Struggling for exercise motivation? It’s OK if workouts have fallen to the bottom of your to-do list, but moving your body in the midst of a pandemic has its benefits…
If you’re anything like us, there will be a gazillion things going on in your head right now: is it safe to visit my family? Am I going to be expected to go back to the office? How have hairdresser appointments all been filled already? How can I drown out my housemate’s rap music that’s playing at nightclub level noise while I’m working?
For some, getting a workout in right now understandably feels like just another thing to think about. For others, the announcement that gyms won’t be opening anytime soon, meaning more weeks of burpees and bodyweight circuits, is uninspiring. And let’s not forget that for many, exercising when the world is in chaos might even feel altogether pointless.
But it is that exact reason that makes moving our bodies still just as, if not more, crucial than ever. If you’re someone who has always prioritised exercising, then throwing it out the window now won’t help you feel more calm: studies show that having a daily rhythm helps with low mood and improves our mental health. “During an uncertain time, doing something that’s familiar to you is so important,” says Caroline Bragg, Strong Women ambassador.
So, take this as your reminder that exercise is proven to benefit our mental health. “When you’re just sat at home all day you start to overthink things and you might not be able to control your thoughts,” says trainer and Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana. “When you are exercising you get out of your mind and into your body. It gives your brain some rest and time to reset. You’ll look at situations differently post-workout when your body is full of endorphins.”
The other thing your body will be full of is oxygenated blood, which will help energise you, meaning that the admin you’ve been putting off by staring out of the window might feel slightly easier, and your joints that are tight from months of slouching over your makeshift working desk loosen.
Speaking of, exercise will actually help with that bad posture you’ve been adopting: “You want to make sure that you are supporting your body by working your glutes and your back,” says Bragg. “Strengthening certain areas of the body will improve your posture and ease muscle and joint pain.”
The message? It’s totally OK if you need some time off working out to reset, but keeping moving will benefit your mental and physical health during this weird time – and if that isn’t enough motivation to do so then we don’t know what else is. But if you’re still in need of an extra boot to get out of your seat, try these…
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“Let’s reframe exercise to just being movement,” says Obayuvana. Bear in mind that, in the real world, our rest days from the gym still involve a commute into work, shopping trip or a night dancing with friends. Right now, your basic forms of movement are probably lower than normal, so it’s important to factor in a bit extra. “Whether it’s a simple stretch or a big strength session, understand that your body needs movement to work properly,” Obayuvana adds.
PICK A SKILL
If you were holding on to the hope of starting a new workout plan at the beginning of July, you’re probably disheartened. Staring down the barrel of another 12-week workout plan that just involves bodyweight jumps isn’t going to get you excited, either. “While we still have a bit of extra time on our hands, it’s perfect to work on improving things that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to,” says Bragg. “Choose an exercise or a skill that you want to really nail, and dedicate these weeks at home to it.” Seeing improvements is motivation in itself, especially when it’s something you never thought you’d be able to achieve. The Strong Women team are working on handstands and L-sits.
THINK PAST LOCKDOWN
There’s more to life than how much you can squat, but knowing that you can get back in the gym with a similar strength to what you had before is a great motivation to keep moving. Now we’re at the final hurdle, don’t give up. “I know what’s going to happen: the gyms will open and people will go crazy, jumping right back into where they were rather than building back up slowly. Keeping up your fitness will mean that you don’t get injured when you do go back into exercise,” says Bragg.
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Image credit: Getty