Sophie Butler, Gymshark’s first disabled sponsored athlete, shares her tips for adapting your workout.
There may have been a lot of excitement when gyms re-opened on April 12, but not everyone has flocked back. For some, it’s been great to finally be back at the barbell and not having to worry about keeping your workouts quiet for your neighbours, but there will still be plenty of people understandably taking it slow.
Whether you’re experiencing some (very normal) re-entry anxiety, are happy sticking to your walks or are just holding out for your favourite classes to resume, your workouts don’t have to be put on hold just because you’re not heading to the gym just yet.
Sure, without access to bigger floor space or equipment, it can be trickier to maintain your routines. But you can still build strength and challenge yourself with a few simple tricks.
Sophie Butler – an online fitness coach with almost 79K followers, Gymshark’s first disabled sponsored athlete, and and an award-winning advocate for disability awareness – explains that adapting her workouts is something she’s had a lot of experience with. As a wheelchair user, Sophie has had to acclimate to not only her gym’s set up, but her own home when she was forced to do at-home workouts throughout multiple lockdowns. “One of the beautiful things you learn from being disabled is an ever-growing ability to adapt,” she says.
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Master your basics
The key to a good workout routine is to not overcomplicate things. While Sophie admits it can be easy to want to try out a different Instagram routine each day, this can make it difficult to track your progression, and to hold yourself accountable when it comes to reaching goals. Not to mention rattling the walls when you’re doing intense HIIT sessions.
When you’re working out in small spaces, sticking to key bodyweight movements – such as squats, press-ups and lunges (while adding modifications to make them progressively more challenging) - is a simple way to get stronger, even if you don’t have any weights on hand.
Swap weights for more reps and sets
Chances are, you don’t have a home gym (and if you do, score!). So when you don’t have access to weights or equipment, Sophie recommends focussing on increasing the number of reps and sets you complete instead. “Making your workout more challenging in this way will help improve strength gain and muscular endurance.”
Focus on your tempo
Tempo is a term used in the fitness industry that describes the rhythm and pace at which you lift weights – something that Sophie believes is seriously underrated due to its effectiveness. Through elongating the time it takes to perform each exercise – i.e taking six seconds to do a bicep curl versus three seconds – muscles are forced to work harder, which optimises both muscle strength and endurance. “When we don’t have heavier weights, slowing down the tempo of our exercises helps to create more time under tension for our muscles.”
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Invite your household to join in
The holidays can be a busy time – whether we’re in lockdown or not, including spending time with family or your household. So why not kill two birds with one stone by inviting your household or distance family members to join your workouts in the living room or via Zoom? You’ll be able to spend quality time together – and get your workout in as well.
This can include anything from going on a walk or a run together, or even joining inviting them to join in on one of your regular workouts. Plus, it allows everyone to blow off steam – we all know living together under one roof for too long can become more irritating than merry.
Recreate the gym mentality
One of the hardest things about working out from home can be getting into the zone and concentrating on your routine. Sophie recommends starting each workout by removing distractions: turning off the TV, getting your equipment set up and turning on a good playlist. “You can throw yourself around the living room all you like, but if your head is not in the game, you won’t be able to fully benefit from your workout.”
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