This article is inspired by, but not exclusive to the corona virus. There are various times that require us to adapt our workout routine for example: on holiday; when we have an injury which restricts certain movements; or if we have limited time. I will describe what this means for us and how we can, not only survive, but thrive during these times.
Mindset – Some have a perfectionist attitude towards health and fitness deeming any workout or meal that doesn’t coincide with the plan a failure. As a consequence, barriers that prevent us from doing our typical routine can throw us off the mark, to the point that everything goes out the window. This can result in falling straight back down to the other side of the spectrum. I have been guilty of this. When I’ve taken a step back it has become clear that this ‘all or nothing approach’ is detrimental to my goals and mental wellbeing. Chaotic and unforeseen circumstances should not be disheartening, so let me explain how we can use these periods of to our advantage.
New stimulus – Changes in circumstance provide us with an opportunity to stimulate muscles in new ways. It is true that our progress can plateau when we repeat a routine for too long because the body adapts until it is no longer challenging. This then requires us to shock the muscle. This point is made perfectly by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his blueprint series. There are many ways to achieve this whether that’s changing rep ranges; the pace of the movement; your grip/stance; the order of exercises or simply replacing current movements with alternatives e.g. switching pull-ups with chin-ups.
Get creative – Not having gym access requires us to get creative. You might even have no equipment at hand. Enter this situation with an open mind and a willingness to improvise. There are numerous bodyweight exercises you can perform with nothing but floor space such as push-ups, squats, Russian twist and burpees. To create resistance, put water bottles in a rucksack, fill a suitcase with objects or attach weights to either side of a mop creating a make shift barbell. The point is to work with what you have.
Have fun – Unexpected obstacles can put things in perspective and encourage us to reevaluate things. You may develop an interest in a new activity like yoga, Pilates or jogging. This would be a perfect time to step outside your comfort zone and try something different. You might end up with a better workout than you expected. No matter what form of exercise you choose, as long as you are moving, your body will be saying thank you so don’t limit yourself.
Training for time – This is an effective way of creating more resistance when we only have access to small weights or bands. The name is fairly self-explanatory, you train for a set time period as opposed to number of reps. This encourages you to slow down the pace and to put more emphasis on the eccentric or negative portion of the rep thus causing greater resistance. Some even argue that this is more effective than conventional methods as the muscle undergoes more time under tension. It also works well if time is limited as it condenses volume. One set of ten will typically take around twenty seconds. So, one set of one minute could potentially provide stimulus equal to three sets of ten, which would normally take around five minutes including rest periods. Of course, it’s not as black and white as this example makes out as it depends of multiple factors, but you understand the principle. Finally, this method is ideal for home workouts as it reduces the need for a spot.
More reps – Another possibility when training outside a gym environment is to increase your rep range. This allows you to reach failure with lighter weights. Endurance training isn’t regarded as optimal for muscle gain, however it trains your slow twitch muscle fibers making you a more rounded athlete if you generally stick to lower rep ranges. It also taxes your cardiovascular system, which can elevate mood, improve heart health, increase metabolic rate, enhance recovery and burn calories.
The main point to be made here is to stay consistent with your health and fitness goals regardless of external factors, which are often out of your control. Be willing to adapt your workout to fit the situation. I will end this article with a quote, “the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do” and encourage you to keep moving because your health and fitness is in your hands. Please get in touch if you need guidance, I am always happy to support.