How I’m Staying Active in Lockdown

So I wasn’t originally planning on writing a post about how I’ve been trying to stay active (and sane!) during the Covid-19 lockdown, because let’s face it – every fitness blogger will be doing the same. But thanks to a stitch-up by (friend and radio host) Richard “Spanners” Ready, I’m compelled to share my fitness tricks and tips! Hopefully some of these will be useful to you or someone you know.

ONLINE CLASSES

There are frankly hundreds of available classes online at the moment, many of them for free, and others for a nominal fee to keep fitness instructors – who have found their income severely affected – financially afloat. To be honest, the amount of choice has been a little overwhelming at times (I’ll be on Instagram and suddenly get alert after alert of gyms and fitness influencers going live) but I’ve found a few that have really worked for me, especially in a small space.

@DanceFitnessWithLily – my friend Becky put me on to Lily, and I’m so grateful that she did! Lily is a professional dancer and choreographer based in London and she has the most infectious energy. She is offering 5 classes a week using Instagram Live, and she saves them to her story afterwards so you’ve got 24 hours to give them a go. They usually last 30-40 minutes, and they’re easy to do in a small space. Lily clearly loves what she does, and when she talks along to the songs with perfection pronunciation you can’t help but smile. An absolute tonic during these tough times. You can also follow Lily’s main account at @lilymaemcgregor.

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Runderwear – Underwear company Runderwear are doing a #60DayChallenge at 10am every day, which you can either do live with them on Facebook or do at your leisure by watching the video back. It’s usually no more than a 15 minute workout, based around bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats etc. You can sign up to get a daily email reminder and a breakdown of the exercises here.

Magda Dawczak – Magda is an Ely resident and friend of mine who I met when she taught me Zumba. She usually teaches classes at the Hive in Ely, but that has obviously temporarily closed. Despite not having her regular income, Magda has decided to ask anyone who would like to attend her online Zoom* classes to donate money to the NHS using the 70085 number. Magda is one of the strongest women I know, but don’t be scared – her classes are based around cardio, core work and Zumba, which are accessible to everyone. You can find her on Instagram as @happy_fit_uk.

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Jo Hopkins – Jo is another local instructor who I know from the classes she teaches for Sweaty Betty Cambridge. She is an absolute human whirlwind, and not even a pandemic can change that. Jo is running – get this – 4 or 5 classes A DAY, including stretch and mobility classes, daily 30-minute lunchtime family exercise sessions and Saturday night dance parties! You can get involved for £5 a class (paid via bank transfer) or for £15 a week you can do as many classes as you like! Jo is also using Zoom for this, and you can find her on Instagram at @johopkins.moveit. She also has an incredible plant-based food company, so you can follow that at @josvivakitchen for foodie inspo!

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Helena Everdell – Helena is one of my yoga instructors and owner of one of the most soothing voices known to humankind. She’s sharing great little 5 minute videos on Instagram focusing on different body parts such as neck and shoulders, abs and a full body burner, so you can slot these into your WFH days whilst the kettle is boiling. Plus if you’re lucky, her dog Pablo makes a cameo, and we all know that cute dogs make everything better. You can follow her at @helena.everdell.

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Elyte Fitness – it’s not too late to join a gym! My amazing gym, Elyte, has moved to online classes for all of its members, so for me it’s just brilliant to be able to check in with all of my workout buddies and still get my sweat on with them. Elyte even offered for members to borrow equipment so that they could use them in their own homes, including the spin bikes. This goes above and beyond, and reminds me why I’m a member at the best gym round here.

LEARN A NEW SKILL

Ever wanted to be able to do a headstand? Learn to hula hoop? Do the splits? Try couch to 5k? Do a press up? This is your chance. Don’t waste it.

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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ALLOTTED OUTDOOR TIME

Whether it’s walking the dog, getting out for a run or jumping on the bike, please make the most of your chance to get outdoors while all of this is going on. We all know how much good vitamin D and fresh air does for us all, and although it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, changing your scenery (in a socially distant way of course) will make such a huge difference to your day.

TRY MY WORKOUTS!

