No Gym? No Sweat

How to work out when fitness and yoga studios are closed

| 27 Mar 2020 | 02:50

By now we’re all saturated with recommendations for warding off COVID-19: washing hands, social distancing, don’t touch what you needn't, wearing the mask/glove-combo, provided you realize they won’t magically protect you from contamination.

That said, our normal health-centric protocols have been thrown out the window. Gyms are closed, group activities cancelled, and personal training, which requires physical proximity, is out. Any sort of gathering is simply irresponsible at this point. But bikini season IS right around the corner, and thankfully, there are still lots of ways you can get that heart rate up, and consequently, stress levels down.

By fortune, recent studies have found that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts can be just as effective as more lengthy, arduous rituals. According to Women’s Health, these quick HIITs can reenergize mitochondria, providing physical and psychological benefits with as little as four minutes of stimulation, so no excuses for time.

Try burpees, jack squats, deep reverse lunges or even running in place: a quick Google will show you a variety of exercises and their proper form. These can be performed in very constrained settings, so clear out that pile by your couch (which could count as a workout itself!) for a little boogie room, never even leaving your apartment.

Online Fitness Sites

For those that need more external motivation, there are a plethora of workouts available on-demand if you have the luxury of cable or satellite, from dance tutorials to Pilates and body part-specific drills to more rigorous plyometrics and the aforementioned HIITs. If you’re like me and have held out on subscription TV, there are virtually unlimited online fitness sites, many of which offer free trials so you can sweat it out without shelling out and then decide. Apps like Blink fitness curate workouts to your capabilities, bringing the fitness coach straight to your phone.

If you’re in a higher tax bracket, consider investing in a spin-worthy indoor exercycle. The ultimate luxury might be the Mirror, dubbed the “holy grail of home gyms” by Uncrate: an ingenious but very expensive, personalized workout system created with certified trainers that give live feedback, and syncs via Bluetooth or Apple Watch to monitor your heart rate. They also currently offer a thirty-day money-back guarantee, although it’s a lot of money upfront. Mini stair steppers are also available at myriad price points, or, if you have high enough ceilings, consider a trampoline like my neighbor did: she just turns on the music and bounces away ’til sweaty. And trust me, it’s a lot harder than you might think.

Downward Dog

There are Facebook posts offering free virtual yoga instruction, requiring only the square footage of a mat, so conducive to even the smallest apartment situations. Emilie Adams, mother of two elementary school-aged children now “on spring break” indefinitely, was faced with not only home-schooling, but also that either love-it or hate-it requirement: P.E. Luckily, she is a certified yoga instructor, got the kids mats and stretchy pants, and encouraged them into some downward dog. This sparked the revival of her practice she had let slip while helping home-bound Manhattanites cut off from yoga studios; she's now videoing sessions for live-feeds on Facebook.

YouTube, too, has videos of all levels. A lovely bonus to in-home workouts, especially for beginners, is that it's inevitably a no-judgment zone. You don’t need the snazziest get-up or perfect form. You just do you, whatever you can, and whatever that is, is better than nothing.

When Pinching Pennies

If you’re self-motivated, some of the most rigorous workouts can be the simplest: get a jump rope, and see if you can do even three minutes. Better yet, jump for 20 seconds then rest 20 seconds, and do THAT for as long as you can. Or dust off your sneakers: I noticed a drastic uptick in the numbers out pounding the pavement as soon as gyms shuttered.

If you're pinching pennies, try bicep curls with soup cans, stepping up and down on a sturdy crate, or sit-up marathons. If you really want to go unscripted, just turn up the music and dance the stress away. I can’t imagine a better soundtrack than Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” destined to become the season's theme song.

While everyone is focused on all things Corona, don’t neglect your overall health and well-being. Be circumspect in your activity: hospital capacity doesn't need your overexerted sprained ankle or too-rigorous cardio added to the ER’s wait-list. As in everything right now, proceed with care. But as many have more time on their hands with everything canceled, anxiety and stress levels are skyrocketing, and there’s no better way to alleviate both than with some good old-fashioned physicality. Just do it.

If you're pinching pennies, try bicep curls with soup cans, stepping up and down on a sturdy crate, or sit-up marathons. If you really want to go unscripted, just turn up the music and dance the stress away.