And just like that, the lights went out on the local gym.
On Friday 20 March, Boris Johnson announced that gyms and leisure centres – along with pubs, cafes and restaurants – must close their doors and not open them again until instructed, to help fight the spread of coronavirus.
It means we’re facing weeks, possibly months, of staying in – but that shouldn’t mean the end of your fitness regime. As we pointed out in our big guide to at-home work-outs, there are plenty of equipment-free things you can do to stay fit.
However, for those who are used to gym training, the idea of swapping proper weights for lifting wine boxes and tins of beans (if you can find any of those in your local shop) might feel a bit jarring. So with shops still open online, what are the basic bits of exercise kit that will help you to recreate the gym at home? We spoke to personal trainers to find out…
A Swiss ball
“I’d say a Swiss ball is probably my top pick for home work-outs,” says James Stark, a personal trainer and co-founder of Bristol based gym chain Starks Fitness. “There’s a lot of different exercises that can be done with a Swiss ball, especially stuff that’s core based.
“They generally come in 55cm, 65cm, or 75cm. You can work out whether you’re short, medium or tall to choose which one you need.
“A swiss ball can provide you with a slightly unstable but safe and fun platform to sit on, lie on, stretch on, push and lunge from,” adds Nigel Stockill, performance director of Firstbeat.
A decent pair of dumbbells
“A pair of small dumbbells should definitely be in your home equipment arsenal,” says Angela Ioannou, area fitness manager and personal trainer at Everyone Active. “One, two and five kilogram dumbbells are a great weight to add additional resistance to exercises like lunges, side raises, bicep curls and tricep extensions. You don’t need to go heavy, if you keep your repetitions strict then you can get an amazing full body workout with them.
“Adjustable dumbbells are an amazing alternative, as you can create one heavy dumbbell and use for unilateral training, overloading one side.”
If you can’t buy dumbbells, that tin of beans might come in handy after all. “Large bags of rice or sugar can even be used to make any exercise that bit more difficult.Combine weighted squats with shoulder presses, lunges and upright rows, press ups and bent over rows for a full body workout that, when done in quick succession will be sure to get your heart racing.”
“The kettlebell is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment out there,” says Tommy Wanless, head of training at Speedflex. “Training the whole body, it is great for building muscle and also working your cardiovascular system – really getting the heart pumping.”
Wanless recommends using a kettlebell for squats, deadlifts, swings, and shoulder presses to start with before graduating to more complex moves like the Turkish get up, clean and press, and snatches. “The offset weight nature of a kettlebell means it recruits more muscles as you have to stabilise the weight, and when used unilaterally requires a huge amount of core stability and balance. An 8-12kg kettlebell will be plenty for most exercises.”
If you don’t have a kettlebell then Wanless suggests using a rucksack or bag for life with some packs of sugar or rice in them. “Creating a distance between the weight and the handle is key to having the weight offset – to recruit those extra stabilising muscle groups.”
If ceiling height permits or you’ve got a decent garden, then Stark recommends a skipping rope. “They’re very cost efficient, they’re very easy to come by,” he says, but it’s probably not worth paying a fortune for a fancy weighted one or something with rotating handles. “Those are probably for people with a bit more experience skipping because there’s a bit of an art and a form to it.
“Initially you just need a decent quality standard skipping rope which can be adjustable based on height. If you get good at skipping rhythm then you can master some of the drills.”
A yoga mat
“Yoga blocks and a mat is plenty to get a good home workout in, there is so much you can do with these,” says Marine Constant, climbing yoga teacher at Westway Climbing. “You can work on strength, flexibility, cardio and mindfulness without breaking the bank. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to follow along to, from beginner to expert. Staying healthy from home doesn’t have to be complicated.”
OK it’s not technically exercise equipment, but if you’re buying exercise equipment it might be available and you’ll want to pick yourself up a big pack of protein powder, says Stark. “Protein is one of the three macronutrients that our bodies need to survive, and probably the most important to get on a consistent basis,” he explains. “Research studies show that 30-35pc of our calorific intake each day should be from a protein source. From years of working in the industry, I can tell you that whenever we analyse people’s nutrition, the macronutrient which is usually massively underrepresented is protein. That’s not from a gaining muscle perspective, that’s just from a health perspective. So you should look at it as a lifestyle product.”
Usually most of us get our protein from fresh meat, but with stockpiling and hoarding being what they are, even simple sausages are becoming hard to find, so a decent protein powder which you can use in smoothies and even baking is probably a good buy at the moment.
A cheap tablet
Around the country, many gyms are jumping online to offer live-streamed training classes to via social media. Starks Fitness will be doing so live every morning at 8.30am for half an hour on their Instagram channel for example. “Being trapped inside over the next few weeks, exercise is one of the best things to do for mental health and just general health and also, to bring people together, exercise is a good way to socialise,” says Stark.
To this end, you might want to consider investing in a cheap tablet with access to social media.
You can find our Telegraph Recommended guide to the best tablets here.