I’m not really one for self-congratulation, but I’m going to give myself some credit: I worked out really hard during round one of lockdown. I exercised most mornings in my kitchen/living room/dining room hybrid space. I even found ways to make it kind of enjoyable, discovering a love for boxing, taking my housemate on runs and working on new exercises, at different tempos and higher rep ranges with my lighter-than-I-would-like dumbbells.
I did it because I needed to. I knew that, in order to get through lockdown, I had to protect both my mental and physical health. Thinking that it would be three weeks of gym closures before life got back to relatively normal again, I didn’t want to compromise my routine, so I carried on training as though the gyms were set to open again in less than a month (which is pretty funny, knowing what we know now).
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But on Saturday, when Boris Johnson announced a second lockdown, I crumbled. This time, I am looking at it with too much knowledge. I don’t have the motivation to keep up my fitness routine when it might be another four months before I can go back to the gym. Most importantly, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to have to exercise in the room that I also cook, eat and watch TV in. I don’t want to feel compressed and uninspired by exercise – a part of my life that is usually so fun and exciting to me. I don’t want to do another set of lunges in my kitchen.
You might feel that way about pubs, beauty salons or yoga studios. Whatever the venue, I’m sure the feeling is the same: being back in the spaces you loved helped you feel life was OK again. I may have been training in a 2M² box, queuing for hand sanitiser and limiting the amount of kit I was picking up so that I wouldn’t have to wipe it all down again, but being in the gym was a slice of normal life back. I may be coming home to work from my bedroom straight after training rather than heading into the office, but I had my morning training sessions to cling on to. Now, that’s gone again.
While some people are gearing up for this four weeks to be another chance to focus on themselves and their fitness, I feel like it’s going to be a time when I’m the least dedicated to training I’ve ever been. Because since having my little square of normality again, I’ve realised that it’s not just simply the act of taking an hour a day to exercise that is hugely beneficial to my mental health, but it’s the act of leaving the house, being in a room full of motivation and adding weights onto the bar. It’s also a part of my identity: my male housemates brag to their friends on my behalf about the fact that I can out-lift them, and I’d be lying if that wasn’t satisfying. How do I begin to tap into that feeling from the confines of my own home, without an end in sight?
I want to take a second to mourn the structure, hard-work and happiness that goes into my usual gym sessions before I have to press pause on them for a month. In the grand scheme of things, my fitness levels aren’t that important. But I just don’t feel ready to take on more home workouts.
I know enough about myself, my brain, my body and fitness generally to know that I won’t stop training completely. So, in a bid to find a way around this hump in motivation, here’s what I’ll be doing:
3 ways to motivate yourself for home workouts
1. Get out the house
Walking to the gym every morning forms part of my routine. It’s when I drink coffee, listen to good music and start to wake up. So much like my colleague Hannah does a fake commute to her desk, I’m going to do a walk to the ‘gym’, even if that is my living room, to feel a bit more pumped to train.
2. Do it with a friend
I know, I know, the last thing you need is to be looking at another screen. But there is something so helpful about another presence with you when you’re training, be that a mate on FaceTime or seeing comments from a stranger on an Instagram Live. My friend Charlotte and I have already planned to do weekly workouts, each choosing exercises to challenge each other after she text me saying: “I’m so sad about the gym situation. I can’t be arsed with hit and cardio again - honestly not one part of me wants to work out at home.”
3. Forget the plan
Ok, I know that doesn’t sound motivating, but hear me out. After seeing some people on Instagram put together their workout plan for the month ahead, I considered doing the same. Put everything in place and then the morning shouldn’t be a mind game, right? Unfortunately, that’s never been the way I train. I prefer to tune in to my body in the morning and work out what feels comfortable based on my sleep, energy levels and mood. So if proper structure works for you – great. Personally, I will set myself a target (probably one lower body workout, one upper body workout, one circuit) and try to hit those when the time feels right, without the pressure.
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).