The inevitable has happened, and Ireland is in lockdown. The situation we are dealing with is unprecedented, and we are presented with a uniquely challenging set of circumstances; cut off from family members and social activities, we have never been more frightened, isolated, frustrated or sedentary.
As an industry, fitness professionals, coaches and nutrition experts work to help you with your health and fitness goals. And the fitness industry has changed overnight. We’re no longer able to work with you in person, hold a bootcamp class, meet you in the gym to train or roll out a strength and conditioning session for a team. But we are still here. We’re holding virtual bootcamp classes that you can do from your own sitting room, we’re filming exercise libraries that can be sent to teams, and we’re working with our one to one clients via video conferencing apps. We’re thinking on our feet and adapting to every new challenge that has been thrown at us, so that we can remain available to help you with your goals.
The terrain has changed a little though, and the goals have shifted. Our philosophy has always been to help you be the best version of you. But with the current situation, the best version of you has probably changed to “the best version of you under the circumstances”. And that last part is key; it’s the part that means you have to stop giving yourself a hard time about your lack of motivation or your food choices or your inability to get out and train. As your trainer, I am telling you that it’s OK to not be losing weight or gaining muscle right now, and I’m going to go one step further and say that you may well even gain a few pounds of body fat and that’s OK too. In the scheme of things, some of our health goals have had to be temporarily put on hold – along with our social lives, visits to the gym and meals out! We’re all adapting and that includes having to adapt your expectations.
The base line here is that we have to pick the biggest and most important goal and focus on that – and for everyone it has to start with mental health. Because when all of this ends (and it will!), you need to be mentally strong enough to do what is necessary to fight to get back anything you have lost as a result of not being able to exercise.
Protecting our physical health plays a huge role in preserving our mental health. Not everyone is in a position to get out and walk right now but if you are, do it! Walk as much as you can!! Walking is the most accessible, easy, uplifting form of exercise we have at the moment and it has the added benefit of providing you with fresh air and Vitamin D, which you get from the sun. It will also help you sleep better and quality sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. If you can’t get out, join our online exercise class, which we run via Zoom every weekday morning at 10am for 25 minutes (text me on 087 963 7666 to sign up!).
Have a daily routine – whether you are working from home, temporarily laid off, living alone or trying to organise kids, a routine is vital for your sanity. Eat, wake and sleep at the same time every day. Plan your other activities in advance and if you have none, find some! Read, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, meditate, keep a diary, learn to cook something new, have a virtual coffee with friends via a video conferencing app. Make use of the free resources that have been made available online. Plan your meals and shop accordingly (remember, Future You is a virtual prisoner in your own house – use that to your advantage when planning the weekly food shop!). Don’t drink – alcohol is a depressant and will also affect your sleep. Seek out sunshine, even if it is only through the living room window. Relish time with family and with pets.
The little things we do to protect our mental health now will help us to get back on track with our bigger fitness goals later on. So keep reminding yourself that – just for now – the best version of you is waiting in the near future. For today, you just have to be good enough.
It’s been twelve days since our schools here in Ireland closed their doors, and in that time we find ourselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. During the last week, more non-essential services and shops have closed, and people are struggling to navigate the landscape of new phrases like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”.
Non-specific, conceptual recommendations like “practice social distancing” can be unclear and confusing. It is far better to deal in known quantities and specifics: if you ask people to “maintain a distance of at least 2 metres with people you don’t live with whenever you leave the house”, their goal is clearly understood and measurable and they are more likely to follow it.
In the same way, we at Intelligent Fitness like to deal in specific, measurable goals rather than concepts, and now more than ever we can apply this to our exercise and nutrition plans. What are your goals for the next few weeks? “Try not to get too fat” is the most common answer we’re hearing!
We’re in the unprecedented situation of being restless and housebound, of having large stockpiles of food and alcohol at home, and of being incredibly worried. The temptation to comfort eat and drink is huge, and now more than ever we need to plan what we buy and what we are cooking and eating.
As well as practicing a bit of expectation management over the coming weeks (it may not be realistic to have weight loss as a goal right now), the goal of simply maintaining your current body composition until we can get back to normal is probably a good one. But how are you going to change that from a non-specific, conceptual goal to a measurable one?
