What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Fitness

While living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly emotionally and mentally draining, the crisis has also presented us with a few positive opportunities. Lockdown restrictions have afforded many of us a lot more spare time, and the best thing we can do with this is invest it in our wellbeing. Meditation, online courses, mindfulness and self-reflection are all fantastic and worthy practices. However, I argue that the best place to start is with your physical health. When you are taking care of your body, everything else seems to fall into place. And while you may not be able to train at your local gym right now, there’s a lot that you can do at home. 

I have to admit that I am a bit of a gym rat myself, and when lockdown arrived and gyms were no longer accessible, I wondered how I would be able to maintain my progress. 

Gyms can be really great thanks to their wide range of equipment; resources such as personal trainers; opportunities for social connection; and motivational atmosphere. However, you can get just as good of a workout at home. A trend that has gained significant traction over lockdown is online fitness training.  Whether via Zoom, YouTube, Skype, Facebook Live, or the dozens of other platforms out there, thousands of South Africans have been taking part in fitness programmes through live or pre-recorded videos. If this has proved anything, it is that people will fight for their health, and they will find a way to bring the gym to their homes.

So, without further ado, let’s get sweating.

MY HOME WORKOUT MODEL

If I had to sum up my at-home training experience in three words, it would be: less is more.

My home is not equipped with state-of-the-art dumbbells, barbells, benches, or Olympic lifting equipment. However, I have been able to do a bunch of great workouts that have allowed me to achieve some truly incredible results. Since the start of lockdown, I have lost 3 kg of fat, dropped 2 inches around my waist, and managed to maintain the muscle mass that I had earned in the gym. 

So, I think it’s safe to say that you don’t need a premium gym membership to get into really good shape. 

My Lockdown Training Equipment:

  • yoga mat for sit-ups and stretching
  • Two resistance bands 
  • skipping rope
  • towel

And that’s it! I pieced together this collection from some local fitness stores, and spent just over R1000. 

My Lockdown Training Regime: 

A good workout should be comprised of cardio and resistance training, as well as some pre- and post-workout stretching. So, let’s get down to it…

Cardio

Lesson number one: a skipping rope will give you a better cardio workout than any fancy exercise machine. If you can skip for half an hour, not only are you my hero, but you’ve also burned just as many calories as you would have jogging on the treadmill (if not more). 

Of course, you don’t have to do the full half hour at once – that would be ridiculous. You can split it up into sets – whether they be 15, 10, five or even two minutes long – and just keep going until you’ve done a full 30 minutes. It will be difficult – you may hit yourself in the shins a few times and throw out some curse words, but it’s 100% worth it, and your future self will thank you.

Resistance Training

I’ll give you an example of a workout that I’ve been doing for my back and arms that involves just three exercises:

  • Pull-Ups 

These engage the biceps, deltoids, lats, abdominals and forearm muscles, making them one of the best upper-body exercises out there. 

  • Bicep Curls (using resistance bands)

Curls don’t only work the biceps, but also the deltoids, forearms and triceps. 

  • Sit-Ups 

These engage your abdominal muscles, obliques and quads, making them a great core exercise.  

I like to use a physical set counter, so before I begin my workout, I will place eight stones against a wall, with a branch next to them. Each stone represents a set. The goal is to move all the stones to the other side of the branch. 

I like to start my set with sit-ups, so I begin by doing 10 - 20 of them and then resting for 30 seconds. For my pull-ups, I throw a towel over a tree branch in the garden, both to protect the branch and to make it easier to grip. For my curls, I fasten the resistance bands to a door handle, but you can also use a security gate, tree, or anything else that will remain stable while you are pulling the bands. Then, in a back-to-back fashion (i.e. without resting), I will alternate between these two exercises until I reach total muscle fatigue. Then I go to the wall and move a stone to the other side of the branch, feeling like a cave man and thoroughly enjoying my sense of achievement. I then rest for one minute and repeat the full set, i.e. sit-ups followed by back-to-back pull-ups and curls. 

If you're able to do this for just eight reps, you will be getting your upper body and core into fantastic shape, plus you’ll be building your endurance. And all you need is a mat, a towel, a tree, and some rubber bands. 

You may be worried that this is too simplistic. What about all the other exercises that your personal trainer includes in your training programme?  While there is merit in incorporating lots of different exercises into your fitness regime, it’s a great idea to work with just a few movements and nail down your form so that you can get the most bang for your buck. It will take work, but it will be so worth it once you can squeeze a repetition to the point of complete muscular fatigue with perfect form. 

COVID-19 has taught us that we really don’t need a pricey gym membership to exercise and get healthy. There are many ways to skin the fitness cat, and if you’re okay with building up a sweat in your own humble abode, you can skip out on the commute, sweaty machines, and unnecessary small talk, and still get into great shape! 

I hope you are able to turn this difficult time into something good for yourself. Find something that challenges you, and do it until you find it less difficult. As you take on these challenges and make just a little bit of progress each day, you are building your motivation, discipline and resilience. And this will stand you in good stead to face the myriad other trials and tribulations that we are sure to encounter in these strange times.

Do it for yourself, and no one else. And buy a skipping rope.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thorsten Eggert is the owner of Thorfit, and helps South Africans on their health and fitness journeys. Join his 90-day challenge on Facebook @Thorfit, or at www.thorfit.com