If this isn’t enough for you, I even wrote a couple of challenges for my running buddies that you can try at home! Fancy giving either of these a go?

1000 Rep Challenge

You can do this either as it’s written, or by breaking it down into 5 rounds:

50 x mountain climbers
50 x press ups
50 x burpees
50 x jump lunge (per leg)
50 x sit ups
50 x tuck jumps
50 x plank up downs
50 x plyo star jumps (hands to the floor)
50 x squat jumps
500 x skips (or high knees if you don’t have a rope

7 Minute EMOM

And EMOM means you start each exercise every minute on the minute. When you’ve finished the exercise, you can rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat 4 times (28 minutes total).

10 burpees
40 flutter kicks
20 squat jumps
20 leg raises
10 surfer burpees
40 russian twists
20 squat thrusts

Let me know if you try either of these, and if you’ve discovered any other online gems I’d love to hear about them!

*Zoom is a video conferencing programme that has become INVALUABLE during this time. You can get the app and sign up for an account for free, and then people like Magda and Jo send out the link to the meeting (class) to attendees who have signed up and you’re good to go! Just remember that if you turn your camera on all of the attendees can see you, so think twice before doing a class in your underwear.

The Addictive Pain of Spinning

When I was about 22 years old, I don’t think anyone would have described me as fit. I was a member of my local LA Fitness, but that usually involved maybe 30 minutes on a cross trainer once a week and the occasional Body Pump class to the strains of Car Wash (the Christina Aguilera version. This was 2004 after all).

But then one day, my gym buddy suggested we try a spin class. I was young and optimistic back then, so I said “Sure! What’s the worst that could happen?” It looked like quite good fun with the disco style lighting and easy on the eye instructor, plus it was just cycling right? At this point in my life I was getting the park and ride bus to work and probably hadn’t been on a bike for a good 6 years but you know what they say about learning to ride a bike…

Oh how wrong I was.

About 3 minutes into the class I knew I was in trouble. The instructor was like some kind of hyperactive giant toddler with rage issues who liked to go up to individuals in the class and scream at them in a faux American accent to “PUSH! PUSH!” like the worst birthing partner ever. The music was insanely loud but maybe it was trying to drown out the sound of my sobs. At about the 10 minute mark I was desperately trying to find a way to sneak out of the class unnoticed, but I knew that my legs were not going to support any attempts to extract myself from the devil machinery. I was stuck with it. And I hated every last miserable second of it. When I finally stumbled from the bike, sore in parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed, I vowed to NEVER spin again.

This vow held firm for 13 years (yes I’m 35 – you may gasp if you’re so inclined) until I joined Elyte Fitness to find new ways to stay active during my very stubborn bout of tendonitis. My husband basically made me promise that I would do some form of cardio, as I think he was genuinely concerned that I might eat his soul if I didn’t do something to replace running. So I reluctantly turned up for one of Elyte’s incredibly popular spin classes, and again I hated every last miserable second of it.

I’m hooked.

Now let me explain. This isn’t a self-flagellation kind of deal. It’s just that an insanely tough spin session has the ability to give me the same high I get from a good run. Yes it hurts. Yes you’ll be sweatier than any human has any right to be. Yes you would throw your water bottle at the instructor whenever they tell you to add a gear on if only you had enough strength to lift the bloody thing. It hurts. A lot. But man alive has it kept me fit.

When I started running again I was genuinely concerned that my 5k times would have taken a huge battering. But somehow I’ve managed to come back just over the 21 minute mark, only ever so slightly slower than I’d been before. I’m gobsmacked.

Plus spin at Elyte is nothing like my experience from the early noughties. All of the instructors at Elyte (of which there are many, which means you get a lot of variety in teaching styles which keeps things interesting) are so very good at what they do. There’s no insane shouting that makes you feel like a fitness failure. Instead there’s encouragement to push yourself as you follow the Spivi interactive software they use in the studio. This adds a competitive edge as you cycle through simulations of snowy or sunny landscapes and try to edge out your classmates. It’s a welcome distraction from the pain in your legs. Plus if you’re really lucky, this will all be done to the soothing sounds of a Disney soundtrack…

Now I just have to deal with the fact that every time I go to a class my husband says “but I thought you hated spin?”

