“Your workout is our warm-up!”
“Grip it and rip it!”
“We don’t need machines; we are machines!”
I’m sure you’ve all read or heard one of these quotes or any number of others telling you workouts have to be all out. That you should leave nothing in the tank. That the way to make progress is to put yourself in the pain cave and stay there. Not only have I heard them all, I’ve not doubt said them all too—and meant it at the time.
But it’s not true all of the time, and for many of us—especially during pandemic times—it’s not what we need right now. Exercise is a wonderful thing with so many benefits, but we need to be mindful that it puts stress on the body. If you already have a huge amount of stress in your life with work, home life, home-schooling while working from home (no idea how you do this; I’m in awe of those of you who do), constant negative news, not seeing your loved ones and countless other stressors, don’t beat yourself up if the last thing you want to do is a workout that grinds you into the ground.
Just because you’re used to going all in on a workout doesn’t mean that anything less doesn’t count. Doing a workout at 50 percent of what you normally would is still a deposit in your well-being bank. Just doing the warm-up and saying “that’s me done” is still doing something.
I’ve spoken to so many people recently who are struggling to find motivation to train, whereas in normal times, exercise is the highlight of their day. I own the bloody gym and I’m struggling to find motivation to train. Don’t be too hard on yourself for feeling that way. It’s perfectly normal, and I promise, you’re not alone.
Try reframing why you’re training. The end goal doesn’t have to be a 100-kg back squat or a sub-6-minute mile. The goal can just be to move. To have some time to yourself. Or to have some time with someone else. Doing some exercise is still a huge positive even if it doesn’t feel like you’re going to die doing it.
If you are struggling with training or have completely given up, here are a couple of suggestions that might help.
Exercise in the morning. I’m a dad of two young boys who think getting up at 5:30 is a lie-in, so I’m fully with you if the idea of doing this sounds ludicrous, but stick with me. We’ve all got a set amount of willpower and it depletes as the day goes on. If you can get your exercise in before you start your day when your willpower is at its strongest, the chances of you doing something are much greater.
Pick easier workouts. A 20-minute walk counts as a workout. Three rounds of 10 press-ups and 10 sit-ups counts as a workout. Working out while watching re-runs of GBBO (if you know, you know) is not only acceptable, but I’d highly encourage it. Move. Pick something you love doing. Forget doing things because you want to be better at them or because they’re your weaknesses. Training should be fun at the best of times—it has to be fun in the current time.
If you’re struggling to come up with workout ideas:
Press-up/sit-up/squat grid. Draw a grid on a sheet of paper, like noughts and crosses. It can be as many boxes as you want, but the more boxes, the harder it is. So start with just nine. Pick a movement. While you’re watching TV or catching up with friends, do a set of that movement. Write the number in the grid. Rest and relax. When ready, do another set. By the time your programme has finished, you’ll have done nine or more sets without even realizing it.
12-minute EMOM (every minute, on the minute)
Minute one: squats
Minute two: press-ups
Minute three: lunges
Minute four: plank
Aim for just 20 seconds of work each minute, giving you 40 seconds of rest.
Train with someone. If you live with someone, see if they want to do something with you. It doesn’t matter if you have vastly different fitness backgrounds or abilities. Training with someone means you’re accountable to someone, and if you live with them it’s not like you can screen their calls.
If you don’t live with someone, get outside and exercise with someone. Or if the Beast from the East continues to make it feel like we’re living in Siberia, video call them and train together. It doesn’t even matter if you’re not doing the same thing.
There’s more than enough going on around the world taking its toll on you. Don’t add to it by being hard on yourself when it comes to exercise or the lack thereof. Try doing something.
If you don’t manage it today, that doesn’t matter. Try again tomorrow.