How lockdown challenged me to get creative with exercise

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When lockdown was announced back in March, I, like many others, was dismayed. Uncertainty surrounded the future of many students’ university experiences, and life has never quite been the same since. Panic spread across the land and businesses were forced to close their doors to stop the spread of Covid-19, and then it suddenly dawned on me a week after fleeing home: how am I going to make ‘gains’ now?

Personally, doing exercise is a very important facet of my life. It is strongly tethered to my mental health and really boosts my confidence, so hearing that I would no longer be able to go to the gym or have a game of five-a-side football hit me hard at first. This year I had really began to make strides towards achieving my fitness goals, after a plateau that seemed to go on forever. It seemed quixotic to even think that I would be able to maintain my physique for months under lockdown.

Yet, if there’s one thing that I’ve boasted since the pandemic hit our shores, it’s an abundance of time. This, in many different ways, I have used to be creative. I knew it wouldn’t quite be the same experience as having access to a gym, but I’d be damned if I let go of all I’ve spent years cultivating in a matter of months. And so, with just two dumbbells, my imagination and a generous portion of my brother’s bedroom floor, I set out to take my fitness journey down a new, unexpected path.

With proper equipment scarce, I would have to rely on bodyweight exercise to train my muscles. Push-up variations were the order of the day, rather than a struggle with the bench press. I even found myself doing pull-ups from a fortuitously positioned tree branch. Having even a low-weight dumbbell helped a lot, as that opened up avenues towards targeting my shoulders. I researched all manner of different calisthenic exercises I could do at home, giving me the wherewithal to mix things up enough to keep my body guessing.

 I am also lucky enough to have miles of beautiful English countryside at my disposal for cardiovascular exercise as well. Whether it be a long-distance run you record on Strava or some sprint training, the great outdoors really is your oyster when it comes to keeping fit. Running more meant I had to adapt my previous goals, but it means I know what I’m working towards rather than wrestling with uncertainty.

While continuing working out and trying to stay in shape at home has felt much more of a challenge than before, keeping fit is always a constant struggle against your own body. As an amateur of sport in general, challenge comes part and parcel of it all. Inventing new ways to keep fit has made me consider the importance of keeping my body on its toes. If I can keep motivating myself even in the worst of times, then I know future challenges will seem much less Herculean.

And though I may not have the perfect summer physique I had dreamed of having before lockdown began, this whole experience has taught me acceptance. It is important to accept that sometimes life has other plans, and we lose that sweet control we crave. Life is like a bounding wave: it has its peaks and troughs. But for every low-point we sink into, there’s the reassuring knowledge that a chance to peak is just around the corner. I, for one, will make every moment count from now on.

Image: Alabama Extension via Flickr

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