Welcome to Fighting Fit: Lockdown Lessons While WOFH (working out from home). We’re reflecting on how the pandemic has changed our physical and mental health as we approach the one-year anniversary of lockdown.
If you told in March 2020 that we’d be without gyms for a whole year, on and off, we’d have been worried about our strength dwindling. But, given that the anniversary of gyms first closing due to coronavirus is coming up on the 21 March, we’re doing surprisingly OK – although we will admit that our motivation is hitting a low.
So, when looking for home workout inspiration, there is one account we keep returning to. Trainer Alice Liveing has become to Instagram what Joe Wicks is to YouTube – streaming daily workouts to her hundreds of thousands of followers, with some videos racking up 65,000 live viewers.
“There has definitely been a surge of interest in exercise,” says Alice. “At the start of lockdown, I noticed that people have become way more interested in really utilising their new free time to work out, which is great. But I think that there is an illusion that just because we’re working out from home that it’s a bit easier, or a bit more risk-free.”
That illusion is, of course, wrong. In fact, many of us are taking our training more seriously than ever during lockdown. Whatever amount or type of exercise you’re doing at the moment, there are key steps to take in order to stay fit and injury free. Here’s how, according to Alice.
Don’t skip the warm-up
“You might not think about doing a warm up because ‘it’s only a home workout’ but actually I would argue that it’s probably even more important to be doing them. Right now, a lot of us will be going from sitting at our desk or sofa to suddenly starting a workout. When you’re going to the gym you’ve probably walked a bit to get there so you are already loose, and you’ve probably been moving around a little bit more throughout day so you’re probably a little bit more mobile.
“The first thing you need to do is to raise your core temperature so we just want to get warm and lubricate your joints. You can do that with some walking or running on the spot. The second is movement prep. So think about what you’re going to be doing in that specific session and make sure that you prep and prime your body for those movements. If you know you’re going to be doing some squats, for example, you might look at doing some hip mobility in the form of bodyweight squats or 90/90 hip rotations.”
Activation is key
“Adding in some form of activation is key to get things ready for the session that you’re going to do. It’s particularly important to get the central nervous system to start firing up so that it’s ready to go into your explosive movements later in the workout. Activation could be as simple as some resistance band exercises, like glute bridges, or bodyweight moves like a plank or dead bugs, just to make sure everything is working to the best of its ability.”
Have the right kit
“Just because you’re inside, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to consider what you’re wearing. If you’re doing any sort of jumping, running or skipping it’s really, really important to have a good pair of trainers on because it helps with the absorption of the movement through the joints.
“However, I am a big believer in barefoot strength training. Our feet are so integral - particularly in strength training - to our balance and our proprioception, and being able to feel grounded through the floor. I know that there’s many camps on this so I’m happy for people to wear trainers when they train, but make sure they are secure. Personally, at home, I’m always training barefoot.”
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Be careful with HIIT
“One or two HIIT sessions a week is good for some sweaty conditioning that raises your heart rate. But research has shown that it takes our bodies up to 48 hours to recover from an intense HIIT session. If you don’t ever allow yourself that full time to get back to your fully recovered state then you’ll constantly be in a state of fatigue. That means you’ll never have enough energy to give 100% to your workouts.
“As with any form of exercise, HIIT is a stress on the body. We have to respect the fact that the body takes a while to recover and rest, and overdoing it will not only harm your joints from the plyometric work but also harm your central nervous system. Especially if you’re doing that over an extended period of time, it can lead to hormonal, sleep and mood disruption mood.”
Watch your form
“If you’re a newbie to strength training or exercising you might not have that connection between mind and body to know that you’re doing something wrong. Even if you’re experienced, certain moves might be new to you or you can just sometimes get things wrong. I recommend filming yourself so you’re able to visually see what you’re doing and check if it looks different to your trainer.
“The number one thing for me is if you’re doing live workouts or if you’re getting inspiration from Instagram, please do follow someone that gives coaching cues, and that is a qualified PT.”
Rest and recover
“The key pillars of recovery aren’t the sexy stuff. It’s getting a good night’s sleep every night, because we know that sleep is intrinsically and deeply connected to how we recover. Nutrition is really important as well: making sure that you’re eating enough carbohydrates, making sure that you’re having good sources of protein and eating enough to fuel the training that you’re doing. And hydration is another key one, which I think is easy to forget about when you’re at home.
“And remember to take rest days. Just because we’re training from home it doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve rest. Be mindful about the fact that those are equally important as they would be if you were training at the gym.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).