How to stay motivated to workout from home, according to experts
Former Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and Chris Hemsworth’s personal trainer Luke Zocchi share their top tips
While the world continues to face the coronavirus pandemic, you may be finding it difficult maintaining your regular workout routine or feeling motivated to exercise at all.
However, working out in some form on a regular basis will prove extremely beneficial for your physical health in the long run, not to mention also helping to alleviate some of the stress you may be experiencing.
Of course, finding the time and space to exercise while at home is far easier said than done. Nonetheless, with gyms being closed and people spending less time outdoors, we have to try our best to make do with our domestic surroundings.
The Independent has spoken to fitness experts who have provided their top tips for ways you can stay motivated to workout from home, in addition to some examples of exercises you can try.
From former Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill to Chris Hemsworth’s personal trainer Luke Zocchi, here are their golden nuggets of advice:
Maintain a regular routine
Weekdays can easily flow into weekends while spending the majority of your time at home, which is why sticking to a regular routine is a good idea.
“Routine is everything,” says personal trainer and fitness expert Stefanie Williams. “Plan your day like you would if you were leaving the house to go to work and structure in regular tasks.”
Ennis-Hill reiterates this point, recommending that people “go back to their school days” by making “a plan you can commit to” on pen and paper.
“Once it’s written down it’s always easier to stick to,” the track and field athlete states. “Put this somewhere you can see it every day and tick the days off as you go.”
“Better yet, record your progress to track how to get on and monitor fitness gains”.
Luke Zocchi, Chris Hemsworth’s personal trainer and a featured expert on Centr (the Avengers actor’s personalized digital health and fitness program), adds that making sure to “get in a routine and be consistent” can “help shake off some of the stress you’re probably feeling.
“Things are stressful right now, don’t underestimate how starting your day with a short workout can boost your mood and give you more energy,” he states.
Make space in your home
With the current global climate, you should set aside areas of your home where you can relax and your mind can be put at ease.
You should also select a space in your household that is to become your regular exercise haunt, Williams says.
“Dedicate an area in your home to working out and have your workout clothes and workout area ready the night before each workout day,” she suggests.
Ollie Thompson, a personal trainer for SIX3NINE in Covent Garden, London, emphasizes that creating a space in your home for your fitness schedule is “crucial”.
“Having a dedicated space will not only remind you to exercise regularly but it will also be a great motivator knowing that the space is ready for use and you don’t need to reshuffle the furniture,” he says. “There’s a lot that you can do with a simple mat or a towel.”
Set aside the right amount of time for you
“Quality, not quantity,” says Centr trainer Zocchi. “If you’re training at the right intensity and pushing yourself, you can get an awesome cardio workout session done in around 20 minutes.
“If you’re smashing out a weights session to build serious muscle you should still keep it to an hour max.”
In Williams’ opinion, working out in the morning would be beneficial so you can “make the most of your energy and to motivate you for the day”.
“Dedicate a set time for your workouts and protect that time,” she says, recommending that beginners do around 15 to 20 minutes of exercise every other day and that regular gym-goers aim for 45 to 60 minutes of exercise every other day.
For parents looking after children at home, it may be easier said than done to find the right time to exercise during the day.
Steven Virtue, fitness content and programming manager at Total Fitness, advises working out while the children are napping or combining playtime with exercise.
“Whilst your toddler or school child is enjoying their playtime, join in and make this a time for you to be active as well,” he says.
“Keep yourself fit by spending quality time with your children and enjoy the health benefits it has to offer.”
Invite friends or family to exercise with you
Just because many of us are in self-isolation doesn’t mean we can’t be social with one another, both with other individuals in our households and those who are elsewhere.
If you would rather not exercise on your own, having your friends or family members join in with you could help give you a boost, either in person or over video chat.
“It’s always so much easier to stick to a workout plan, get into the zone and stay motivated if you have friends or family to join in with you,” Ennis-Hill says.
“If you’re alone, get your friends together and do a virtual workout over FaceTime, Skype, whatever you want to use — the more the merrier!”
Williams adds that you can spruce up your joint workouts with friends by setting challenges for one another using a timer when doing certain exercises.
Focus on how the workout will make you feel
When doing regular exercise, it is important that you do physical activities that you enjoy, rather than feeling as though you need to copy what somebody else is doing.
“Approach activity in the way you enjoy it,” says SIX3NINE trainer Thompson. “If you’ve never been somebody that enjoys running, don’t force yourself to.
“If you find a style of exercise that you enjoy the most and is physically possible with the space and resources that you have, then do it!”
Ennis-Hill adds that it is important not to think too much “about how tough or daunting the workout you do is going to be”.
“Focus on the endorphin rush and how great you will feel after!” she says.
“I’ve always said how exercise is such a great way to get the happy hormone flowing and if you must stay at home, exercise is a sure-fire way to give you a little boost.”
Seek guidance from those in-the-know
If you are unsure where to start with your at-home fitness routine, it could be worth reaching out to a fitness professional who can provide you with assistance, says Thompson.
“I would advise chatting to your gym as they might be able to help you devise a plan,” he says, explaining that while they are closed, SIX3NINE is able to provide personal training sessions via video chat.
Online health and fitness programs are also able to help people at home keep up their fitness levels, with Centr currently offering a six-week free trial for new members who sign up by Sunday 5 April.
For further fitness inspiration, here are some workouts you could try:
Home HIT workout
This workout, devised by personal trainer Williams, takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.
All it entails is a series of exercises, spending 30 seconds doing each, and then repeating the entire workout three times.
