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Change the routine

Julien Bertherat, Personal Trainer.

Who would have thought that we would be in this position only a few weeks ago? At that time the COVID-19 outbreak that had begun in China, and which quickly spread through other countries, must have seemed to be a very distant threat to most people. Today, that threat and the impact it has had on our collective lives have become serious and extremely disruptive. For those of us working in the British fitness industry, the big change came about when gymnasiums and fitness centres closed on 21 March. That date feels a very long time in the past now and the impact of the gym closures has been substantial for those of us who train in the sector and who enjoy going to the gym to maintain our fitness. For some, the closure of gyms has prompted a flurry of home workouts, while others have embraced (or re-embraced!) running with renewed vigour. I cannot be the only one that has been struck by the number of runners (and indeed cyclists) that there now are on the streets and in the parks. The impulse for activity and fitness continues. For others, however, denied access to local gyms, their closure has been a shocking and frustrating experience. But need it be that way, particularly in the context of a temporary event, which the lockdown will hopefully be? Or, to put it another way, how do we deal with such disruptive change to our established routine? In response to such a change, is the healthy reaction to create a new workout routine, as a substitute, particularly when it comes to fitness training? If so, then there are guidelines which should be followed when putting in place such a substitution. Finding a safe replacement for equipment that is no longer available is crucial, as is the value of warming up, whatever exercise is undertaken. If it is possible to run safely, then adding a short jog to an indoor routine is helpful (a circuit near the home or in the local park, for example); one or two laps for around 10 to 15 minutes to get the heart pumping and oxygen flowing, before moving on to some internal (or external) resistance training for 40 minutes, or so. In terms of substitute equipment, something as simple as elastic bands and a mat on the floor offer opportunities for such resistance training, stretching and floor work, which can be a key part of any substitute home workout. Home workout videos are now also extremely popular on social media and blog sites, showing what can be achieved using bodyweight and elastic band resistance and they can be a valuable resource when putting together a home workout programme. One thing that should change when working out at home is the schedule of training that is followed. When exercising at a gym, one of the key benefits is the access offered to weights and specialist equipment. This allows for people to train themselves to exhaustion and to pursue an ‘on/off’ workout programme, with built-in rest days to allow for recovery. When access to such equipment is denied, it is possible, by upping the amount of time and the frequency of the home workout followed, to compensate for this loss (by training each day at a more moderate pace, for example). Psychologically, it is equally important to be able to deal with the change in routine.

For myself, I struggle with such disruption.

Like many people, I feel the shift into ‘holiday mode’ and can struggle to maintain my focus. One way to resist this drift is to concentrate on a fitness activity that is enjoyable and to make it central to the new routine. I like running, so I go back to this because it is what I enjoy the most: It becomes my fitness foundation. So, find that special fitness activity that you look forward to and make it central to what you do. Another important thing to do is to adapt your diet, to eat carefully, and not to slip into looking into the fridge for stimulation and pleasure. This is especially difficult to resist when boredom becomes a problem, but such quick fixes can have unhelpful long-term consequences. To avoid this scenario feed the mind to remain stimulated and ward off boredom. Many people I know are appreciating the opportunity offered to read more and think about their medium and long-term plans. Whatever strategy you choose, however, bear in mind that the enemy at this time of crisis is the looming blank, physically and mentally, which can easily be filled with fear, lethargy and a loss of healthy self-image. So, fill in that blank, compensate for the new circumstances, and take the opportunity to consider the best way forward for you and your loved ones. But, above all, adapt and survive.


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