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So we’re now pretty much in lockdown in an effort to beat coronavirus. Boris Johnson announced on Monday night that we’re only allowed to leave the house for the following reasons:
– Shopping for basic necessities
– One form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle
– Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
– Travelling to and from work when absolutely necessary
It means the time we’re allowed to be outside our homes has shrunk considerably. However, Johnson said in his live address that going to the park for a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household – was acceptable. Although park gym equipment is now closed.
Want to make the most of that daily sliver of time for your ‘one form of exercise’? Here are a few ideas on how to do it…
First off, it’s crucial that whatever kind of exercise you do, you do it separatly from people outside of your household. “The key is to make sure that whatever we do, we do it alone,” says wellbeing and lifestyle consultant Yvonne Wake from wellbeingandlifestyle.co.uk.
“The benefits of exercise are both physical and mental and we’d urge everyone to get outside and get moving, of course being mindful of government social distancing guidelines,” adds Alastair Crew, head trainer at David Lloyd Clubs.
“Everyone’s different, your body’s circadian rhythm determines whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and when you feel energised and sleepy,” says Crew. “If you’re planning to head out in the morning, your body temperature is lower and muscles are stiffer and tighter. So it’s very important to make sure you warm-up properly.
“By the afternoon, your body’s core temperature has warmed up which can have a large impact on your quality of exercise. A higher body temperature leaves muscles more flexible, increasing strength and endurance. Your reaction time is quickest and heart rate and blood pressure are lowest during the afternoon – all of which can contribute to a better workout.”
While working out first thing or late in the evening means parks will be quieter and crowd-free, the ideal time for hitting your vitamin D quota (for healthy bones, teeth and muscles) is midday. “Going outside at midday is the best time of the day, because that’s when we get the most vitamin D, and when sunlight is at its absolute maximum,” says Wake. “When we’re cooped up inside in the dark, it’s then we start to become deficient in vitamin D. We can take supplements, but they’re nowhere near as efficient as actual vitamin D from sunlight.” So if you can, prioritise some midday exercise.
“A lot of people aren’t motivated to wake up, put their clothes on and get out there and go for a walk,” Wake admits.
She advises setting yourself a goal. “We have to play a game here,” she says. “It’s not easy, we have to think of new ways of getting ourselves out, because this is the new normal.”
Walking is the ideal exercise because it’s free and accessible to everyone. “You literally just put your shoes on and go for a walk,” says Wake, who adds it’s important to challenge yourself, whether that’s a five-minute walk the first day, 10 minutes the second, and 15 minutes the third. Don’t just “willy-nilly walk around looking in shop windows”.
And just because you can’t meet a friend and walk together, doesn’t mean you can’t compare notes and drive each other on from afar. “You could always say, ‘How much did you do today? Let’s see if we can keep it up’,” says Wake.
… and what’s safe and free of other people. If there’s a set of steps near you that is currently not in use, and not likely to have people using it, turn it into your own Rocky-style training unit. Alternatively, hills. If your park has a quiet hill, head straight to it – racing, or just walking, up an incline will test your fitness and get your heart rate up much more swiftly than a flat path.
Build up to it. If you’ve never run before, except for the bus, don’t go on an hour-long jog and knock yourself out – ditto a three hour bike ride. Your body won’t thank you for it. Instead, start small and every day either increase your speed, or your distance slightly. “For beginners it’s a great time to consider a Couch to 5k,” says Crew. “We’ve got a run club on our socials – #DLrunclub, where our trainers are sharing tips and we’re hoping everyone joins in and shares their runs, walks and jogs.”
You only have one stint a day outside, so blitz it (always taking care and being aware of how your body is feeling). Where you’d normally run for long distances over a longer period of time, condense your workout with sprint intervals, incorporate hand weights into a brisk walk, swap a leisurely cycle route for a more challenging one (that means hills).
Not everyone has access to a bicycle, and not everyone is able to run – but if these options are open to you, why not rotate through them, and switch them up every day? We’re going to suffer with boredom just from being stuck inside, don’t make your workout in the fresh air a chore too.
If you’re really struggling mentally with being stuck inside, scheduling in a run or a bike ride can help provide relief. Running is “a great cardio workout,” says Crew, “but it also stimulates the production of endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. It can provide a real mood boost – something we can all do with right now.”
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