Unfortunately, it would seem like this Covid-19 virus is not going away any time soon and we will likely be in this for the long haul with increasing restrictions on our ability to do anything in public.
Things are going to get very difficult for a lot of us, and if reduced social contact, self-isolation, and working from home are going to be the norm for from now on we must learn to adapt to our new (hopefully temporary) lifestyles.
Getting fit is probably one of the best things I have done in my life, not only improving my physical health but transforming my mental health which in turn has helped my productivity at work, which then improved my mental health further as I was no longer broke.
During these difficult times, I think it is more important than ever to try and maintain some type of fitness, it will help reduce the stress and mental health issues that will inevitably occur during this pandemic.
I am fortunate that I already work from home, but I go to the gym daily, while I am not too concerned about catching the virus myself due to my age and health, I would prefer to avoid it, and I certainly don't want to be responsible for spreading it. So, the gym is my weak link, and the gym, in general, is going to be a hot spot for the spread of diseases—lots of touching things as well as coughing and spluttering during intense cardio. So, I am trying to myself up to avoid it.
I am also lucky that I have a decent sized garage and already had weights as well as a turbo trainer for Zwift, so I am hoping not to need to go to the gym for the next few weeks until things settle down.
So, what things can you do to stay fit at home?
I'll start with the free stuff first, because not everything is as fortunate as me.
Everyone should do some Yoga regardless of quarantine as it helps with stress and reduces the risk of injury for various types of fitness. YouTube is a wealth of information. Yoga With Adriene is probably the biggest channel and one that my partner follows. There are plenty of options for short practices or even 30-45 minute sessions.
Calisthenics / bodyweight exercises / HIIT
Again, I would look at YouTube for some easy to follow routines, though phones also have plenty of apps that can guide you through exercises. Ideally, you want to be doing a full-body routine, and intense enough to get your heart rate up. There are several videos offering HIIT/Insanity workouts that are great for people short on time.
If you don't mind spending a small amount of money, you can expand your options with resistance bands or cheap dumbbells.
OK, so this is not exercise, but it will help with stress and anxiety, which is what most people will want to achieve during this period. There are many apps that offer guided meditation sessions, Headspace is probably the best known, but Let's Meditate gets higher ratings on the Play Store.
Assuming we don't go into a full lockdown, it is still possible to go out and do exercise – while I am not qualified to give advice, I'd argue being outside is a less infectious environment than indoors, just keep a safe distance from people.
I love running, but I have been plagued with injuries, so it is important to start slow, and ideally wear the appropriate trainers for your needs. Couch to 5K is a superb way to start off with running and there are dozens of apps offering this for free.
You can do a basic test to see your foot type by stepping in some water then looing at what you footstep shape looks like. Using this you can get a good idea of what trainer you need. If you are doing couch to 5K you can probably get away without stressing about this, but as your distances increase you definitely should make sure you have the correct trainers. Yoga will help reduce injuries considerably
Just going for a walk is an excellent low impact form of fitness. It is good for people with very low fitness levels, but if you are quite fit you may find it very hard to get your heart rate up to a meaningful level to be useful for your cardiovascular system. It is still good for you, though, and I find it helps deal with the daily stress of working at home and allows me to clear my mind.
For the more adventurous, we live in a country with some beautiful hilly walking environments, I live near the tough of Bowland that has some fantastic and challenging walking.
You can normally find free walks online, or if you have a Garmin watch, there are a lot of community routes that are available for both walking and cycling. Thanks to smartphones you don't even need to rely on maps anymore (though I would recommend one as a backup). Apps like ViewRanger or OS Maps allow you to download GPX routes allowing you to follow a route with the aid of GPS.
Cycling does require you to own a bike (or borrow one), but it is a superb low impact exercise that can get your heart rate up.
I use a road bike, but there are plenty of options, if you have low fitness and/or have not cycled fo a while, a hybrid bike may be a better solution. With people increasingly working from home there may be less traffic about too. Alternatively, look for dedicated bike routes around you. Near where I live is the Guild Wheel in Preston, which is superb with very little road cycling.
