These are tough times. Life has turned into a roller coaster ride of changing perceptions, based on supposition and guesswork and increasing frustration and impotence. Almost universally people state the world will not go back to its previous incarnation, but none at present can describe post restriction reality.
This situation is undoubtably difficult, but it is also a time of great opportunity. It is now possible to practice activities covering almost all aspects of life. Want to practice yoga, learn to cook, bake, sew, knit, crochet, speak a new language, get fit, learn algebra from a celebrity? No problem.
Happily, one of the new habits that seems to be sticking is exercise. The Office for National Statistics ran a survey for the week of 27 March to 6 April ‘to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain’.
According to the survey, exercising away from the home and at home ranked fourth and fifth of activities helping people to cope with the stay at home measures. These were close behind social activities such as speaking to friends and family and spending time with family based at home. Sandwiched between those was ‘watching films’, definitely an opportunity to catch up on the classics that you feel you should have watched. G and I have certainly been doing that in between binge watching the Tiger King and Glee.
The outcome of the survey is not surprising, the mental benefits of exercise are well documented.
One of the great things about exercise is that you don’t need to do lots of it to get a benefit. A regular routine of low-intensity aerobic exercise for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week is sufficient to see an increase in both mental and physical wellbeing. You can read more about this here.
But what activity to choose? The trick is to find movement that you find enjoyable and fun but also doesn’t feel immediately too challenging. The more confident you are with an exercise when starting, the more likely you are to stick with it.
The brain craves certainty. Improving confidence is somewhat about the dialogue of certainty in an outcome. Focusing on what you can control and what you can influence – as well as acknowledging what you can’t change – develops confidence.
Confidence is also controlled by your inner monologue and so, if you are comfortable in your activity, your inner monologue is much more likely to be positive.
Somewhere along the line, probably because in my youth I excelled at field events and sports heavily reliant on strength and power, my inner dialogue around weight lifting has become really positive. At the moment I’m loving lifting weights, especially now they are starting to get heavier and the activity has now become more challenging.
For once I have actually followed my own advice. As the conditions of furlough and the lockdown became apparent, I promised myself I would start lifting regularly and have used the five x five app as a template setting guidelines.
I’m lucky enough to have an Olympic Bar, weights and a squat rack at home. I bought it a few years ago when I was introduced to Olympic lifting by PT Pete. That purchase is worth every penny and I’m grateful to have them now.
The app is based on the execution of five exercises; squat, overhead press, upright row, bench press and deadlift. It works progressively. A successful completion of five sets of five reps means the weight is increased for the next session.
In week one of lockdown I started at the very beginning of the app. This meant the weights were light and I was confident I could execute the session easily. I wanted to start in a comfortable zone and build up slowly. A month later, the weights are now starting to feel heavy and I will start to fail some of the sets soon.
Having confidence in my ability means that I have achieved progress and consistency and I’m loving the challenge.
I’ve committed to Ironman Lanzarote for 2021 (goodness knows what the world will look like then but for the moment I’m just going with it). Ironman training will start in August but for the moment, this time to work on strength and conditioning is invaluable.
Whatever it is you’re into, consistency is king and there has never been a better time to start.