At this unprecedented time, it’s natural to wonder how to keep your spirits up and maintain the level of fitness you’ve been enjoying with walking sports. All of us have doubtless sat in bed, in the kitchen, on the sofa and wondered about the hours, days and potentially weeks that lie ahead of minimal contact with other people. Then, of course, there’s your walking sports family.
All of my previous blogs on this site, about the wonders of walking sport in terms of combatting isolation and getting the heart and mind moving, may appear rather redundant at the moment. However, everything that’s been written before will, in many ways, be even more important and valid when we come out of the other side of this.... just not now.
For the time being, let’s focus on the ways we can stay physically active around the home. So, what to do?
The one thing we cannot do is just sit and wait. This is not a 24-hour TV fest of indeterminate length. We have to keep moving. Your body needs it — think how much better you feel after the walking sport you’ve played. Your mind definitely needs it too.
Move whenever you can, even if it’s to put the kettle on. Go up and down the stairs, taking two steps at a time to get those muscles working. It’s really important to stay hydrated too, so get up whenever possible for a drink of water. Activity like this, however small, break up a sedentary day and keep you mobile, meaning the transition back into walking sports, when the time comes, will be easier.
A lot of what we’ve said before still rings true. Do a lot of stretching. Strengthen muscles by sitting against the wall or lie on the floor and stretch hamstrings while you’re watching TV. Let’s face it, daytime TV will be your friend in the coming weeks, so multi-task by moving your body at the same time. In fact, Sport England is offering plenty of exercise suggestions to improve strength, balance and flexibility. You can download online home workouts to watch and follow too.
We at Just Get Active would love to see your home exercises too, so why not upload a short video to either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag us? We’re all in this together — a community, no matter what the distance.
Play your favourite music and take yourself back to the good old days. Whip out your favourite disco moves, John Travolta style. In this digital world, with websites like YouTube, it’s never to be easier to find your favourite songs and follow a fitness regime. You can now enjoy HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) from your front room or relax with a spot of yoga. Even jogging on the spot to raise your heart rate can make a world of difference. Find a song with the right tempo and you’re good to go.
Just as walking sports combine fun and fitness, there are activities out there that can offer similar stimulation. There’s no need for sporting equipment, just throw on your walking sports gear and have a go!
Self-isolation doesn’t mean the end of fresh air and sunshine. There is the option of walking round the bedroom and totting up thousands of steps, but that is pretty one dimensional and potentially dangerous when you come over all dizzy.
Rather, if you have a garden, use this private space to get your steps up. Fresh air will do you good anyway —but for this limited period, we have to accept that the best thing you can do is replace walking sport with.......walking.
Plus, now that Spring is on its way, with the days warmer and brighter, this is the perfect opportunity to get pruning and planting, so your garden looks its best. Better yet, being green-fingered is great for your fitness levels, helping to strengthen bones, muscles and joints while keeping your blood pressure down. In fact, an hour of gardening can help to burn 288 calories.1 Being outdoors will keep your spirits high too — don’t underestimate the power of gardening on mental wellbeing.
If you own a dog or cat, play with them in the garden or clear a space in doors. They’re blissfully unaware of the current situation and will give you loving company when you need it most. Whether it’s a game of fetch or a feather on a string, a fun activity will strengthen your bond and keep you active.
Before you groan, let me explain the physical health benefits of housework. We all need to be keeping our homes clean anyway. As they say, “tidy home, tidy mind”. Any form of movement, if done as vigorously as possible, will get your heart pumping. You could lunge while hoovering to stretch your leg muscles, burning around 194 calories an hour. Mopping the floor is equally effective. Better yet, you’ll have sparkling home at the end of it. It’s the best time of year for a ‘Spring clean’ after all.
Self-isolation also does not mean no longer talking to anyone. The great thing about the walking sport groups that have been set up around the country is that, aside from the fitness and sporting benefits, they’ve created mini communities and friendship groups. Now’s the time to make the most of that.
Use any WhatsApp groups you may have to share how each of you are keeping fit and agile. Some ideas will not be applicable to everyone, but some will fit to a T. Rather than exercising a couple of fingers by tapping out texts, use the phone for what it was intended and call people. It’ll cheer you up, but it can also give you ideas of how to spend time positively and potentially athletically.
As with so many things, enthusiasm is often very easy to conjure up at the outset, but as time goes by, it can wane.
Don’t let that happen with you. Don’t let all the good that’s been done to mind and body in recent months, slip slide away in the coming weeks. Be disciplined with yourself. Perhaps do your exercise before breakfast every morning. Make it almost a regime, but a fun one, and that’s where interaction with other people, albeit remotely, is so important. Have a laugh about how you’re keeping active and keeping a potentially expanding waistline at bay.
These next few weeks are going to be tough on many levels. But if you can keep your body in reasonable nick, it will have a huge impact on how you cope mentally. And make the most of all your new walking sport team-mates. For the foreseeable future we are all playing for the same team.