that has really helped me is dedicating time everyday to learning and practising Italian. I’m using an app called Duolingo, which is free to use, but you can pay to upgrade to the premium version (without adverts) after using the free trial. There is another good app called Babbel which is currently offering 6 months free if you purchase a 12 month subscription.
I’ve also been spending more time in the kitchen cooking good quality meals. I’ve really enjoyed following actual recipes and being more experimental with my preparation and delivery (I always did wondered why we have a set of weighing scales in our kitchen). Although it has to be said that fish finger sandwiches are still my lockdown food of choice!
Pictured above: My experimental fish finger sandwich with mayo, pesto & something green called lettuce
To keep things fun and interesting in our house we recently played a game of Come Dine With Me, where everyone took it in turns to prepare, cook and serve a meal of their choice and then we rated them. It’s also a good way to spread the responsibility of cooking to more than just one person. Next week we’ll be taking on a Bake Off challenge. Any ideas of how to include fish fingers in a cake will be gratefully accepted.
Gardening, reading, writing, designing and making interesting cocktails are a few other things that have kept me thoroughly entertained during the lockdown. I should confirm that the cocktails have been received with mixed reviews, despite that fact they were all made from fish finger free recipes.
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