Maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle is a tough challenge during lockdown, one that has understandably taken a back seat over the past few weeks. Average step counts are down and so many of the little bits of energy we use through a normal day are no longer called upon. Meanwhile chocolate, alcohol and Netflix are all on the up.
Many of us have got in the habit of regular walks or cycles, used fitness videos or even put together a makeshift gym to keep our bodies working. But with limited space or equipment, the hardest part is achieving real intensity.
It is possible, though, to do HIIT training at home during lockdown. HIIT – high-intensity interval training – is a training session made up of a series of fast bursts of exercise, like running on a treadmill or cycling on a wattbike. The key is to push hard: this anaerobic exercise has numerous benefits for the body, developing the heart and lungs over time to improve fitness and endurance and reduce body fat.
It makes you sweat, too. HIIT sessions are normally relatively short, between 20-30 minutes, but are always hard work and take plenty of motivation and discipline to see through on a regular basis – experts typically recommend three or four sessions per week. But with a little more time on our hands and some energy to burn, there’s no time like the present to do some interval training.
Jo Seldon, Nuffield Health’s fitness development manager, has designed a 25 minute session to suit all levels, which requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. The session includes a warm-up, a cool-down and seven exercises performed three times each – it’s 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. Give it a try:
Gentle jogging: Begin jogging at a steady pace on the spot. Gradually increase your speed every minute until you are slightly out of breath but can still hold a conversation. Do this for five minutes, until you feel warmed up and ready to begin the main workout.
Sprint on the spot: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Keep your back straight and head up. Begin by running on the spot, then gradually increase your speed until you are sprinting. Pump your arms as fast as you can and lift your knees up to your chest, high and fast.
Wide hands push-up: Start with hands on the floor under your chest, then lift up onto your toes, ensuring that your back stays flat. Lower your body so that your chest gets as close to the floor as possible, and push back up through your hands. Repeat the move, ensuring that you keep your hips up and back straight throughout. For an easier option, drop to your knees to perform the exercise, making sure that you continue to keep your core engaged.
Jump squat: Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with your toes turned out slightly, your abs braced and your shoulders relaxed. Hinge at the hips to push your bum back and lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, in a squat position. Drive through your heels and explode off the floor into a jump. Land softly then use the momentum from landing to move back into your next squat.
Jump lunge: Start with your feet just wider than hip width apart keeping your posture tall with a straight spine. Step your right leg forward and lower until both knees are bent at a 90 degree angle or one inch off the ground. Your weight should be balanced between both legs. From this position jump high and switch leg positions at the top of the jump landing with the opposite leg forwards.
For a harder variation, continue to jump lunge from one leg to the other so that you are performing one continuous exercise.
Lateral plyo-squats: To perform the exercise, bring your feet close, keep your knees soft (bent slightly) and your shoulders back and down. Making sure to keep your core tight, step out wide to the right and squat down. Come back to the centre, and repeat on the opposite side. To make this move harder, add a jump in the middle.
Spiderman push-up: To perform this move, start in a push-up position, with your hands underneath your shoulders on the floor, your back flat and your feet hip distance apart. Staggering your hands, lower your torso down to the ground and bring your right knee to your hip, making sure that your hips don’t hit the ground. Repeat the move on the opposite side. For an easier variation on this exercise, bring your knees down to the ground and perform the move, still making sure that your hips don’t touch the ground.
Jump outs: With your feet hip width apart, put your weight onto your heels and lower yourself into a squat placing hands flat onto the floor in front of you, shifting your weight onto your hands. Jump both feet back landing in a plank position. Then jump feet forwards back to a low squat position, then stand back up. For a harder variation, jump in, and jump up off the floors, bringing your hands over your head as you do so.
Stretch it out: Walk slowly on the spot, making sure that you feel relaxed and stretched out. When you are ready, come to a standstill and roll your shoulders backwards in a reverse movement. Repeat this, and then switch to rolling your shoulders in a forward motion. Bring your arms overhead so that hands are clasped together, with your feet hip distance apart. Bring your arms down towards the floor and then raise them back up. Tip your arms to one side so that you feel a stretch all the way down, and then repeat with the other side.
And relax. Exercise complete!