Fitness writer Chloe Gray couldn’t concentrate during her home workouts thanks to missing her gym friends. She found motivation in an unlikely place…
I knew something was missing from my lockdown workouts when I dropped a metal plate on my toe and no one laughed. It wasn’t heavy, it didn’t do any damage, but it did hurt. Yet, as I stood there gawping at the numbness making its way up my foot, I was more upset about how lonely I felt.
You see, I’m used to a bustling budget fitness centre, where it’s not infrequent to have to queue for kit and showers. I have a bunch of friends who I would see there every morning. Even if we weren’t doing the same workout, we’d train next to each other and gossip during our rest breaks or jump in to spot each other’s lifts. We knew the trainers, who’d come and talk to us or write us an impromptu workout when we couldn’t be bothered to think of our own. Sometimes, I’d go there even on the days that I didn’t want to train, just to see people and have a stretch.
No matter how hard I force it, I can’t replicate the community feeling of my gym in my kitchen. Even my usual solution to those really-can’t-be-bothered days – a pumping playlist – hasn’t worked for me during lockdown. In fact, choosing music has been a constant source of stress, as nothing sounds quite right without the familiar clanking of metal in the distance and busy surroundings that make fast paced beats feel acceptable at 6AM.
So one morning as I scrolled Spotify in a huff, unable to find motivation or a good tune, I surrendered to the radio. “Just let them choose the music for me,” I thought. But it wasn’t so much the songs that made a difference as it was listening to another person’s voice.
Hearing Greg James gave a comforting familiarity to my strange workout set up – I’d been a long lover of his radio show, but more for when I pottered around my house than when I was trying to focus on training. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the radio was less distraction than I thought it would be. In fact, I found that the conversations got me even more in the zone.
I felt a smile creep across my face as morning radio’s infamous silliness mirrored the same ridiculous conversations my girls and I used to have while crushing each other for mirror space at 8AM. Sure, it meant I ended up attempting to do a fast-paced set of lunges to the lulled tones of Ed Sheeran’s Afterglow, but the added element of surprise when it came to song choice or conversation starters was a sure fire way to shake up my monotonous life.
I spoke about this revelation to Miranda Larbi, Strong Women Training Club’s editor, and she said she felt the same way about listening to podcasts during her long runs. “When I’m marathon training, I listen to them for distraction,” she says. “Podcasts such as Power Hour with Adrienne Herbert are really interesting and engaging, while the very NSFW Call Her Daddy sometimes makes me laugh out loud.”
It’s not groundbreaking to suggest that the radio and podcasts help with loneliness – 25% of people say they listen to radio stations that they know when feeling lonely, according to speaker brand Pure. In April and November 2020, two of the toughest months of lockdown, radio listening figures were up, with around 35% of listeners adding almost two hours of tune in time to their day. But listening to them during a workout was never something I considered before – I guess I’d never needed to, as I had my playlist and my friends.
Now, I train with the radio on every morning and I’ve noticed a world of difference to my motivation during my session. On occasion, it’s even got me out of bed and into my leggings, as I’ve wanted to tune in on time to listen to the daily quiz or hear an ongoing segment. I absorb Greg’s positive chatter and channel it into my workout as I attempt another rep. I may not have anyone physically with me to laugh with when I do something stupid, but my kitchen feels less vacuous with someone else’s voice in it. The radio has really been the antidote to lonely lockdown workouts – I’d even go so far as to call Greg my workout buddy.
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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).