As humans we’re creatures of habit and crave routine which has, for many of us, gone out of the window lately and can really have an adverse effect on your wellbeing and your mental health.
But this is where an exercise routine can really help create some structure into your day and your week.
But if you’re used to attending a gym or studio, you might be finding it hard to adjust to a home practice, especially if you’ve got kids at home, your space is limited, or you’re just lacking motivation.
By taking some time to plan ahead and to create a space which can be a sanctuary for you, is likely to have as much impact on your mental health as your physical health which has never been more needed.
For some, its worthwhile trying to keep to a similar exercise routine that you did previously. So if you did HiiT on a Tuesday at lunchtime, you might want to keep that up to provide some structure to your day and week.
Working around kids
For others, especially those who have kids or irregular working patterns, this might be impossible, so you might need to look at finding something which works in a nap time, before the kids get up or when they’ve gone to bed, during some quiet TV time or something which the kids enjoy joining in too. Equally don’t beat yourself up if you are having to do less or even nothing. It can be really hard not being able to do exercise like you’re used to, so be kind to yourself and maybe look at activities you can do like taking a quick sprint when you’re on your daily exercise or jumping in the woods with the kids on a walk.
Depending on the age of your kids you might find doing an activity which is mindful, meditative and needs concentration may not work when they are awake and jumping all over you. But they may like the fun aspect of jumping around with you in a HiiT or dance class.
I did a Pilates class the other day which had lots of primal movement in it and my 2 year old suddenly started following along, with much better form than me which really surprised me. I think it’s good for her to see me actually exercising as previously I’ve also done it when she’s been asleep.
Another tip with kids is to just have your exercise kit on and do what you can when you can. This might mean you only get 20 mins of a class but that’s ok. I have a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old and often end up doing a one hour class in 3 bits over 2 days following the recordings.
Or I will specifically pick a 20-mins class as I know that’s all that is possible. This used to really frustrate me but I’ve realised that this is far more achievable for me that a 90 min class and I can actually fit this in much more easily into my day.
Many classes are also recorded and some studios, like ours, are allowing you to watch the recorded class at a later time as we appreciate that the actual class time may not fit in with your current life but you still really want to do that specific class!
Home set up
For most home activities you only need as much space as a mat takes up, and if you don’t have a mat, a towel on a carpet will work just as well.
Don’t be afraid to keep moving your mat around during your class if you working on something which means you need to move your arms or legs and keep bumping into something. And do your best not to get frustrated by any lack of space. Accept you are working with your own limitations and that’s fine. You just need give yourself a huge pat on the back for taking the time to be there, and to move!
I really recommend you watch your class on something portable, ideally a laptop or tablet but a phone works just as well. This means you can move it around so you can clearly see the instructor depending on if you’re lying on the mat, standing or jumping around. Moving your device will mean you’re not straining your neck trying to look at your instructor.
In our classes at Soul, we’re activity looking to correct you during class, just like we do in the physical studio, so ideally we want to be able to see you, preferably side on, so we can check your form. The instructor will usually let you know if this is the case.
If you can try to create a little sanctuary for you. Maybe light a candle or have a diffuser. Soften the light and move distractions out of the way. Small efforts will really help you focus and get into your zone for moving well.
Try something new & listen to your body
This is a really great time to try new activities as location is now not an issue. I’d also recommend adding a mix of activities into your routine to include some mindful release as well as some challenge.
It’s worth noting that for a lot of us our stress levels are really high right now which means your body produces adrenaline which can, over time, leave you feeling really frazzled. That tired but wired feeling. High intensity activities produce endorphins which is a real mood booster but high intensity actives also produce adrenaline which added to an already stressed-out system can actually leave you feeling more stressed bio-chemically affecting not only your mood but your digestion and the ability to fight off illness. So it’s more important than ever to add some mindful movement, like Pilates, meditation or Yoga into your routine so you can find your breath, slow down and connect your mind and body to boost your body’s natural ability to self regulate.
You also need to ensure you take responsibility for your body in your classes. You teacher will be doing their best to check your form but as they aren’t with you physically it’s important that you listen to your body and only do what feels good for you. If you’re working with any injuries and rehab needs then make sure you are working in a range which is safe and comfortable for you and do make sure you flag anything to your teacher at the start of the class. They will often ask you to use the chat function to ask any questions or inform them of anything that’s going on in your body. Most instructors and studios like ours are also offering virtual 1:1s which are a great way to work with you on a personal level and help support your move into a class environment safely.
Create props from what you have at home
In Pilates, like many activities, we love props and we know clients have been really missing having props to work with at home. But there are lots of home replacements you can use, and most are inexpensive to buy and will actually get lots of use now and in the future so are a good investment. Here are some top tips of home substitutes you can use for free.
Weights - small hands weights can easily be created by using 2 water bottles or two tins. I prefer bottles though as they fit in your hands easier.
Resistance bands can easily be made with a pair of tights
Tennis balls can be used instead of spiky balls
Folded towel can be used instead of a pillow
You can use cushions and rolled up larger towels to create your own yoga bolster
You can add some weights to a backpack to have while you squat instead of squatting with weights.
Don't sprint before you can walk / set solid foundations before you run the marathon - the prospect of having loads of time, might make you think "i'm going to workout everyday" probably quickly finding you did it for a week and then gave up.
Build a plan around slowly and manageably building a routine. So if you are completely new start with 1 class a week, light walking a few times a week and getting into a good routine with stretching (a lot of people are getting injured, because they ran 10 x more than they have and didn't do any strength work or increase any stretching)
I REALLY REGRETTED THAT - SAID NO ONE EVER. Remember, we don't always feel up to working out, especially if we are feeling the isolation blues. Just remember, no one ever said they regretted getting up for a stretch and moving their bodies. We are designed to move so find a way to move in some way everyday.
By Nic Lenny, Soul Pilates Founder & Instructor