By @George_Arkley 

When I imagine my life post-pandemic, it involves a glamorous apartment, new job and early-morning workouts in the latest designer apparel. Unfortunately, the reality is an 11am workout in coffee-stained leggings and greasy hair.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Pretty much everyone I know started Couch to 5K at some point or other in 2020. If you’re one of the lucky few who managed to avoid being #influenced, Couch to 5K is a running programme for beginners. You start by running for a minute, then walking for a minute and so on. As you get better, the app increases your running times until you can run a 5K with no breaks. Spoiler, I never made it past week two.

This all sounds easy-breezy until you’re running in the local park and your legs are begging you to stop. I use the term ‘running’ very loosely here. As you’re trying to catch your breath mid-run, you notice that a few others seem to be running and walking at the exact same times as you. Meet your fellow Couch to 5K buddies.

I have never been a runner, and I never will be. However, Instagram seems to persuade me every January that I must be a runner to be fit. And what’s more, I must look obscenely perfect while doing it.

As it turns out, many types of exercise do not involve running. Here are a few of my favourites. I’m not a personal trainer, so don’t take my word as Bible. This is just my personal experience.

HIIT training

I hate cardio. It’s a slow death of repeatedly doing the same action while willing the calorie counter to move faster.

HIIT, high-intensity interval training, is my saviour. It combines cardio and strength training to produce one hell of a workout. I use YouTube videos and gym subscription services to follow along as the trainer demonstrates each exercise. For example, goblet squats for 30 seconds, rest for 5 seconds then split squats for another 30 seconds.

Half an hour of HIIT can burn just as many calories as a 5K run, and you can target specific muscles while doing it. I like HIIT because I can focus on the burn instead of how breathless and tired I am. When the burn gets too much, I can switch to a different exercise and muscle group. The fast pace of circuit training distracts me from the cardio aspect.

I can make HIIT workouts harder or easier through weights, resistance bands and gliding plates. Always stretch before HIIT workouts as they can lead to injury if you aren’t careful.

Spinning

We have already established cardio is not my favourite form of exercise. But if I am in the mood to do a hard-core cardio workout, spinning is my torture of choice.

HIIT is an extremely high impact workout, so I like to pair it with a low-impact spin class. Spin is kind to my knocked knees, flat feet and sore shoulders. What can I say, sitting at a desk all day has ruined my body.

I rent a spin bike from my local gym and use online spin classes to motivate myself. Often spin classes are categorised by the music choice. Nothing gets my feet pedalling more than a banging Britney Spears class with a brilliant trainer.

However, at-home spin classes really do not compare to the atmosphere of a boutique spin studio. I love going to my local spin studio with my girlfriends for an early morning bop. It’s a healthy alternative to a night of drinking and dancing.

Hiking

If you live in a city, why not escape to your local national park for the day? Nothing calms my mind more than going for a hike in the countryside and having a picnic. When I’m hiking alone, I always download a few podcasts for some entertainment. And yes, they distract me from the pain of hiking. Distraction truly is the secret to exercise.

Although escaping the city may not be possible with the recent lockdown. So why not go for a walk around your local area instead? Fresh air and moving your legs can greatly improve your mental state for the day.

Swimming

Unfortunately, this one isn’t possible right now because of lockdown. But usually, you would find me in a swimming pool over a treadmill any day of the week. Swimming is a brilliant form of exercise and can be quite relaxing too.

My top tip for swimming is music. I use wireless waterproof headphones and my smartwatch to listen to music in the water. A good workout playlist makes swimming feel more like a cardio workout and motivates me to push myself.

If you’re feeling stressed, a relaxing Lo-fi playlist can really help to calm your nerves. Swimming is a less popular workout, but just as effective as running.

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