If you’re waking up to face our fourth lockdown in Melbourne this week, I feel your pain. Over the weekend, I noticed a large number of people walking the streets and taking to the park to bask in the sunshine and get that permitted exercise.
It occurred to me that a number of people may be wanting to know how to get the best out of this time now that you’ve decided to commit to it.
So here is my best advice to really look after yourself and stay healthy both physically and mentally during lockdown.
These are my top tips for you to use those 2 hours that we are permitted to exercise outdoors during COVID-19.
However, before we launch into the exercise, we need to think about what’s appropriate for you.
What will you use your 2 hours for?
Let’s go through each one.
If you’ve been following me for a while or know me personally, then you know I’ll say that if you need to exercise to lose weight, your approach to nutrition is wrong. So that nails the first one.
Don’t exercise to lose weight.
If you don’t understand why, make sure to get in touch with me – I will explain. So, let’s get into it!
Building muscle when you cannot access a gym is still possible. Here are some ideas, although please note that I am not giving anyone specific training or medical advice.
You can find examples of the movements on my health and wellness app under the free stuff tab.
As we get older, we really do need to focus on our bone density. This can be checked by having a DEXA scan, but some of the exercises you can do to improve it are as follows:
Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, or dancing. So, if you have your own tennis court, go for it.
Basketball, netball, and cricket are all great as well – this is because we are jumping and running around.
Resistance exercises such as lifting weights can also strengthen bones, but this may be hard if you cannot access the gym during lockdown. However, doing some simple plyometrics will get the same results.
Plyometric exercises can cause stress to the tendons, ligaments, and lower-extremity joints, especially the knees and ankles. It’s important that you have the strength and fitness level necessary to do these exercises safely and effectively, so be careful. Some of these exercises include the following:
For this exercise, you’ll need a box or something to jump on/off that’s 12 to 36 inches high. To increase the intensity, you can do the exercise using only one leg.
Use caution when adding plyometric exercises to your workout routine if you’re a beginner or have any injuries or chronic conditions. It’s best if you already have an established workout routine and are physically fit before beginning plyometric exercises. These exercises require strong ligaments and tendons since they can cause stress to the joints.
Slowly add plyometric exercises to your routine, starting with basic, lower-intensity moves before moving on to more challenging movements. Gradually build up the intensity and difficulty once you’re sure your body is strong enough to handle the exercises. If you find that plyometric training is too intense, consider trying out a different method of exercise.
Now, this is a polarizing topic. The fitness – or as I say, the sickness – industry wants you to think that you need to smash yourself in 2 hours and work your heart like crazy, but what does this actually achieve?
All it does is increase the stress hormone cortisol, which most of us already have too much of. Cortisol stops our bodies from using our fat stores as fuel and promotes inflammation.
In short, the theory is that with our ever-stressed, fast-paced lifestyles, our bodies are pumping out cortisol almost constantly, which can wreak havoc on our health. This whole-body process, mediated by hormones and the immune system, identifies cortisol as one of the many players.
Repeated elevation of cortisol (which comes from even moderate exercise) can lead to weight gain. One way is via visceral fat storage.
Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscles deep in the abdomen).
A second way in which cortisol may be involved in weight gain goes back to the blood sugar-insulin problem. Consistently high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression lead to cells that are starved of glucose.
Those cells are crying out for energy, and one way to regulate that is to send hunger signals to the brain. This can lead to overeating – and of course, unused glucose is eventually stored as body fat.
Another connection is cortisol’s effect on appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Studies have demonstrated a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake in populations of women.
Cortisol may directly influence appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress response factors known to stimulate appetite. THIS is why we should not exercise even moderately if our goal is simply to lose weight.
Yes, we come back to focusing on nutrition – ask me what to do and I will help you.
So, what the hell can I do to improve my cardiovascular health then, you may ask? Well, depending on your athletic background, any medical conditions, and your experience, here are the basics.
Establish your Maximum Aerobic Function.
HR 180 - Age – this is the maximum HR you should be at when you are running or briskly walking. For example, 180 - 50 years is an MAF HR of 130 BPM.
You may need to use a heart rate monitor, but remember, watch-based sensors are not 100% accurate and they do spike, so a chest strap is best, or simply use the old fingers on your pulse and count for 15 seconds, then x 4 to get your HR.
Working at your MAF HR will keep you burning FAT and build your aerobic and cardiovascular health. You will no doubt fight against this, but the 6-x world champion Hawaii Ironman Mark Allen and I both use this process.
Granted, I am not an Ironman Champion, but at 56, I can run the Park Run in 20:34 easily, do a 10km in 40.23, and finish a marathon in 3:26 with an average HR of 125. This is unheard of – and all from using this method in training.
So, walking, riding, and general exercise at this Aerobic HR is healthy, safe, and leads to massive health benefits. When you add nasal breathing to this, you lower your cortisol levels even more. What is nasal breathing? Let’s talk about that next as part of how to improve your mental health.
Get out and walk the dog for 2 hours (make sure you pick up its poop…)
Ride your bike comfortably with a helmet on.
Take a yoga mat to the park and do some yoga with Yoga by Adriene (she is on my health and wellness app also).
Do some guided meditations with my good friend Richard Gibson – he is likewise on my app. I have a whole course on nasal breathwork – I do nearly 1 hour each day of meditation and breathwork.
You can easily do a calming breathing technique focusing on your exhalations. Just do 1-2 breathing sessions daily – this is a practice where we look to make our exhalations twice as long as the inhalations.
This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, moving us toward a more restful state, making this a really nice practice any time you feel like you need a little space to chill.
Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds. Do this 10 times, then increase the exhale to 6 seconds 10 times through, then increase the exhale to 8 seconds x 10 times.
So, sit on a mat or chair in the park and do a 15-minute breathwork session (once again, this can be found on my app).
Let’s hope that we’re out of this soon; however, it’s also a chance, and may even be a circuit breaker, for you to start looking after yourself better, and that can be the silver lining you’re looking for.
My free app can be accessed here for iOS/Android devices.
Andre Obradovic is an ICF Leadership PPC Level Coach, A Primal Health Coach, a Certified Low Carb Healthy Fat Coach, & a Certified Personal Trainer. Andre is also a Founding member of the Dr. Phil Maffetone MAF certified Coach. He is an Ambassador for the Noakes Foundation, and a regular subject matter expert lecturer for the Nutrition Network (a part of the Noakes Foundation) Andre has completed 16 x 70.3 Ironmans and in 2017 he competed in the 70.3 Ironman World Championships. He has completed 18 Marathons and over 30 Half Marathons. Andre currently focuses his athletic competition on Track and Field with the occasional Marathon.