With only one exercise outing per day, and the possibility of a full lockdown looming, it would be easy to get stale and unfit. UKH regular Claire Maxted offers some thoughts on how to stay fit, healthy and motivated without leaving home - including a couple of workout videos.
A few weeks in to our strange new world and reports of queues at honeypot sites like Snowdonia and the Lake District are dwindling as everyone gets a handle on the rules we must obey to keep our elderly and vulnerable people safe. At the time of writing, we still have permission for health reasons to leave the house to do one session of exercise per day. Non-essential journeys are not allowed so this must be done locally. There is no distance or time limit (yet) so it's up to us to walk, run or ride at least 2m from others, sensibly and within our limitations so as not to risk creating any further pressure on medical or emergency services. So how can walkers and runners stay fit and well while sticking strictly to these guidelines, and possibly even more stringent lockdown measures to come?
Here are my top 10 tips:
Never before has it been so important to take that time out of your day to walk or run in your local area. If you have paths and green spaces nearby then great! If not, then instead of feeling trapped far from our beloved mountains, focus on exploring your surroundings more thoroughly. This is a great opportunity to learn - spotting urban wildlife, identifying wildflowers, admiring architecture and discovering the history of your town. As well as starting from home and staying 2+m away from others, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap before and afterwards. Additional sensible precautions also involve wearing freshly-laundered gloves in case you have to touch any gates or stiles.
Personal trainers, fitness influencers and gyms throughout the land have turned to virtual workouts on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to help people stay fit at home. I made one for trail and ultra runners last week (also suitable for walkers) and it's surprising just how much of a cardio workout you can get from jumping around in a space no bigger than a prison cell, using nothing but your own body weight. Online there are workouts for whole body strength, core, cardio, fat blasting, relaxation, you name it. Do them outside if you can - you tend to get hot and sweaty very quickly! Here's my latest and there are more to come.
Home workout - 20 min leg strength & cardio for trail & ultra runners (works for walkers too):
In some countries the government has clamped down on leaving the house or imposed a 1km radius rule, and people have created ingenious ways to clock up walking and running mileage in their own homes. Strava is showing more and more squiggle scribble workouts as people walk or run miles up and down their street, their lounge or around their garden in loops, with impressive vertical climbing up and down the stairs. Some pace the length of their longest space, while others jog systematically around the edge of every room in the house. News sources reveal that a Frenchman ran a marathon on his balcony so we have no excuse not to do a few miles a day. So get your step counter or sports watch on, pop a podcast or music on, and get hiking your house!
Here's how to walk or run 3 miles in your own home:
Do a home stair workout and make it fun by varying the challenges you set yourself. The first challenge might be finding some clean enough walking boots or running shoes for indoor use! Start with 10 x walk up and downs, then do 10 x two steps at a time on the way up, then vary it with 2 x faster efforts at a fast hike or run, then 2 x slower recovery laps as part of your 10 stair laps. See if you can climb the height of the first mountain you walked up as a kid, or Ben Nevis if you're feeling inspired! To increase the effort wear a backpack with filled water bottles, tins or books inside. You can make the backpack heavier as you progress, by 1kg each week. Be careful, and hold the bannister if needed on your way down, we don't want to create more accidents.
It's amazing how much of a sweat you can whip up with simple skipping or hula hooping. Especially if you have kids, you may well already have these items cluttering up your shed, and it will amuse the offspring no end to see mummy or daddy tripping over the rope and swinging their hips about frantically in the garden. Trampolining is also a good workout, but not to be advised at this time with the higher risk of bone breakage.
Try: skipping forwards non-stop for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, then backwards non-stop for the same, then left leg, right leg, both legs together, then repeat this combination 6 times for a rigorous 30 min workout all on the spot.
If you have a bike, now's the time to use it. You might not feel comfortable about cycling on the roads or mountain biking during lockdown due to the increased risk at a time when no one wants to be calling out the emergency services, so a turbo trainer is a fantastic option here. Set it up outside for a more realistic weather experience or to watch and hear the birds, or inside in front of your favourite film. Turbo your way through an addictive box set and you're multi-tasking like a pro. For more of a competitive workout, sign up to a programme like Zwift or Peleton for a virtual group ride and get ready to feel the burn.
Home improvements can be surprisingly tiring! There are many people who can run or walk for miles in the mountains, but faced with painting a ceiling, clearing out a garage or fixing a cupboard, run out of energy far sooner. Ok so some of this may be down to a lack of motivation, but the more physical aspects of DIY and housework can be equally demanding as a good walk. While we can still order items online and accept deliveries with care, choose a project you've been meaning to get round to for years. The overall body movements will improve your stability, co-ordination and strength for future mountainous activities, and your future self (not to mention your partner) will thank you for the satisfaction of getting things done.
Gardening is a wonderful way to connect with the great outdoors at this time, while also getting a workout. It's often thought the preserve of the older or less active, but far from it - digging, lifting, carrying and planting is all actually a fantastic whole body workout. Children love to get involved too. Find out about your garden's soil type, and which parts are in sun or shade, ask the local allotment folk about what grows best in your area, then set to work. Right now it's planting time for so many edible crops - all you need is a few chickens and you could be self-sufficient enough not to have to brave the supermarket... by the end of summer.
If you're lucky enough to possess a WiiFit or dance mat that links up to your TV for active games and dancing, get it out for family fun on the rainiest of days. This is especially good if you've got super energetic kids that need wearing out, and there are lots of different games and dances to hone your skills on, and keep brains from boredom for both young and old. If the moves aren't enough for you, wear a weighted backpack and add some floor touches, squats and lunges into the moves or at certain points in the game. Get creative and have the winner choose a set of 10 exercises for the loser to do, while they do one of their choice. Things like press ups, burpees, lunges, squats, shuttle runs and the plank for 30 seconds are all good ideas.
With so many events and races being cancelled, not to mention such stressful work and financial situations, mental health is easy to overlook. Grab your headphones and get an audiobook, podcast or energising music on while you workout. And stay motivated, happy and healthy by signing up to a new challenge with a friendly, supportive group of people.
Here's one example: The Covid-19k Challenge has been set up on Strava and Facebook to help active people run, walk or bike at least 19k per week during the corona outbreak. Members must strictly adhere to their country's government guidelines and when the health crisis is over, a Covid-19k Challenge medal will be available to buy. All profits will go to a Covid-related charity which will be voted for via a poll in the Facebook group. Join now and stay motivated, happy and healthy.