With the UK in lockdown again, coupled with frigid winter weather, it can be harder than usual to exercise and stay active.Below, I share some helpful strategies for staying healthy and motivated during these unusual circumstances.
Prioritising the basics
Keeping your priorities simple is good. Just think about achieving three things: adequate sleep, sufficient exercise and a good diet.
Chances are, as long as you are getting these three things right, you will see progress with your personal health / fitness goals, whatever these may be.
Exercise…with no gym?!
Like many others, I miss going to the gym. Running outdoors in the winter makes the treadmill look fun by comparison. Not having a gym, however, shouldn’t be an excuse for never doing exercise; there are alternatives!
Commercial gyms now provide livestream or recorded HIIT classes, and you can access these for free.
Another option is bodyweight resistance exercises; the formal term is calisthenics. This is another free option and can be performed with no equipment or minimal equipment. There are some complex and impressive calisthenics exercises (Google “human flag” or “back lever”) but the simplest ones, which I have found doable as someone with no particular athletic aptitude, are things like push-ups, squats, lunges, inverted rows, chin-ups and pull-ups (am getting there slowly but surely).
For any attempted chin-ups or pull-ups, you will need to buy a home pull-up bar. You can get these affordably online, including from Amazon, and there are models which require no drilling. Some beginner resources:
- Handy list of exercises from which to mix and match
- A sample 20-minute workout
- Caliverse app (iOS / Android): This is the best app for bodyweight exercises I found. The workout plans are well structured and can help you progress no matter what your starting point is.
I am not a dietician so I won’t dispense advice on what you should or should not eat. There are two things, however, which I have found helpful with sticking to healthy eating:
- Tracking nutrients: I use an app called Nutrients & Calories. It has a database of pre-loaded foods (so you can search for “apple,” for example, instead of typing details from scratch) and a minimal interface which makes keeping a food diary a breeze.
- Pre-planning my meals: For every 3-4 day cycle, I have a little menu of meals which I plan to cook or eat. It means I can spend more time working or being productive, yet not worry about going hungry!
- Motivation: If having too many things on your to-do list freaks you out, why not set one health / fitness goal per day? Start small. It could be as simple as: “I will try the 15-minute HIIT workout which I found on YouTube yesterday”.
- 80/20 rule: It doesn’t matter if you miss one workout or occasionally eat junk food. The real question is whether you are able to, over a longer period, stick to certain health or fitness goals which you have set yourself.
- Results can take time: Don’t give up just because you haven’t seen change after one or two weeks.