“No Travel” Tales #8: Exercise

It’s usually at this point in the year that we’re inundated with ads telling us to “get beach body ready”, a rightfully criticised slogan that seems to have only just disappeared in response to lockdown. 

“Get isolation body ready” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, with people unable to show off their newly toned physiques amidst a sea of burnt Brits on vacation. Yet, in spite of this lack of incentive, exercise has become a popular distraction in lockdown – a means to keep active in an otherwise stationary world. We could use the endorphines after all. 

The outdoor world is a new mise-en-scène for fitness enthusiasts, as lampposts become markers for interval training, trees transform into stretching props, and monkey bars in abandoned playgrounds are used for pull-ups. Outdoor activities like tennis and golf have recommenced – those whereby the two-metre yardstick applies – while strawberries and cream and pints of Pimms survive the cancellation of Wimbledon. 

Inside, living rooms have been transformed into exercise studios, with furniture displaced for dumbbells and yoga mats. Where equipment is lacking, tinned food and bags of pasta are used as makeshift weights – another reason that they’re selling out in the supermarkets. The faux gym is exposed for what it really is when you approach the floor to perform a plank, less than two metres from clusters of dirt, grime and crumbs from one-too-many TV dinners.

Virtual exercise classes bring a collective atmosphere to a lonely home, as trainers fitted with microphones and headgear are as motivational as ever with “You can do it!” and “Good job!” soundbites, feeding my delusion that I can be a future Olympian – the games are postponed so there’s no excuse.

It’s much harder, however, for them to hold you accountable when you revert to a child’s pose instead of “10 more push-ups”, pick the lightest weights possible, or sandwich the word “to” between “resistance” and “training”. Dodgy wifi also works in your favour here, prematurely halting an exercise class through no fault of your own. Some of us have created our very own circuits workouts, with reps of baking and eating incorporated into the mix once stitch ensues.

Avid screen-scrollers might choose to interpret exercise regimes according to their newfound fluency in digital vocabulary – surely Couch to 5K is a challenge to reach 5,000 Instagram followers? Meanwhile, sun worshippers struggle to find time between passing clouds to exercise, though the sweat induced by persistent tanning could be mistaken for that of a HIT class, with the benefit of freckles and Vitamin D. 

For those that find the act of solo exercise daunting, I’ve attempted to get the household involved, acting as an unqualified head coach. The term “burpee” confuses some participants, while others find it hard not to giggle at the cat cow yoga pose. Still, maybe I’m doing something right. Laughter is a form of toning after all, tightening your abs in the process. 

The yoga mat is by far the most popular piece of equipment in the house. While it’s a means of meditation for humans, the dog has adopted the cushioned surface as her new bed. I’ve chosen not to argue with her. At the end of the day, she’s far better at downward dog.  

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