A Garmin or equivalent bike computer can be used to download GPS routes, or for much cheaper you can buy a phone mount for your bike and just use your phone.
Paid options – Fitness Equipment
Moving onto more expensive things, and this is what I have done to reduce my reliance on the gym. I didn't put it at the start of the article as I didn't want to profiteer on affiliate links during these times, nor casually recommend people spend hundreds or thousands on equipment they don't technically need.
Spin bikes and turbo trainers
If you already have a road bike, I can't recommend a smart trainer enough. You probably already know about them, but I refused to buy one for a couple of years due to the price, but my Tacx Flux S has been one of my favourite tech purchases in recent years.
Amazon has numerous spin bike options, and you tend to get what you pay for with the weight of the flywheel adding to the cost a lot, for example, the 18KG JLL IC300 is £230 then this jumps up to £340.99 for the 20KG IC400. If you have a lower level of fitness, the cheaper model should be fine.
Some spin bikes offer interactive training, Pelaton is obviously the most famous, but I am not going to recommend spending £2k on a bike with a £39/month subscription, it is just madness. Alternative options are available on bikes with iFit which you will find one ProForm or NordicTrack bikes.
When I first started fitness I bought an upright bike, similar to what most gyms use, but these seem quite expensive, and the trend definitely seems to have shifted towards spin bikes.
I have just bought a treadmill, I can't cope with virtual bike rides 7 days a week, and I love running, but have been plagued with various injuries so don't like to go outside too much.
The treadmill industry is a minefield, they are big and expensive products, so buying one is not a decision you should make lightly. I really wouldn't recommend getting a very cheap one, it just won't last.
If you look online for treadmill reviews, they are all very suspicious appearing to be nothing more than affiliate sites, and I question if these people have ever reviewed the product.
I personally went with the Branx Fitness Elite Runner Pro, which is £799 , I will do a review in a week or so. It is well-reviewed on Amazon, and the motor has much higher power than most competing models at this price. While some of the Amazon reviews indicate it has smart functionality, this does not appear to be the case anymore, but I am probably going to buy the NPE Runn from Zwift which will make it a smart treadmill. There is also a more affordable Branx model that is well reviewed.
Other options I considered were one of the various Reebok Treadmills, the Jet 300 looks good, which is on Argos for £699.99 or the cheaper Reebok models should be adequate for lower levels of fitness.
I very nearly bought the ProForm 600i Folding Treadmill at £799 which has iFit integration for smart training, but their warranty requires registration within 28 days of purchase which I find to be a loathsome condition from companies and I am not overly keen on the company behind them, ICON, from previous dealings.
In general, unless you already do a lot of treadmill work at the gym, I probably wouldn't recommend buying a treadmill due to their high price and the risk of it ending up being unused.
Rowing machines are good because they are a lot smaller than running machine, they are low impact (if you are careful with you back) and they provide a superb full body workout.
I don't think I could go with anything other than the Concept 2 rower, with the Model D being the best choice for most people. At £859.99 it is very expensive though.
The WaterRower A1 is also supposed to be excellent, it uses water for resistance so makes less noise and is supposed to feel more like rowing.
If you can justify the cost and have the space, a power rack or half/squat rack combined with an Olympic bar and will allow you to do all the exercises you need for strength. If you can get one with a Lat/Low Pulley Attachment as well as dip attachments, you can do a huge number of exercises.
However, assuming you don't want to spend hundreds on weights and commit a large chunk of space to a massive weightlifting rack, some dumbbells and resistance bands are also a great way to maintain or even build muscle while away from the gym. There are also plenty of full body dumbbell workouts on Youtube you can follow.
I wouldn't recommend multi-gym type solutions unless you view it purely as a temporary thing, you will almost certainly outgrow it if you stick to it.
Last update on 2021-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API