03:03PM, Thursday 30 April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has closed gyms, and personal trainers can no longer see their clients, but there is still plenty people can do outside, at home, and virtually, to maintain a healthy body and mind.
James Comley plays as a central midfielder for Maidenhead United and is a qualified personal trainer with his own business, James Comley Sports & Fitness.
“When I was playing full-time for Crystal Palace my back-up plan was always going to be inside the fitness industry,” said James.
As well as the lauded physical benefits of exercise, James, 29, says that being active will also help to counter the anxiety and depression that many people will feel escalating as a result of the pandemic.
“That is why the government has given people the flexibility to exercise,” he said.
“Just try to get yourself out for half-an-hour, 45 minutes a day, and even if you're indoors, there’s loads of things you can be doing.”
Echoing this point is Nita Kahlon, a qualified elite instructor in group exercise and group exercise co-ordinator at David Lloyd gym in Grenfell Place, Maidenhead.
Nita teaches everything from yoga sessions to aerobics classes and says that exercise impacts hugely on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Bodyweight exercises: These are exercises that can be done anywhere and do not require any gym equipment. The weight of the body provides all the resistance needed to build strength, muscle, and improve flexibility.
Such exercises include push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, planks, jumping jacks and more but, according to James, within each are ‘so many different variations’.
A classic squat for example can become a squat pulse, a squat jump, a closed leg squat, a wide stance squat, a side-to-side squat jump, and the seemingly endless list goes on.
James said that within the variations you can also alter the tempo, for example down for three counts and up for one, and also the ‘reps’.
The ‘reps’ are the number of times a specific exercise is performed, and the set is the number of cycles those reps are completed, for example, three sets of 15 side-to-side squat jumps.
“If you don’t have equipment, this is what you should be looking to do,” he said.
Adding weight can also make the exercise more challenging.
When doing a squat that might mean filling a backpack with tinned food or holding an object, for example a chair, out in front of you.
James said: “That adds a bit of weight, it also adds a bit of instability to the exercise, so then you’ve got to engage the core a bit more.”
Furniture can also be used to vary exercises, James described how a push-up can be done with hands on the sofa, or alternatively feet on the sofa.
Running and walking: With the beautiful weather we have been having since lockdown began people have been out in their droves in the spring sunshine for their daily quota of exercise.
Whether that be for a walk, jog, or a distance run, many have been using the extra time they have on their hands to get fit, pounding the pavements and parks.
“At the moment it’s the only reason you should really be out so you might as well make the most of it and get out for that little bit of time,” said James.
“Even if you walk for half-an-hour, 45 minutes – get yourself out, get yourself active,” he said.
Cardio circuits: For people who want to do more cardio at home, James suggests doing a ‘cardio circuit’.
He describes these as a series of ‘quick movements’ lasting from 30 seconds to a minute, followed by a 15 second rest before going into the next exercise.
Exercises perfect for a cardio circuit include skipping, running on the spot, jumping jacks and sprints.
HIIT workouts: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) combines a cardio circuit with bodyweight exercise.
Ranging from 15 to 30 minutes long, HIIT sessions alternate intense bursts of activity with short, often active, recovery periods.
Dance classes: Exercise can sometimes feel like a chore, but not dance.
Little compares to the heady feeling that accompanies letting your body loose while listening to music, and according to Nita ‘this is because ‘movement creates a lot of happiness’.
“There’s so many endorphins that are released, and they are happy chemicals,” she said.
Zumba is a popular aerobic dance workout, but in the absence of classes Nita said, switch on the radio, listen to your favourite album, dance along with a music video, ‘just let yourself go’.
She says all that is important is ‘you’ll be moving your body’ – releasing those chemicals, breaking a sweat, building legs muscles, and ‘whatever you do with your arms it doesn’t matter’.
As well as freestyling to the radio, the internet and other social media platforms are a source of aerobic dance workouts people can follow.
From Zumba, to Salsa and street dance, Nita said ‘it’s finding the right style that’s good for you and there are plenty of them.”
Legs, Bums and Tums: Nita describes a Legs, Bums and Tums (LBT) workout as ‘one of the hardest classes’ but also a contender for the most popular at David Lloyd, Maidenhead.
The club has three classes a week, which attract every age group, ‘and there’s demand for more’.
“They’re brilliant because they work on the part of your body that most people want to work on anyway when they go to a class,” she said.
“You can make it as hard as you want to as well, if you want to add a weight to your lunge or squat while you’re doing it then by all means, it’s really up to you.”
And again, this weight can be found ‘in the house’ –using books, food, door stops, anything you have to hand.
Yoga combines physical exercise, breath control and simple meditation.
Nita describes it as ‘a big stretch class’, perfect for people who need to avoid their muscles tightening after exercise and for those who are quite sedentary, but it is a lot more than just that.
“For me personally, the first benefit is not about the physical body, it’s all about the mental,” she said.
The mental benefit comes from clearing the mind by concentrating on the breath, but it is not easy.
“It’s very hard to switch off,” said Nita. “The moment you’re told to meditate is when your mind starts to jump around, and it goes into over-drive, and its normal.
“So the first thing is, accept that, accept that you’re mind's going to jump around,” she said.
Nita says becoming an expert in meditation does not happen overnight, ‘it takes time and practice’ but ‘for someone who has never done it, I would say have a go’.
To begin with set aside five or ten minutes and either sit or lie-down in a position of your choice and close your eyes.
She added: “If you really find your mind is running away, start counting.”
“When you are breathing, start breathing in, for one, two, three, four and then stop, we have a natural pause in our breath, and then breath out for four.
“It’s just having that guidance to begin with, telling you when to breathe in, when to breathe out.”
Nita said that listening to music can also help people to concentrate on the breath because it is based on a counting sequence and ‘when your body starts to relax, it starts to pick up on those beats’.
“When you start working on your breathing, you’ll start to notice that you’ll be able to focus a little bit more, because all that chaos and that chitter that’s going on in the head it starts to be left in the background,” said Nita.
“You’re not going to get it straight away and it takes time and practice, but be patient, it comes back to acceptance,” she said.
Once the breathing technique is conquered, or almost, Nita said it can be used to complete whole yoga sessions.
“Try to relate each movement with one breath, and that makes it easier’ she said.
Again, full yoga sessions can be found online.
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