The novel coronavirus is increasingly upending our rhythms and routines — including our workout schedules. In response to the pandemic, some gyms and studios are announcing temporary closures, while others are limiting occupancy and ramping up cleaning practices. As the coronavirus spreads, “the stereotypical ‘gym hack,’ ” the cough that some people experience after a bout of hard exercise, “becomes extra scary,” says Adam St. Pierre, a Boulder, Colo., running coach. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon our workouts — nor should we.
Regular exercise supports optimal functioning of the immune system and is an excellent stress management tool. “Working out is the best thing you can possibly do right now,” says Holly Roser, a San Mateo, Calif., fitness studio owner and personal trainer. Here are some resources to help you stay consistent with your fitness routine (or even start one) regardless of access to a facility or equipment.
If the start of the new year came and went and you’re still meaning to begin an exercise plan, this is the perfect time to lace up your sneakers and start a run-walk program. You can do it outdoors as long as you keep in mind that the coronavirus can be spread by people standing within six feet of each other.
For beginners and those coming off a long fitness hiatus, St. Pierre recommends starting with walking, which he says is “actually one of the best activities you can do.” If you want to add intensity, he suggests inserting intermittent 30-second bursts of running, adopting a brisk pace on hills, or walking with a weighted vest or a backpack.
For those who have some base fitness, St. Pierre suggests starting with 20 to 30 minutes of running every other day and gradually increasing as it becomes easier. He notes that someone fit enough to handle a one-hour spin class is not necessarily prepared for the impact of a one-hour run. “You’ve got to break into [running] slowly,” he says. Otherwise, you risk common running injuries such as shin splints and IT band issues.
For those looking for a structured plan, St. Pierre recommends programs from Jeff Galloway, whom he refers to as “the father of the run-walk method,” and Hal Higdon, another well-known running coach. Both offer simple, easy-to-follow training plans for everything from completing your first 5k to running your fastest marathon, with options for athletes of all ability levels. Both resources offer free training plans as well as paid ones.
High-intensity interval training
If you want to keep doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts with your group instructor or personal trainer remotely, your favorite fitness professionals might have you covered. All you need are an Internet connection and some motivation.
Roser is among a growing group of fitness professionals who are turning to technology to keep their clients moving, as regional mandates to stay home keep people out of gyms and fitness studios. Roser is offering group classes and one-on-one personal training sessions over Facebook Live, Zoom and FaceTime. Jeff Watters, a Detroit-based boxing coach and chief executive of Watters Performance, told me in an email that he’s now waiving the monthly subscription fee to access his online workouts. Instead, he’s asking subscribers to make a $5 donation, which he’ll use to support local youth who, because of school shutdowns, may go hungry without school lunches.
If your favorite HIIT instructor or personal trainer isn’t offering online workouts, there are plenty of other resources. Roser recommends streaming services such as Daily Burn and Peloton, both of which offer a variety of HIIT classes (and more). Both platforms allow you to live-stream classes or choose from a library of archived workouts. To easily narrow down the dizzying array of options, you can take advantage of filters, which allow you to search for classes by duration, preferred instructor, intensity level and more. Daily Burn also offers virtual personal training.
For boxing enthusiasts who can’t get into the ring, Roser recommends FightCamp, which she calls “the Peloton of boxing.” Featuring HIIT-style sessions with three minutes of intensity followed by one minute of recovery, the workout is designed to be used with a punching bag. If you don’t have one, don’t sweat it, Roser says. You can still get an effective workout by shadow boxing or “punching” while holding dumbbells or even water bottles.
Karen Harbour credits barbells with transforming her body and building her confidence. As the co-founder of Bella Strength, a strength and conditioning gym in Boulder, she’s focused on helping clients do the same, by teaching skills and creating a supportive community. Yet, she says, even if you don’t have access to equipment or workout buddies, there are still lots of great options for strength training.
No weights? No problem, Harbour says. Household items that can double as weights include a 20-pound bag of rice, luggage (packed with anything from clothing to textbooks) or a heavy backpack. In place of your eight-pound dumbbells, Roser recommends a gallon jug of water. (When completely full, a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds; use less water for less weight.) If you’re craving fresh air, consider going to the park with a backpack and wearing it while performing push-ups, step-ups onto a picnic bench or pull-ups on the monkey bars. (Remember to sanitize your hands.)
If you’re looking for an online strength workout, Harbour recommends Tony Horton’s P90X program, which requires some equipment. If you’re looking for a workout that requires zero equipment, Roser suggests bodyweight-only strength-training videos from Daily Burn or Peloton.
“Yoga helps us to access calm within the storm,” Sarada Erickson, co-founder of Om Ananda Yoga in Fort Collins, Colo., said in an email. No matter what’s happening around us, she adds, “yoga shows us the breath is a constant and always in the moment. We can stay more in the present rather than project into the world of ‘what-ifs.’ ”
To practice yoga in your home, Erickson suggests finding out whether the studio you normally attend is offering online classes. “This way, you get to see your favorite teachers and have some familiarity in your practice in a time of change.” If your studio isn’t operating remotely, check on other local studios; this is a way to continue to support your community. If this isn’t an option, either, Erickson recommends Gaia and Glo, which offer subscription-based paid plans, and DoYogaWithMe, which offers a wide selection of free classes.
When choosing an online class, the most important consideration should be finding one that’s aligned with your skill level, Erickson says. This is of particular importance in a virtual class, because your teacher can’t see you or respond to your needs. Additionally, you may not have access to props that help with alignment, so Erickson advises people to “be more mindful with your poses.”
No matter what type of exercise you prefer, a little creativity and a WiFi signal can help you maintain your fitness and alleviate the stress caused by the coronavirus and its attendant disruptions.
Pam Moore is a freelance health and fitness writer and speaker in Boulder. Visit her at pam-moore.com.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
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