Make the most of outdoor exercise

So, we’re well into lockdown to beat the coronavirus and only allowed to leave the house for the following reasons:

  • shopping for basic necessities
  • one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle
  • any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work when absolutely necessary.

It means the time we’re allowed to be outside our homes has shrunk considerably. However, going to the park for a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household – is acceptable. Although park and gym equipment is now out of bounds.

Want to make the most of that daily sliver of time for your ‘one form of exercise’? Here are a few ideas on how to do it.

Stick to the rules
First off, it’s crucial that whatever kind of exercise you do, you do it separately from people outside your household. “The key is to make sure that whatever we do, we do it alone,” says wellbeing and lifestyle consultant Yvonne Wake.

“The benefits of exercise are both physical and mental, and we’d urge everyone to get outside and get moving, of course being mindful of government social distancing guidelines,” she added.

Pick your moment
“Everyone’s different, your body’s circadian rhythm determines whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and when you feel energised and sleepy,” says Wake. “If you’re planning to head out in the morning, your body temperature is lower, and muscles are stiffer and tighter. So, it’s very important to make sure you warm-up properly.

“By the afternoon, your body’s core temperature has warmed up, which can have a large impact on your quality of exercise. A higher body temperature leaves muscles more flexible, increasing strength and endurance. Your reaction time is quickest and heart rate and blood pressure are lowest during the afternoon – all of which can contribute to a better workout.”

Consider your vitamin D intake
While working out first thing or late in the evening means parks will be quieter and crowd-free, the ideal time for hitting your vitamin D quota (for healthy bones, teeth and muscles) is midday. “Going outside at midday is the best time of the day, because that’s when we get the most vitamin D, and when sunlight is at its absolute maximum,” says Wake. “When we’re cooped up inside in the dark, it’s then we start to become deficient in vitamin D. We can take supplements, but they’re nowhere near as efficient as actual vitamin D from sunlight.” So, if you can, prioritise some midday exercise.

Give yourself an incentive
“A lot of people aren’t motivated to wake up, put their clothes on and get out there and go for a walk,” Wake admits.

She advises setting yourself a goal.  “We have to play a game here,” she says. “It’s not easy, we have to think of new ways of getting ourselves out, because this is the new normal.”

Challenge yourself – and maybe a friend
Walking is the ideal exercise because it’s free and accessible to everyone. “You literally just put your shoes on and go for a walk,” says Wake, who adds it’s important to challenge yourself, whether that’s a five-minute walk the first day, 10 minutes the second, and 15 minutes the third. Don’t just wander around looking in shop windows.

And just because you can’t meet a friend and walk together, doesn’t mean you can’t compare notes and drive each other on from afar. “You could always say, ‘How much did you do today? Let’s see if we can keep it up’,” says Wake.

Use what’s available …
… and what’s safe and free of other people. If there’s a set of steps near you that is currently not in use, and not likely to have people using it, turn it into your own Rocky-style training unit. Alternatively, hills. If your park has a quiet hill, head straight to it – racing, or just walking, up an incline will test your fitness and get your heart rate up much more swiftly than a flat path.

If you’re new to fitness …
Build up to it. If you’ve never run before, except for the bus, don’t go on an hour-long jog and knock yourself out. Your body won’t thank you for it. Instead, start small and every day either increase your speed or distance slightly. It’s a great time to consider a couch-to-5km training plan for beginners.

If you’re already rather fit …
You only have one stint a day outside, so blitz it (always taking care and being aware of how your body is feeling). Where you’d normally run for long distances over a longer period of time, condense your workout with sprint intervals, incorporate hand weights into a brisk walk, swap a leisurely cycle route for a more challenging one (that means hills).

Mix things up
Not everyone has access to a bicycle, and not everyone is able to run – but if these options are open to you, why not rotate through them, and switch them up every day? We’re going to suffer from boredom just from being stuck inside, don’t make your workout in the fresh air a chore too.

Use this time to boost your mood
If you’re really struggling mentally with being stuck inside, scheduling in a run or a bike ride can help provide relief. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormone. It can provide a real mood boost – something we can all do with right now.

What are you doing with your outdoor exercise time?

– With PA

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