The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures have meant that gyms in the country have shut down. We no longer have access to a large amount of equipment that we may use during our workouts.
But it doesn’t mean you are out of options. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or maintain your weight, I’ve been through all three.
So do you want to stay strong, healthy, and active during this pandemic?
If so, I offer some advice in this article that will hopefully help you no matter where you are at.
Mental Health and Training Goals
Our mental health is really important when it comes to our study, work, and other activities. The worst thing you can do is to tell someone to get over it.
But the focus of this article is positive advice for anyone, regardless of how you might be feeling right now. Take this exchange from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who responded to a fan with depression, and in the process, effectively started a conversation about mental health.
Arnold was a famous bodybuilder who managed to sculpt an incredible physique. But Arnold has also been an inspiring figure to so many people.
You can be in great shape and still be affected by mental health. I am sure there are people reading this who will greatly resonate.
My advice? Tell yourself, that no matter what is you want to do, or achieve, fight for it. Use quotes that motivate you, and think of whoever is special to you, as these can all be great motivators.
“I saw you pumping other people up, and I love it.”– Arnold Schwarzenegger
To train your mind to succeed, I always recommend having a goal in place. Do you want to lose weight or build muscle? If so, how much?
Give yourself a target to work towards. That way, you are more likely to stay on track with your progress.
I like to think of failure as a step to success. Failure isn’t the end, and this is the mindset I have right now as one of my PhD research articles is in the process of being published: you won’t get everything right first time.
Picture me at the ice rink during my first time skating. I was constantly falling over.
I got back up because I wanted to keep going. And every time I fell, I kept getting up.
You can too. And I hope the lyric: “I get knocked down, but I get up again” is another way that words can motivate you.
With McDonald’s, Wetherspoons and other well-known eateries closed, there’s never been a better time to make your own meals. There is so much choice, that often we don’t know where to start.
But my absolute best advice I was told from a nutrition coach and which is echoed by Django to Remy in Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille:
Food is fuel for your gains. What matters is your energy balance.
That’s right. As proof, check out this guy who lost weight by training and eating McDonald’s.
Energy from food is measured in calories. The energy you use is dictated by the laws of thermodynamics.
You could, (if you wanted to) lose weight by eating fast food or takeaways every day. But it’s probably not the healthiest way to do it.
Instead, have a training goal in mind and adjust your calorie intake accordingly. Don’t know how many calories you need?
No problem. One way to gauge a calorie intake is to log everything you eat for a week, make sure to step on the scale every morning when you wake up, and take a weekly average after the 7 days pass.
This is because body weight fluctuates on a daily basis. Taking an average at the end of every week will give you a more reliable indication.
Depending on your goal, if the number is slightly lower than the first day (weight loss) or higher (muscle building), then you’re doing a great job. Monitor the food you eat, and try to have at least three meals a day.
Don’t feel guilty if you eat something like cake, ice cream, or your favourite pizza takeaway. In my opinion, food should not be thought of as the enemy.
Except trans fats. Don’t eat those, that’s literally all I recommend against.
These nasty unsaturated fatty acids are found in hydrogenated oils and lard, so it is important to keep this in mind especially if you’re eating processed food. Any food label on a product that says: ‘hydrogenated’ on it indicates trans fat and thus, I wouldn’t recommend that product if you want to stay healthy.
I also don’t like the word ‘diet’, but I’ll explain why. To me a diet is a short-term period of food restriction. For example, the ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates.
This should not be confused with being vegan. Actually, being vegan is a long-term lifestyle that you can stay consistent with and that’s fantastic.
There’s a key difference between diet and lifestyle. And this advice works regardless if you eat meat, dairy, fish, gluten, or not.
It goes back to the Ratatouille quote. I don’t recommend restricting your macronutrients.
I’ll quickly touch on two more essentials. This article could get long otherwise.
The first is hydration: I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep hydrated. Water you waiting for?
If you don’t like water because of the taste, don’t worry. I like to flavour my water so I can keep drinking it.
Want something to laugh about? Check out this hilarious sketch from Limmy about water.
Finally, make sure no matter what your goal is, you’re consuming enough protein.
Depending on what your goal is, you can slightly increase or decrease this amount. The thing with protein is, if you’re building muscle, then protein is the fuel (protein synthesis) to repair muscle fibres from a workout, and if you’re losing weight, training and consuming protein will prevent that weight being lost as muscle.
You can even build muscle while losing fat (body re-composition) and it is also possible to build muscle while in a calorie deficit. In fact, that’s mostly how I’ve been doing it!
But how much protein should you consume? Here’s Dr. Brad Schoenfield to let you know:
The last part of this article will cover training advice. If you’re at home and have dumbbells that’s great. If not, do not worry!
Take an empty carton of milk or orange juice, or a glass bottle, anything you find in your home and fill it with water. That is now your resistance you can use in your training!
If you really want something versatile and super cheap, invest in a resistance band. They are great for so many of your exercises as well as stretching and mobility.
Check out Athlean-X on YouTube for creative ways to train at home. It is a great channel with lots of advice about exercising, stretching, eating, and even sleeping.
Have a training plan in mind. You don’t need to waste money on fitness gurus who only want to sell you programs at ridiculous prices. Here is an example of a training program:
A body training program should be suited to your specific body. Above, you can see my current at home workout split using just bodyweight, resistance bands and dumbbells.
It is not a beginner program. A beginner should focus on three to four exercises per workout and focus on form. I also recommend total body workouts for a beginner. The first number indicates the amount of sets and the second number is the amount of repetitions.
I have managed to build my body on the cheap, but I do recommend personal training if that’s in your budget. However, at home you don’t need to do anything expensive.
The most important advice about training? Have the willpower to do it.
Nike says: “Just do it”. Schwarzenegger says: “Just do something.”
Hard work always pays off if done consistently. Even if that is just two or three times a week for you, that’s perfectly okay!
As a final note, I hope you look after yourself, listen to your body, stay connected with the people you care about, and remember, it’s okay to not be okay.
You’ve got this.
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