Monday 8 June 2020

Keeping fit in the time of coronavirus - fighting off the lockdown lovehandles!

Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, which does seem like many moons ago, I would go to my local sports centre at Crystal Palace and do body toning classes and swimming. 
I also regularly went to Breeze Yoga, in Beckenham where I did a lot of different yoga and pilates classes. Doing these classes was very useful for keeping my body in shape and reducing the chance of injury from the cycling and running I do.

So, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of sports centres one Friday afternoon about three months ago, the first thing I did was to dash out for one final yoga class before the centre closed.

Although there has since been an easing of the coronavirus measures, sport centres still remain closed. 

However, I have not let that stop me from continuing with my fitness regime. I refuse to let this coronavirus pandemic be a reason for a loss of fitness, or a sudden weight gain. Apparently, people have been eating and notably drinking more than usual these days, and I am determined to not fall into doing that.  

I have kept in mind the fact that this time, more than any other time is the moment to stay healthy. If all hands are to the pump dealing with coronavirus casualties in the hospitals then that would restrict the availability of doctors. (I have already had a few hospital appointments cancelled because of the pandemic.)

Furthermore, studies have shown that overweight or obese people are more likely to die from coronavirus than slimmer people. My body mass index is some way off being overweight, but in a two-three month period during these extraordinary times, extraordinary things can happen! 

In any case, a hospital setting is the last location I'd want to be in at this moment in time. I definitely want to follow the government's advice to stay home - or is it stay alert - whatever! 

So during this period I have kept a routine as much as possible and have kept fit in following ways:

Cycling - luckily, unlike other countries the government did allow us to go out and take exercise - one form of exercise per day. So I would usually do a local 15-mile loop in the Surrey lanes, or I would do a 20-mile loop in Kent. I even managed to get over to London's mecca for cycling, Richmond Park, before they closed it to cyclists.

Because I was busy writing at home and doing my freelance writing work, I treated each day like a working day, so as a rule I could not spend all day riding my bike, apart from on bank holidays. For the Easter bank holiday I cycled to Harrow via a scenic route through South-West and North-West London - a handy trip as I actually managed to find eggs, which were in short supply at the time. 

For the May Day Bank holiday I cycled to St Albans and back - the government were saying the public transport should only be used for essential journeys, so I resisted the temptation to get on the Thameslink back to South London! In any case that was a nice day as I passed through various villages and suburbs where people were having VE Day anniversary celebrations in their gardens. 

For the Spring Bank Holiday I cycled to Hampstead Heath, and did a trail run around the heath. (By then there was no limit to how many outdoor activities we could do.) Hampstead Heath is lovely, by the way. Even though there were countless people outside, it was still possible to do social distancing there as there are so many hidden areas in the woods and in the bushes! 

Every few weekends I liked do an extended ride to add a bit of variety, and have something to look forward to.

Running - at this time, the running I do would normally have been training in preparation for a big event like a marathon or half-marathon. So running without having any event in mind was a little strange. So again, I tried to vary things by giving a theme to my runs - maybe including as many parks as possible in my itinerary, or hills or combining my runs with skipping. Quite a few of my runs were done as part of my errands. So I would run to my allotment to water the crops. I would combine my run with a trip to a supermarket that had no queue, or had flour in stock. Those runs ended up being quite long! Whatever, it was a way to keep me motivated - and it worked.

Skipping - As mentioned, I would sometimes combine this with my runs. But I also do stand-alone skipping sessions. Skipping is something I have done on-and-off since I was a teenager. There's nothing like a good few minutes of jumping with the rope to get the heart-rate up, and to keep my legs, bottom and arms in shape. Many years ago, when I first lived in Paris I couldn't afford to join a gym so as a way to keep fit I bought a skipping rope for 5 Francs (It was a long long time ago!). 

I would start each day by doing a 15-minute session in the courtyard of the flats where I lived, before going to work. I did get some odd looks from the neighbours and there was a grumpy old woman who stood there cursing me because I was being "too noisy"! But it was lots of fun, and it's still something I enjoy doing today. A rope is the ideal exercise accessory as you don't need to do it for long in order to stay in shape, you need very little space, and you can take it with you when travelling. 

If we had had the same strict lockdown measures in place as what were in France, Spain and Italy, skipping would have been my go-to exercise.   

Yoga - This one was a bit trickier for me because this is a comparatively new activit for me, so I am not such a yoga connoisseur that I can remember all the moves. Also, as it was mainly hot yoga I had been doing, it wasn't something I really had access to in my home - although I do have a fire in my living room!

But anyway, using a yoga mat that was bought for me as a Christmas present from a family friend, I set about doing a few asanas that I found on-line and have managed to practice a few of those regularly - mountain pose, warrior, triangle, dancer, tree, eagle, boat, vinyasa flow. In fact doing them on my own I found that I would do them slower to make sure that I was going through the moves correctly, and I have been holding the poses for longer than I would in the group classes. It actually made me more out-of-breath than I would usually be - or am I just less fit!

Hula hooping - Like with skipping, I like to add something "fun" into the mix. I have had a hula hoop for a few years now but I still feel like I have a lot to learn about it - mainly because I was rubbish at it as a child, and had embarrassed myself doing it badly in front of others in the PE classes when the teacher got us to do it. That sort of thing stays with you. 

But now I am free to make a fool of myself with it in the comfort of my own home! I am not so bad with it now and can even manage 5, even sometimes 10 minutes of continuous hooping in an anti-clockwise direction (I've yet to learn clockwise). Just doing those few minutes though is enough to get a workout and keep my waist in shape. So I make sure to do that a few times a week. Though don't expect to see me at any group hula hooping classes once things are back to normal!
So, in a nutshell, these have been my main activities. There are some conventional things mixed with some fun, novelty things to stop it from being monotonous. I also have rollerskates and pogo stick jumping on stand-by in case we go into lockdown number two and I get bored!  
I note that many folks have gotten into doing exercises on-line - whether it's a fitness regime with Joe Wicks or yoga class over Zoom. These sorts of classes have been great for many, and proven to be really popular. But I must admit I am old skool, and just prefer to do stuff at a time of my choosing to my own music and my own rhythm. It has been a way to work on my own sense of discipline and, dare I say it, routine. In any case, I haven't got my head around exercising in front of my computer camera! And in any case I don't especially want the whole world to see my untidy living room! 

All said and done,  I am pleased to have been able to maintain a fitness regime, and I am even pleased to be among that group of folks who have actually lost weight during lockdown. So whatever I am doing seems to be working. It aint broke, so I won't try to fix it! I hope people find one or two useful tips from here.

No comments: