This post shares some key takeaways and additional resources based on the Breakfast with Boots podcast episode recorded in 2020 with Ali Bell. Click below to listen/ watch the conversation and subscribe to our Youtube channel for new episodes.

Watch: Keeping mentally and physically fit during lockdown |
Breakfast with Boots & Ali Bell

I sat down with Ali over Zoom in May 2020, at the beginning of the first national lockdown, when all this ‘new normal’ was still very new to us.

Eight months on, we are in lockdown for the third time and everything Ali shared about keeping mentally and physically fit during lockdown seems as relevant today as it was then. Here’s what she had to share:

Lockdown exercise needs to be adaptable but can (and should) still be enjoyable

For those of us who used to love going to the gym, swimming or group exercise classes, we have all had to adapt to how we work out over the last 11 months.

Ali chooses to see restrictions as a chance for increased creativity in how we exercise.

Embrace your inner child with the benefits of play

Why is it so much harder to exercise as we grow into adults? According to Ali, it all comes back to us forgetting what it is we actually enjoy.

As we get older, we lose the child-like energy we used to have around exercise and sports and that – aside from the general busy-ness of life – is because we start ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.

As adults, we force ourselves into exercise that we don’t enjoy.

As a child, we laugh, we run, we play with friends. Everything is built around shared fun and doing what we enjoy. However, as we get older and we watch our peers on social media lifting weights or nailing 10k on the treadmill, we then start to feel we ‘should’ go to the gym.

But if you don’t enjoy the gym; why force yourself? If you don’t enjoy running; why force yourself?

Find what it is you enjoy and do more of that. Whether you enjoy boxercise, netball, yoga, walking, or football; whatever it is… do more of that.

Ali’s right, now is the opportunity to try things that you’ve never tried before.

What exercise can I do with current restrictions?

Can I drive to exercise during lockdown? Can I run with friends? If I’m walking a dog am I allowed out more than once a day?

These are all questions we’ve been asking ourselves, and it’s harder to get creative when the days are dark and cold, I know.

Of course, you should always follow official Government guidelines to understand what’s allowed, but below are some ideas that Ali shared to break up your lockdown exercise routine and give your body and mind an energy boost:

  • Start your own fitness challenges with friends (this works virtually too!)
  • Join online exercise classes (yoga, keep fit, boxercise)
  • Walk (with a dog always makes it fun); if restrictions allow us to walk with friends and family – then great… if not, use this time to practice mindfulness
  • Run a fun online Zoom fitness sesh with your friends in your lounge
  • Whack on some tunes and dance around the kitchen/ bedroom (whether it’s on Zoom, in-person or on your own)
  • Go for a lunchtime cycle ride to break up the day
  • Setup interval runs/ an adapted gym routine using bodyweight in the park
  • Start skipping (great for cardio and taps into those enjoyable childhood memories)
  • Lift weights with cans of beans! Just don’t eat them first…!

Lockdown exercise “has to be downtime, it shouldn’t be a chore”

Ali reminds us that whatever you choose to do, it has to fit with you and your routine. It’s key to remember that what is right for you is not necessarily right for others, so try not to compare.

It’s also completely natural to have days where you don’t feel like doing anything. You need time to physically and mentally recharge and that’s totally ok.

How to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule

Ali recommends diarising ‘exercise time’ in order to keep that slot available in our routine.

We can maintain the spontaneity of ‘what’ that exercise looks like – depending on what we feel like that day. You can do different types of exercise every day if you get bored.

Often a reason for avoiding exercise comes down to the limited time in the day… but, you can adjust your workouts to suit you and your schedule.

In fact, a really good 15-minute structured workout can be perfect to kickstart the body and mind. You don’t always need to do a two-hour workout or cycle ride.

Even if a short walk is all that you can do – just keep yourself moving daily.

When is the best time to exercise?

“The [best] time to exercise is when it suits you!”

Ali Bell

But, something Ali is very keen to stress is: if you’re doing it because other people are saying you should do it at a particular time in a particular way; it will be so much harder to stick to. You have got to want to do it!

“If you’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s going to have a positive effect on your mind.”

Ali Bell

Why is exercise good for mental health?

Doing something you enjoy is absolutely key to achieve the maximum wellbeing benefits.

“If you’re going in with the mindset that you’re doing it to enjoy it, and it’s an exercise that you enjoy doing, then that’s going to have a much more positive impact on our mental stability, your mindfulness, your peace of mind, and the way you operate. Your stress levels as well.”

Ali Bell

On top of that, on those days where we want to brave the outdoors, there is no doubt that exercising in nature is incredibly powerful for supporting your wellbeing. Ali recommends that we disconnect from technology as much as possible when we are outdoors as well; it is so important to give ourselves time to think or just be.

Lastly, Ali shares that an important part of exercising for good mental health may mean that we set the targets lower; once a week is far better than not exercising at all.

I agree with Ali so much; I am a firm believer in setting realistic expectations. We often try to set the bar too high and that only sets us up to fail. Each time we fall short of our own expectations, our confidence becomes a little more eroded and that in turn has a negative impact on our mental health and motivation. Eventually, it just becomes one big feedback loop. So, be kind to yourself.  Start small and build from there!

Ali’s key takeaway?

Find an exercise schedule that works for you, find what you enjoy and then congratulate yourself with every positive step you take towards achieving your physical activity goals. It’s a trial and error process to find what is right for you!

About Ali

Ali has been a personal trainer for 12 years, and her passion for Boxercise and keeping fit emanates from her; it is clear to see that she loves changing how people feel about exercise.

One of Ali’s feel-good factors with teaching is being able to watch an individual’s reaction to Boxercise as they realise they can hit, hard if they would like to, not hurting anyone.  The stress drains away as a smile lights up their face.

Ali loves to cycle, travel and spend time with her family and friends and adores walking her chocolate Labrador, Cleo!

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