A few days ago, a man climbed to the rooftop of his apartment block in Spain. Perched up high, he called out, attracting the attention of other residents stuck at home under Spanish 'Stay in Place' regulations. People appeared on their balconies to hear what the man had to say. Our man on the rooftop was not there to lecture. He was a fitness instructor who proceeded to do simple exercises, such as jumping jacks, for people on their balcony to follow along. An unusual fitness class had begun. Even in a time of crisis, effective exercise is still possible.
Those of you who work out with a barbell at home can continue lifting as normal. Those of you who own a kettlebell might want to stop using it as a doorstop and start swinging again. The most effective way is to do 'A and A' swings. This is very simple:
- Swing a kettlebell for 5-10 repetitions.
- Rest until your breathing returns to near normal, and you can talk in full sentences. Do not time the rests. This is not high-intensity interval training. Resting is crucial.
- Then repeat the swings.
- This can be repeated for a few times, ten times, or even for forty minutes.
- Don't time your session. Don't aim for a certain amount of time or repetitions. Go until you start to feel a little tired, but stop before you feel worn-out. For some people, a session might be three minutes, others might go much longer. Eventually, the time lengthens as fitness and strength improve.
- This can be done daily.
But what about those who do not have a Spaniard on their rooftop nor a kettlebell at home? In many countries, where people are self-isolating, solitary outdoor activity is still allowed. Daily walking in one's neighbourhood, away from people, remains a good form of exercise. Walking a least a mile a day, or much more for those able, can be done. Walking uphill and increasing the pace also help. Similarly, those with bikes can still ride them, especially as the roads are quieter, and may afford the opportunity to take children out too.
Beyond this, there are a series of workouts a person can do at home without any equipment. Several performance fitness coaches have published their findings on seven-minute workouts. They found them to be an extremely effective and efficient means to increase cardiopulmonary health. The secret is to work different major muscle groups, such as upper and lower body, during every workout, allowing one muscle group to rest, while the next muscle group works.
The New York Times online is an excellent resource for these workouts, with demonstrations and instructions on how to do them. They can be found by searching for the following pages on the New York Times website:
- The Scientific 7 Minute Workout.
- The Six Minute Workout.
- Can't do the seven minute workout.
The latter page is for people who might struggle with some of the exercises and makes use of a chair. It also allows beginners to put together their own exercises according to ability. Eventually, seven-minute workouts can be repeated throughout the day, to further improve health and fitness.
The Original Strength people also have tens of mobility and strength exercises, from beginner to advanced, that keep a person mobile and healthy. These can all be done at home without any equipment. They are also available and demonstrated online.
Health is not just about exercise. This crisis offers us the opportunity to reset. We can deepen our dhikr and relationship with the Quran. We've added two new mudhakara sessions called Tabaqat al-Sulami and About Right. These are both broadcast on the Mixlr website and app. We can read more books. We can do our Qigong. And we can exercise.
Alternatively, we can sit in front of live updates from news websites around the world, getting ever more worried as we watch the numbers climb. This serves us no benefit. It does not help our health, nor our understanding of current events. It's harmful. Don't put unnecessary stress on your mind and body, or on other people, by trying to figure out what's going on. When your insights are coming from your screen, then you're not an expert, and unlikely to figure out very much. Stay away from breathless sensationalism and conspiracies. If you must read something about the crisis, read long-form, considered articles from reliable sources, or expert opinion, rather than 'hot takes'. Instead, follow best practice for your country, keep your body active, and your mind inactive from the latest up-to-the-minute reports.