Keeping fit in the age of Coronavirus

On day one of our #WhatsStoppingYou series – our new project exploring sports participation across the boroughs – we meet the Londoners who are finding new ways of keeping active during lockdown.

As all non-essential stores and workplaces have now been instructed to close in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, people no longer have an opportunity to participate in group sports, fitness routines or physical activity.  But with awareness of public health at an all time high, and Coronavirus fears leading to a heightened awareness of a need for good individual health, residents of ELL are still managing to participate in sport.

The closure of gyms, leisure centres and sports clubs has clearly led to a surge in jogging during people’s daily allocated government exercise time, but what about those individuals who don’t fancy themselves as the next Mo Farah but still want to keep fit? Instructors and participants alike are being forced to think more creatively about how to facilitate classes or maintain their fitness. Kat Mitchell, who has attended her weekly body control Pilates class for the last five years, has recently seen her classes move online. “My instructor ran a free taster session via Zoom” said Mitchell. With the entire class signed up through email for scheduling updates from her instructor, Mitchell told Eastlondonlines she may even take up more sessions than her usual 1-per-week due to the Coronavirus – “I will carry on with my normal Tuesday evening class as usual to maintain some routine to my life, but I may also do an additional morning or lunchtime class on another weekday to break up working from home.”

“Beyond the physical benefits, activity is key to supporting our mental health” said Mitchell, highlighting that any opportunity to raise your heartbeat and feel good about yourself should be taken in these strange times.

It isn’t just the style of the class that has changed, but the price too, and with versatile sessions seen as an opportunity to break up the monotony of her new work set-up, Mitchell explained she was “more than happy” to continue paying for the classes. “Going forward, the sessions are half the price of the normal classes,” said Mitchell.  “I’m really grateful how quickly my instructor has got this all going!” Citing how it was important to support local businesses in any way we could during the Coronavirus outbreak, and with this being a class she has lovingly attended for years, it is not something she wants to see suffer due to the virus. 

An alternative route into physical activity is one that has taken the nation by storm, as P.E with Joe – offered via Youtube – offers a free 30-minute sports class aimed at children and the family. Airing live every weekday from 9am, Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach, is aiming to make over 1 million households get off their sofa and start the day with his class, with over 850,000 live viewers watching his most recent class.

While people are watching from Brazil to Australia, here, within Eastlondonlines, people are turning to the internet sensation in their time of need. Dionne Williams, 42, is a mother from Lewisham, who has two children under the age of 10, has taken to ensuring her children exercise daily through P.E with Joe. “It’s frustrating being cooped up inside for the best of us, but for children it’s so much worse because they don’t completely understand why they aren’t allowed outside or to clubs to see their friends” explained Williams, “the class gives them a chance to work off a bit of steam.” 

Not only have the classes helped with keeping her children calmer throughout the day, but it acts to help offset some of the classes that children can no longer attend due to the Coronavirus. “My eldest daughter would regularly attend dance and gym classes, on top of running around at school all day. They have so much energy, it’s important that they have a chance to focus it somewhere” she said. 

With the majority of children off school, Joe Wicks’ classes are focused towards the needs of ages 5-18, however, it isn’t just the nation’s youngsters who are feeling a little claustrophobic.  “It isn’t just for kids! I have been doing it along with my two since it began. It gives you a chance to really wake up and start the day right, instead of just moving from your bed to the sofa” says Williams.  

While the internet has proved to be the source of salvation for Kat and Dionne’s physical activity, others have opted for a more innovative approach. Sean Russell is a cycling enthusiast who has decided against cycling on the road as part of his daily government allocated exercise time, not out of fear of spreading or transmitting the Coronavirus, but for another reason entirely. “I didn’t want to be ‘that’ cyclist – taking up a hospital bed for a broken arm or some other avoidable accident,” he said.

Sean Russell’s turbo trainer. Pic: Sean Russell

Instead, Russell invested in a turbo-trainer – a device where you attach your rear bicycle wheel up against a roller, making it static, providing what is essentially a homemade spin bike. “I love it. The good thing about it is I can cycle whenever I want and not leave the flat, so while it doesn’t feel quite the same as real cycling, I can maintain my fitness throughout lockdown” Russel said. “I’d much rather be on this when the weather is bad, regardless of the Coronavirus, as it keeps you out of the wind and rain and reduces any risk of injury” Russell reported. However, he did explain there was one slight issue with the trainer. “Unless you have some sort of industrial fan kicking about, they make you sweat like crazy because you don’t have the air naturally going over you cooling you down.”

Russell echoed Mitchell’s comments surrounding the importance of maintaining some degree of sport participation for our own mental health throughout the lockdown, telling Eastlondonlines that being unable to regularly cycle can quickly become an issue. “I use cycling as a form of release and meditation, and it starts to get to me if I have to go long periods without it,” Russell said. “Now, more than ever, it’s so important to look after our own mental health, and being able to hop on my bike whenever I want, without having to worry about Coronavirus, has been a game changer.”

With at least 2 weeks remaining under the UK-wide lockdown, and potentially a far longer time until gyms, leisure facilities and sports clubs are able to re-open, such innovation – both personal and online – will be crucial in keeping the nation fit through these arduous times.

Since lockdown have you become an avid runner or had your sports class moved online? Let us now how you’re keeping active in the comments below.

This is day one of four in Eastlondonlines’ #WhatsStoppingYou series. Read the rest of the series here.

Leave a Reply