We're a reckless bunch, us Pakistanis. Thanks to us, the lockdown has been extended till July 15 and as a result, workout enthusiasts are in a fix.
Some of us are barely getting any movement in and surviving on snacks.
I feel you. It’s an unsettling period for the mind and body. Two months into lockdown and I didn’t want to move either, lethargy set in so I responded to my body in kind; took a month off, excused myself from my Pilates sessions and stuffed myself silly while my exercise mat sat in a corner neatly rolled up.
However, our bodies are designed for movement so no matter how much we love channeling our inner Homer Simpson, we will crave motion.
The first step is to allow your body a rest period, the length of time will vary from individual to individual depending on how fatigued (physically, mentally and emotionally) you are. I would advise you to listen to your body.
Once you get the itch to move -- it strikes even when you’re feeling lazy, trust me -- slowly add movement to your everyday routine.
For example, when you’re on a call walk around the house or on your porch/garden and with time add dynamic stretches like a walking lunge or squats. The reason these stretches are helpful is because they activate the lower body which you’re likely underutilising during this period as you spend your days lying in bed, sitting on the sofa and chair.
If you’re handsfree, even better, add shoulder and arm rotations, give that back some love.
Do this for a few days till your body starts wanting more. Then begin with 10 minutes of exercise (figure out the frequency that works for you) , this can include some more dynamic stretches like these, and continue to add a couple of minutes to your workout as you feel fit. Your motivation should be to get moving; anything else may become overwhelming at this time.
Remember, slow and easy.
As you increase the time, you can incorporate the following exercises which I find to be effective for a full body workout. (See which of these make you feel good rather than punish your body and force it to do movements it does not enjoy.)
Tip: Change the repetitions and rounds to increase and decrease the intensity as you go. Warm up before and after your workout.
Your back will thank you after this one.
Primarily targets: back, arms
Lie on your stomach, legs long, elbows bent, inline with your shoulders and glued to your rib-cage.
Press the tops of your feet on the mat, push arms away from the ground, and lift the chest up as much as is comfortable, neck and spine move together. Make sure the elbows face the back of the room.
Gently lower down to the ground.
Get some spinal articulation in with this simple exercise.
Primarily targets: spine, abs
Get on your hands and knees, knees hip width apart inline with your hips. Wrists inline with your shoulders
Tuck your chin under, curve the back into a C.
Drop the pelvis, push the chest to the ground, lift the head up.
A great exercise to open up your shoulders while working the triceps.
Primarily targets: triceps
Start in reverse table top - hands and feet on the mat, hips lifted.
Feet hip width apart. Fingers facing the heels.
Bend the elbows to lower the butt to the ground as much as possible.
Push the arms back into full extension to lift the butt back up.
Besides working the core, this exercise also helps with trunk support.
Primarily targets: core.
Lie on the mat, arms overhead, legs extended.
Lift the legs, arms and torso together off the mat into a V-position. (Pretend you’re a book closing from either ends.)
Lower the body down together to the ground.
Fire up almost every muscle group in the body with this move.
Primarily targets: core, quads, arms.
Start in a full arm plank, arms slightly wider than shoulder width.
Lift one leg, draw the knee in between your arms.
Take that leg back into plank and alternate legs.
Repeat. Speed it up
Bridge on heels
Activate the lower posterior chain and feel the burn with this one.
Primarily targets: hamstrings, glutes.
Lie on your back, arms by your side, feet hip width apart, heels on the mat, toes up towards the ceiling.
Lift the butt off the ground. Hold.
Walk one heel a few inches to the front.
Walk the other heel the same distance.
Bring the first heel back to primary position.
Bring the other heel back to primary position.
Lower the butt to the ground.
Up & down plank
A great exercise to challenge your arms and stability.
Primarily targets: core and arms.
Start in a full arm plank.
Drop one arm down into a forearm plank. Elbow inline with the shoulder.
Drop the other arm into a forearm plank.
Lift one arm back up into a full arm plank.
Lift the other arm back up into a full arm plank.
Strengthen your glutes with some wall support.
Primarily targets: glutes, quads
Stand with your back to the wall.
Press your back and head to the wall.
Slowly walk your feet away from the wall and lower down against the wall till you feel your glutes activate.
Try to lower down till your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Walk your feet back and slowly lift back up into standing position.
These are explosive and will get your heart rate racing in seconds. (If you have weak knees, best to avoid them and go for wall squats).
Primarily targets: core, quads and glutes.
Start with feet shoulder width apart.
Drop the butt back and down into a squat.
Lift your arms up and jump, bringing your knees to your chest.
Softly land back into a squat.
A common exercise in HIIT classes for the entire body. Be ready to break into a sweat and fast.
Primarily targets: quads, arms and core
Start in standing position, feet hip width apart.
Bend the knees, go into a low squat.
Place your hands on the ground.
Jump/walk your feet to the back into a full-arm plank.
Go down into a low push up, push back up.
Jump/walk back into a low squat.
Drive your hips up, lift your arms and jump.
Once these exercises become easy or monotonous, challenge yourself by adding props, like resistance bands, stability ball, weights or if those are not available to you, grab towels and filled water bottles as alternatives.
Try not to overwhelm your body all at once by doing all the exercises listed. Pick a few then keep adding and removing. Variations for different levels are available online. Google them. As you do these moves, notice the changes in your body, for example, strength, energy levels, etc.
Always check with a specialist before starting any form of exercise. Almost all exercises have modifications to cater to different body types and ailments, ask your specialist to guide you if you require assistance.
Munnazzah Raza is a journalist-turned-Pilates instructor who occasionally writes.
Through her training she hopes to promote body acceptance and help clients break out of diet culture. If that's your cuppa follow her on Instagram @pilateswithmunnazzah.