The odds would appear to be stacked against you. For a start, your NEAT is way down! At 15%, the second greatest daily calorie expenditure for most people (after metabolic functions) comes from NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Which is a fancy way of saying activity that is not planned exercise. Running for the bus; taking the stairs at work; walking to the shop for a pint of milk – in short, all of the things that we are no longer doing.
If you make an assumption that, being housebound, you are moving, say 10% less, then to maintain your body weight, you either need to eat 10% fewer calories to compensate, or get out and move 10% more. Having a daily step goal is a great start – it’s measurable and specific. If you can’t get outdoors, you can set a calorie goal and use a tracker app like MyFitnessPal – again, it’s specific and measurable and therefore more likely to work as a strategy.
We are now offering daily Virtual Bootcamp classes that you can do from your own sitting room, with a WhatsApp support group to help you with your exercise and nutrition at this very challenging time (contact us on 087 963 7666 to sign up!). Like all trainers and nutrition coaches at the moment, the way we work with our clients is changing. But our goal – to help you be the best version of you – as always, remains the same.
Here in Ireland, we have gone from our first confirmed case of COVID-19 fifteen days ago to 129 confirmed cases as of today, including two deaths.
Schools, colleges and creches are closed, and many shops, restaurants and small businesses are deciding to shut down temporarily. People are understandably worried; for their health and the health of their older relatives; for their finances; for the availability of resources and for their mental health in the face of such uncertainty.
We have no choice at the moment about what is happening to us, and no clear idea of what the outcome will be for individuals or the economy, and that coupled with the social media frenzy and empty supermarket shelves is understandably causing a great deal of anxiety.
Like everyone else, we at Intelligent Fitness are concerned. But we are focussing on this above all else:
You can’t change what is happening, but you can change your reaction to it.
In line with preventative measures being taken at the moment and to ensure the health and safety of our valued clients, the High Performance Centre in Fingallians will close for a period of at least two weeks and we won’t be training clients or holding classes on the premises.
We certainly won’t be sitting this one out though! We’ll be contacting all of our clients privately to discuss one to one personal training sessions and ways in which you can continue to train. We’ll be holding virtual classes online that you can do from home. We’ll be active on social media with coping strategies, exercise ideas and nutrition tips.
We can’t change what is happening, but we can change our reaction to it. Our focus is now on helping you navigate the new challenges we are facing in changing circumstances and providing you with the right tools and support that you need to make sure that your physical health and mental wellbeing are protected during this worrying time.
It’s a bit of a frightening time at the moment with the worldwide Coronavirus scare causing panic, and we wanted to share with you some of our thoughts on the role of exercise and nutrition in keeping you healthy and strengthening your immune system.
A healthy immune system can defeat pathogens and protect you against illness, and is affected by diet, exercise, age and psychological stress, among other things. A good starting point is to protect yourself from environmental factors (don’t smoke, avoid excess alcohol, wash your hands thoroughly and cook meat properly) and adopt healthy living strategies, some of which we have detailed below.
Maintain a Balanced Diet!
Vitamin C, is important for immune function, bone structure, iron absorbtion and healthy skin. We mostly find it in citrus fruits, strawberries, green vegetables and tomatoes, and taking slightly elevated doses of vitamin C does appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms, although there is no need for the mega-doses of vitamin C that some are currently advising.
Deficiencies of zinc, copper, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E can alter the immune response, and are again better absorbed through the diet rather than supplementation (although if you don’t eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables it may be advisable to take a good quality multivitamin). Eat a wide range of whole foods, and lots of colourful fruit and veg to ensure you are getting enough micronutrients!
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against a variety of diseases and helps contribute to a healthy immune system. It contributes even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Don’t Get Stressed!
Emotional stress and immune function do appear to be linked, although it’s difficult to define because stress is subjective and varies from one person to the next. If you feel stressed and particularly if that is in turn affecting your sleep, your immune system could be compromised. Exercise – and we can’t stress this enough – helps enormously in combating stress and aiding healthy sleep.
So as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, it’s vital that we all keep moving and exercising. As tempting as it may be to stay at home, try to get out for a walk, get to your fitness class or visit the gym because it will help combat stress, improve sleep and keep your immune system fighting fit!