Exercising at home.
Exercising at home.
Image: 123RF

Here we go again — caged up in the house and gyms closed. Although, as much as the author thinks gyms are quite possibly the missing link between purgatory and heaven, perhaps them being closed for the next few weeks is not all bad.

Now that we know this virus is airborne — remember, a year ago we thought it only lived on surfaces — the idea of spinning in a group of heavy-breathing suburbanites is quite terrifying. It reminds us of the good old days, when we were young and reckless and used to blow our breath over candles lighting a birthday cake that everyone would go on to eat. Remember those uncivilised days?

Most gyms work on a membership model, and many of the smaller ones that charge per class or month have shifted to be able to offer some type of online training. We wish them well and hope that they weather this storm. 

A leading alternative business lender told us recently that home gym supply stores were among the fastest growing on its books. Their loans, the MD said, were not for working capital to survive, but rather to invest in procuring and building home gym equipment for the rapidly expanding home-gym market in SA.

Whether this is opportunistic or whether it really does signal a brave new world where you and I no longer need to wear our best tights and be seen purchasing peanut butter bomb smoothies at the local gym, remains to be seen.

Here’s the truth, and it hurts. (It hurts more than doing four sets of 20 burpees after a squat session.)

If your goal is to be fit, strong and lose extra kilograms of body fat, you do not need a gym. There, it’s been said, and we will deal with the consequences later.

If you are specialised, and need to improve sports-specific performance, if you need to become substantially stronger, gain muscle or develop explosive power, then you do need some equipment and a qualified trainer. The author of this column can do all this in a home gym that boasts a power rack, two adjustable benches, Olympic bar, EZ bar and trap bar with weights, suspension trainers, kettlebells, a set of dumbbells from light to very heavy, resistance bands, medicine balls and a wonderfully large mirror.

Training with resistance bands and medicine ball.
Training with resistance bands and medicine ball.
Image: 123RF

If you do not have any of the above, and are just looking to get in shape, lose fat and become better at life, all you need is a mat and some basics. All you need for these is your body and a small dose of motivation.

Consider getting an App. There are so many to choose from, and even though they’re not needed they allow you to track performance, and being able to see your workouts that way miraculously motivates you to get out of bed. Don’t ask why, it just works. However, the most important aspect of a good app is that it includes a description and demonstration of how to perform basic exercises properly.

Visit YouTube and Instagram. While we believe that Instagram — specifically — is the head office of false advertising, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of trainers that share fun little home workouts that include things such as lunges, push-ups and skipping. But please, don’t for a second believe they built those bodies with their five-minute workouts. There are thousands of hours and possibly many chemicals behind those curves.YouTube has many tutorials — and once you watch the tutorial, we’d recommend recording yourself doing the movement. You want your movement to look at least 80% similar — it is amazing how the brain can convince us we are doing a squat but to the outside world it looks like a medieval curtsy performed by John Cleese. It is dangerous to perform moves incorrectly. This speaks to our last suggestion, and you’d be doing yourself the biggest favour by considering it.

Learn how to perform basic compound exercises properly, and then include them in your lockdown workouts. These include how to perform a squat, a lunge, a hip hinge, a press such as a push-up, and a pull such as a resistance-band pull-up. Be careful and take your time to master these movements safely. https://exrx.net/Lists/Directory is a great resource for explaining what exercises are, and which muscles they target. There’s no user experience (UX) and customer journey on this old-fashioned website. It is ugly and a relic from the bad old days when karaoke bars weren’t super spreaders. You may just enjoy it.

A running club group running along a seaside promenade in Cape Town.
A running club group running along a seaside promenade in Cape Town.
Image: 123RF

Go for walks, and if you can, run or cycle. There are literally is no substitute for this, and if you are in a group that our ministers won’t deem to be a gathering, you may feel motivated enough to exercise, and safe enough to do it outdoors.

Invest in a personal trainer. There are many qualified trainers who offer online classes. This is how you tell you have a good one — he or she watches you and won’t let you do movement that you cannot do properly. They also won’t give you a one-size-fits-all approach that you could have got from an app anyway. If you find the right trainer, the online classes can be fun and effective. Once lockdown regulations are lifted, the trainer can finally teach you how to do important movements correctly.

It is amazing how the body remembers — even if you think you are doing less and missing out from not being in the gym, the simple act of moving and doing something every day will prevent you from going backwards. On the other hand, it may change how, and where, you exercise forever.

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