I do. It’s just that I love to hate it.

 

 

Was my Injury Actually a Good Thing?

Did I mention that I’ve been injured?

Megalolz. I’m only messing you with you. If you follow me on Twitter or you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself within earshot of me within the last four months you will have heard me banging on about my “posterior tibial tendonitis” (try saying that after a few drinks). This has been without doubt the most stubborn injury I’ve had in the last few years, and I’ve had some really low moments during the seemingly endless weeks of stretching, physio, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga, foam rolling and self medicating with cake.

But now that I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this happening was a good thing. Yes I may have missed some of my favourite races and my preferred running season (trust me to be fit and healthy in the summer when trying to run outdoors is akin to running in soup) but I’ve been forced to be more creative with my fitness and as a result have seen my perspective shift in some interesting ways.

First of all, there’s the bouldering. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’ve found a real affinity with clambering up walls (despite being sweaty of hand and afraid of heights – go figure). I’ve reconnected with friends over climbing, have seen my shoulders develop in a way that makes me want to flex like the hulk whenever I walk past a mirror, have spent time with my niece and nephew at the climbing centre and have enjoyed the encouraging vibe between other climbers. It gives me an adrenaline hit but in a more controlled way than the adrenaline I feel on a start line of a race in a sometimes unfamiliar environment. Having said all this though, being on the verge of tears, stuck at the top of a route with my feet on a hold that looked disturbingly like a large pair of testicles was not one of my finest moments. But the good of climbing massively outweighs the bad.

Look! I’m a GIF! Thanks Oli…

Secondly, when I was deciding how on earth to find something that would get my heart rate up as much as running and Zumba (another exercise form that seemed to be aggravating my injury), I decided to wander into Elyte Fitness and see if maybe they were the gym for me after feeling less than inspired by the other local facilities on offer. Within 10 minutes I was sold on the sheer passion of the owners Lewis and Dawn and I signed up on the spot. I’m so glad I made this decision, as they are full of ideas and plans for the gym, and they’ve built an amazing fitness community. Every time I go there I feel like I’m with old friends and I’ll be writing a separate post on my Elyte journey so far as there is so much I want to say about it.

Because I was finding myself feeling so down about the state of running, I also decided to fire up my Headspace app again.  I’ve flirted on and off with Headspace for some time, but never seemed to manage more than 5 days in a row. Even though they always say not to worry if you miss a day, I would always take that as a sign of failure (competitive, moi?) and end up walking away for another month or two. But I’m currently sitting at 21 days straight of at least 10 minutes of meditation a day, and I am feeling slightly calmer in a general kind of way. I’m not going to claim that I am in some kind of zen like chilled perfection of existence (no one would believe that), but I think the clearest sign that I’m more relaxed and able to see “the bigger picture”, is the fact that I decided to transfer my Cambridge Half place, and I felt completely ok about it. Even though missing races you love sucks, setting back a recovery that has taken 4 months for the sake of one medal is madness. I would have spent the next 6 weeks fretting about building up from 4 miles to 13 miles, constantly wondering if my tendon could take the strain and I would have become unpleasant to be around. So to me it just seemed like such an obvious thing to do.

Another positive to come out of all this is that I feel like I know my body better, and I have a new found respect for it. I’m still making time to stretch and foam roll, and I try and do a little yoga every day (I manage it about 80% of the time). And as a result of my injury I’ve been told by my physio and my osteo that my foot functionality and balance is the best they’ve ever seen (proof that putting the effort into your rehab works!). And really, I’m just so excited to be running again, and am looking forward to getting stronger and building up to my best again. I’ve done a parkrun and a track session and loved every minute as you can see my inane grinning face above. Feeling my lungs fill with that gorgeous icy air is the ultimate tonic to me, and I’m just so grateful to be out there again. It’s lovely to be back with my running family, and I’m going to take my time and build up my distance slowly, and maybe look to do an autumn half marathon. Then again – maybe not? Maybe I’ll just keep doing whatever I like whenever I like, with no pressure, and no expectations.