How to keep fit at home during lockdown

Are you worried that your fitness levels are dropping while you’re in lockdown? Vicki Anstey, the UK’s leading Barre expert, shares her tips on keeping fit at home.

As someone who was training three times a day before the COVID-19 lockdown, I’m pretty well placed to empathise with anyone who feels the fitness rug has suddenly been pulled away from beneath them.

I was due to row from San Fransico to Hawaii in the Great Pacific Race on June 4. Spending 60 days on a 24ft boat non-stop rowing three hours on, three hours off as a crew of three women takes a lot of physical preparation. 

Most days I was spending a couple of hours in the gym, at least one or two hours on the rowing machine, plus additional time in the swimming pool. Oh, and my job as Founder of the UK’s leading Barre Studio, Barreworks kept me (quite literally) on my toes in between.

I have some small pieces of equipment at home (kettlebells, resistance bands), I have access to my barre studio where I’m filming daily live workouts, but I have no rowing machine, or heavy weights and barbells.

To begin with, I felt secretly relieved that I was being forced to take some rest. Go for a few runs with my dogs, forget about my erg times or my progress with key lifts in the gym. I slept A LOT. Then I slept even more.

But once the initial hiatus had lost its novelty factor, I felt lost, demotivated and dejected. Fear that I would lose my fitness and strength overnight seemed entirely vain and selfish in the circumstances, but the feeling was there nevertheless.

And although we can all, hand on heart, agree that the priority right now is to stay safe, to safeguard the vulnerable, protect the NHS and follow lockdown guidelines, I think we all have our own private fears and insecurities – and there should be no judgement on that.

So if, like me, your number one coping strategy for getting through isolation is to workout, but you feel uninspired, restricted and frankly bored of running around your local park, read on. 

No equipment, no problem

There are a million and one ways you can adapt your home to create the perfect gym set up, you just need an open mind and a little creativity. If you have a few dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands, there’s a surprising variety of movements you can still do.

From deadlifts, to good mornings, overhead squats and Bulgarian split squats to box jumps and seated press. Upper body, lower body and core work is all still possible – and to a decent level of intensity.

Tempo is your saviour

And if you have nothing more in the way of weights than a rucksack and a few books, fear not. Tempo work is your best friend.

All bodyweight movements can be done to tempo and you will feel a huge multiplier effect. Squats, upright rows, lunges, deadlifts, sit ups can all be done on a count of three to lower, one to lift (or vice versa). You’ll be out of breath in no time, without needing to run 5km in the process.

Drills for thrills

But if that all sounds too complicated and you need a Personal Trainer to guide you through it, lace up your trainers (or cleats) and go out. But forget steady state, aimless cardio and get to work on your running or cycling drills.

Change up your speed, try some fartlek intervals, or get up (and down) a few hills. Alternatively, work on single leg strengthening movements. They will roast your legs and glutes and have you stronger than ever when you get back on track post lock down.

Get studious

Apply the same thinking to your mobility, flexibility and skill-based activity. If you’ve always wanted to hold a solid handstand, master double-unders or you have been putting flexibility work to the back of the pile for too long, now is your chance to remedy that. Strong, mobile, healthy, balanced bodies are made in lockdown.

Be creative

At Barreworks, we’ve been getting creative and finding items at home that can be used in place of small equipment – and pieces of furniture that can be used as a barre.

We’re redeploying bottles of wine, bags of sugar, using tights as resistance bands, performing reverse curls whilst holding onto radiators and even getting assistance from other members of the household where structural equipment is lacking. IT CAN BE DONE!

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

As soon as you get your fitness mojo back, you’ll feel instantly better (physically and mentally) but of course, that’s only half the battle. Being restricted to your home brings additional challenges such as homeschooling and never-ending video conference calls.

Finding dedicated time to workout effectively (even when you are finally armed with the means to do it) is scarcer than PPE right now, so plan ahead, set structure to your day, get the kids (and the whole household) involved and most importantly, get out of your dressing gown. Basic standards still apply!

Vicki Anstey is the UK’s leading Barre expert and founder of Barreworks.

Photo by Drew Graham