There are some positives to come out of the pandemic – one of them is that the extra time has given many people the opportunity to try new things.
With gyms not being an option for the majority of the year, lots of individuals have sought out other, alternative ways to stay fit.
We spoke to a handful of people who have taken up new fitness hobbies as a direct result of the pandemic – ones they had never tried before.
From wild swimming to car park Zumba, here are the activities that have been helping people through over the past few months.
Amy – paddleboarding
Amy, a 24-year-old digital PR strategist, lives in the Lake District on a farm near Ambleside. At the star of the pandemic she was on furlough so used her extra time to explore the natural spots near where she lives – this led to her giving paddleboarding a try.
She says: ‘Paddleboarding hadn’t even crossed my mind before the pandemic. I’d seen a few people try it out on holiday but it wasn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. I saw other people on social media take it up during the pandemic and it looked amazing. I found one online at a reasonable price and it was inflatable so it fits into a rucksack and I can take it anywhere.
‘It was the perfect way to exercise in the Lake District and I was completely isolated from anyone else. The best social distancing is on my paddleboard, exploring all the amazing waters and lakes.
Amy adds the the exercise has had a real positive impact on her mental and physical health, not to mention it’s an all round body workout which uses strength, balance and the core.
She says: ‘Paddleboarding helps me de-stress, being on the water is so relaxing and it’s the perfect escape from the busy world.
‘I will 100% be keeping it up. I recently started a new job and I still manage to get out 2-3 times a week (weather dependent). I love going before work as the water is often flat calm and perfect for paddleboarding.’
Frankie – wild swimming
Mum-of-two Frankie Thompson, who lives in Amsterdam, has always loved swimming but noticed the pools near her were closed due to the pandemic.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I noticed someone swimming in the river close to where I lived, all alone, and I started to think about doing the same.
‘It took me a few weeks to pluck up the courage to try it but because it was so close, so convenient and hot enough that any water looked refreshing I just went for it one day. I’m now swimming in the River Amstel three times a week at least and I’m looking at buying a wetsuit so I can keep going in autumn and winter.’
Frankie had always been reluctant to wild swim due to how brown and dirty the water looks in Amsterdam – but after a little research, she was keen to try it.
She says: ‘I think it also was a result of being stuck inside most of the time with two young kids for months on end that made it very appealing to find any kind of new way to escape for half an hour and do something just for me, completely on my own. You really do feel like the only one in the city swimming in the river at 7am.
‘I also think the fact it’s in the open air, in nature, and is so convenient and free was the cherry on the cake.’
Frankie says she plans to keep it up and loves the ‘skin-tingling, breath-skipping rush’ she gets every time she pushes off into the wild water.
‘I hope it will be the same, if not more intense, when the season changes,’ she adds.
Deana – skipping
Actress and model Deana Uppal was looking for a new exercise to burn calories in a small space and, after some research, she found that skipping was an easy option.
The 30-year-old tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Skipping was highly recommended and by chance my friend had forgotten her skipping rope in my car so I thought let’s try it.
‘Usually, I just relied on gym equipment for exercise. I never really thought about working out at home before lockdown. I had never considered the benefits of skipping before but the pandemic and 2020 has shown us it is a year of firsts.’
The experience has made Deana realise she doesn’t need to head to the gym to maintain her fitness levels.
She adds: ‘Exercises, such as skipping, are just as effective. I will definitely continue skipping even though gyms are back open. I find it’s a great mix of muscle toning and cardio and keeping active while WFH helps my mental health.’
Tara – car park Zumba
Tara, who runs a PR and marketing agency in Birmingham called EAST VILLAGE, is a self-confessed workaholic.
She says: ‘I’ve always focused on work and building the business but, like many, was forced to have a little “pause and reset” when the pandemic hit. I did really want to use lockdown as a chance to focus on my health.
‘As things [lockdown] started to ease, I found that an awesome Zumba teacher – Ellie Hooper – was launching an outdoor Zumba class in a car park at Longbridge Shopping Centre. It’s a multi-storey car park so weather-proof and also has the perfect space to keep everyone socially distanced.
‘I’d done Zumba once or twice before, years ago, but it’s such an amazing way to move your body and have a great time, whilst building up a sweat.
‘I’m a really confident girl but the fitness industry isn’t always that welcoming for bigger bodies. Finding Zumba – as well as some other online Hip Hop Tabata classes with Pop Sugar – has been amazing. You can challenge yourself but also at your own pace and make space for your body, which so many teachers and fitness professionals don’t think about.’
With five weeks of classes booked in, Tara says she’ll be keeping up her Zumba in the future.
Dan – outdoor gyms
Digital marketing manager Dan was looking for a new activity to get him active during lockdown and happened to stumble upon some outdoor gym equipment at his local park.
He says: ‘I found during the peak lockdown I wasn’t even hitting 5,000 steps which would’ve been a lazy day for me normally as I really tend to walk a lot. So I started by building in walks, then I happened to see outdoor gym equipment at the park and decided I’d build it into a weekly routine to make sure that I went there and did something other than cardio.’
Dan had never previously tried public outdoor equipment as he would often tell himself it was ‘not a proper gym.’
He adds: ‘Now I feel a bit silly for not trying it sooner.’
While he used to do a little cardio a few years back, Dan says this is the first time he’s been regularly exercising since then.
The 34-year-old fully intends to keep his new exercise regime up and – although he’s no longer doing it as much as he did at his peak (twice a week) – he plans to build it into his schedule.
Amy – boxing
Master’s student Amy always wanted to find a time to focus on getting fit.
After taking up running last year, she was looking for a new exciting fitness hobby and boxing caught her attention.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I spent all of last year running, I did a marathon and found that running was quite therapeutic for me. At the start of lockdown, I was still running, but it quickly became so incredibly boring I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Even now I’ve only gone once in the last few months – I think my running phase is over.
‘I planned to work with a personal trainer as soon as I could afford it, it was a priority for me and I was super happy I finally could around April time. We did a few socially distanced training sessions on general fitness stuff and then Lewis (my PT) said he did have some gloves and pads if I wanted to give boxing a go. I thought alright, might as well see how it goes and the endorphins I got from literally the first session got me hooked. Plus, it was a good time to learn something new.
‘I am always excited the night before a session. Even if I’m tired or moody, boxing always seems to cheer me up. I’m getting faster and stronger and that is very satisfying.
‘I used to think boxing is for angry people to vent out their frustrations, but I definitely feel calm whilst doing it and it’s relaxing in the sense that all I have to worry about is where to punch next and not hitting Lewis in the face.’
Amy says she would recommend it to anyone who needs to de-stress and doesn’t find having a bath or other activities help.
She adds: ‘I hope I will keep it up – I’m not sure I can take a full punch to the face, so I doubt I would ever become a proper fighter. But I am definitely open to getting into kick-boxing too and, you never know, maybe this is the sport I actually stick to for more than a year?’
Claudia – rowing
When the pandemic hit, freelance app developer Claudia – who lives in Oxford with her husband Charlie – looked for ways they could stay both physically and mentally happy.
One thing led to another and the pair ended up buying a rowing machine for their house.
Claudia says: ‘I was in two minds about it, but I also thought it was necessary to get more exercise.
‘I initially assumed the rowing machine was mainly for my husband, but since it arrived two months ago, it’s actually been me who has taken a shine to it.
‘I now use it every second day, listening to podcasts while I exercise. I actually find it fun and using it at home means I don’t feel self conscious.
‘I find that it has made a big difference to my fitness and it makes me feel happier about not being able (or wanting to) go elsewhere to get my exercise. I’ll definitely continue to row.’
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