These exercises are:
- Chest to floor burpees
- Lying leg raises
- Jumping squats
- Jumping curtsy squats
- Press ups, which you can do either on the floor or resting on a piece of furniture such as a sofa
- Crab walks
Williams also offers more at-home workouts on her app Fit with Stef, which is available to download on iOS from the App Store.
“Circuits are an amazing way to get fit and keep in shape,” says Ennis-Hill. “I used to do these all the time in training and they’re amazing at lifting your mood and giving you that great little boost.”
For the following circuit workout, Ennis-Hill recommends doing each exercise for around 20 to 30 seconds at a time, resting for 10 seconds between each one. The circuit is to be repeating three times, with a rest period of between 60 to 90 seconds in between each set.
The exercises in Ennis-Hill’s circuit are:
- Jumping lunges
- Sit and reach
- Squat jumps
- Plank with shoulder taps
- Static squats
- Bicycle crunches
The former Olympic stars fitness app Jennis is available to download on iOS and on Android for £9.99 per month.
AMRAP, SIX3NINE’s Thompson explains, stands for “as many rounds as possible”.
“This format of training is an excellent choice for people with time restraints, limited space and people that wish to pace themselves,” the personal trainer explains.
In order to do an AMRAP workout, you first need to set a timer for either 10, 20 or 30 minutes depending on your fitness level.
You then choose either two or three exercises to do. These will be then carried out “in a circuit fashion without a rest in between them with the goal of repeating each round as many times as you can within the time you’ve set yourself”.
One AMRAP workout that Thompson recommends involves doing the following exercises:
- 20 bodyweight squats
- 10 plank walkouts
- 30-second dish hold
“Pace yourself and try to perform as many rounds as you can within your set time period,” Thompson says.
“This style can be great for progressing also, try to beat your score week on week.”
While you may think being at-home eliminates your chance to take part in an effective cardio workout, you are mistaken.
Tig Hodson, the co-founder of women-only fitness and nutrition brand StrongHer, has provided an insight into several cardio-inspired exercise moves you can do at home to help boost your fitness.
The first, called “start lines”, involves imagining that you are setting yourself up to start a race.
If you were to start on your right hand side, you would put yourself in a position similar to a reverse lunge, with your right leg extended back behind you in a straight line, the ball of your foot on the floor and your hands on the floor either side of your left foot.
“From here you drive up through your left leg thrusting your right knee up towards your chest and do a little jump off the left foot, then reverse the movement so you are back to the starting position,” Hodson says.
The second cardio-based exercise is called “skaters”. Starting with your legs hip-width apart, you bend one leg behind the other “at a slight angle, while maintaining weight and balance on the supporting”.
“As you exhale, simultaneously swing your arms out and leap over to the opposite side. Shift your weight and land with the opposite leg behind or even test that balance and keep the back foot off the floor,” Hodson outlines.
The third cardio exercise is called a “push up and floor thruster”. Starting in a high plank position, you lower yourself to the floor, bending your elbows and making sure that your chest touches the floor.
“As it does, we push back up to the top of the movement and jump both feet outside the hands, then send them back to their original position,” Hodson explains.
If you are looking for a form of exercise that is calm and peaceful, then Jordan Ashley, founder of Souljourn Yoga, has some yoga moves that you can try.
The first, called a “supine twist” involves opening your arms into a “T” shape to “open up the back” while lying on the floor.
You then bring one of your legs over the other one, while your head turns the opposite direction.
“Doing this pose on the floor provides great support for the whole body to release,” Ashley says. “In yoga, supine twists often come at the end, after you’ve put in all of that hard work and are beginning to cool down”.
A second move Ashley recommends is the “bridge”. “Anything to open up the back body can create a sense of energy or lift,” she states.
“Also, if you are working from home and feel like your posture needs a little bit of a boost, a bridge can help to open up the shoulders and create length in the spine.”
One of Ashley’s favorite yoga shapes, she states, is the “tree”, “as it exudes feelings of strength and energy”.
“Stand on one leg. Press evenly floor to thigh and thigh to foot, or foot to ankle/ankle to shin. Tuck your tailbone under. Close your ribs together and find your belly-to-spine connection,” she explains.
An introduction to foundation exercise moves
Zocchi has provided detailed explanations of how to perform three foundation workout moves — mountain climbers, push-ups and bicycle crunches.
For the first move, mountain climbers, Zocchi says to start in a high push up position with your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width, your arms extended and “a straight line from your shoulders to ankles”.
“Bring your left knee toward your right elbow (touch it if you can) and return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. This is one repetition,” he says.
For push-ups, Zocchi recommends starting by lying on your stomach with your feet placed together and your hands positioned just outside than your shoulder width.
“Brace your core (squeeze your glutes and abdominal muscles), before pushing away from the floor,” he says. “In the top position your arms should be extended with a straight line from your shoulders to ankles.
“With control lower yourself, stopping before your chest touches the floor. This is one rep.” If you would like to make the exercise slightly easier, you can do so by performing it on your knees.
When doing bicycle crunches, you start by lying on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your hands placed on the sides of your head.
“Engage your abdominal muscles to prepare for the movement,” Zocchi says. “With control, straighten your left leg while bringing your left elbow to your right knee.
“Pause briefly before lowering your elbow and returning your leg to that start position, while simultaneously extending your right leg and raising your right elbow to the left knee. This is one rep.”
Zocchi says in order to “increase the intensity” of this move, you should perform the exercise slowly and with control.