Do you prefer to train solo or in the company of others?
I lean heavily towards the latter but can see the benefit of both, especially after living in lockdown for the past eight weeks.
Training on your own, as I have discovered, has a number of positives.
In a time where there has been more stress in our household, going for a solo run around the neighbourhood or at the park has given me time to think clearly without distraction.
It has been a time to plan, process and ponder, helping me feel I have clarity over the day ahead or to reflect on those past.
I have also loved having the chance not to think, to totally switch off by just focusing on the task at hand. I have found something mind-numbingly therapeutic about counting my way through a set of exercise repetitions and thinking of nothing else but the end point.
But after the first few weeks of training in isolation, with sometimes just the comfort of my dog, the silence soon became deafening.
I am the kind of person who strives in the company of others, so these past two months have been challenging for me in more ways than one.
Whether I am going for a run, training with my soccer team or going to the gym, the company of others always makes me work harder.
On my own, it is much easier to cruise through a session, or to abandon the session altogether, and that classic song 'With a little help from my friends' has been ringing true for me in these strange and unusual times.
After a month of solo training, I enlisted a running buddy to meet at the park, at a distance, and it has definitely kept me motivated while also keeping socially connected. Aside from doing the weekly groceries and grabbing a coffee from my local coffee shop, exercising has been the only other reason I have had to leave the house for the past eight weeks.
Now, as the government eases some of the COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings, I am grateful that with caution I can meet up with a few other friends to exercise and to stay connected. Having the ability to do so, albeit still at a safe distance, could be the thing that keeps you active as we head towards winter.
Committing to exercise with others, whether it is a walk, run, fitness session, bike ride or swim, keeps you accountable. There have been so many mornings, particularly this time of year and through winter, where I would not have gotten out of my toasty, warm bed had it not been for the guilt of letting down my training buddy or buddies.
Having a training buddy or buddies also helps you tackle challenges. My group of friends has had a string of milestone birthdays in the past few years, which has provided motivation to challenge each other to things like 40 sets of stairs or a 40km run/walk for a 40th.
Last week, we were meant to be in the Blue Mountains for the 2020 Ultra Trail Australia. In the past few years it has given us an annual challenge, and six months worth of training together in the lead up to make sure we are prepared. It has been rescheduled for October and that will be the motivation we need to keep pushing through the next five months.
But it does not have to be an event at all. It might be as simple as joining forces at home with a family member or a buddy at the park, or even on zoom, for a partner workout.
This is a great way to add not only a challenge but some fun to a fitness session. A partner workout involves sharing the load to complete a set amount of repetitions of various exercises. You generally work harder because you don't want to let the other person down and it provides the perfect avenue to encourage and motivate each other.
An example would be teaming up to share: 100 squats, 50 push-ups, 100 plyo lunges, 50 renegade rows, 200 skips, 100 shoulder press, 50 burpees. Share the load by alternating turns to reach each total.
Another would be: person A performs strength exercises while person B runs around the block, oval or between cones for a set time. This could be: A squats, B runs. Or A performs 5 squats, 5 push-ups in a continuous fashion while B runs/walks for 1-2 minutes. Swap then switch to: A performs 10 lunges, 5 rows while B runs/walks. This is a good one for the whole family as well. Split into teams and push each other. Get the kids to take on the parents or put the parents on opposing sides.
For me the biggest benefit of training with others is that social connection. At the moment it might just require some different options to train together, like finding somewhere that is less likely to be busy and will allow for social distancing.
If you are a swimmers, some beaches, ocean baths and indoor pools have been re-opened and might be an option to get moving again. You may need to book a time to lap it up at an indoor pool, so check first.
Option 1 (lower intensity): 10 squats or step-ups, 10 modified push-ups, 20 walking lunges, 10 horizontal rows, 20 opposing arm and leg extension, walk around your block or on the spot for 1-2 minutes. Repeat twice.
Option 2 (moderate intensity): 20 step-ups with shoulder press, 10 push-ups, 20-second squat hold against a wall, 5 inch worm walk-outs, 10 single-arm bent-over rows, 10 shoulder press, 20 Russian twists, run around your block, skip or run on the spot for 1-2 minutes. Repeat twice.
Option 3 (vigorous intensity): 10 toe taps on top of a ball, 2 squats with shoulder press, 2 push-ups, 2 jump squats, 2 dead lifts with rows, 2 diagonal lunges (2 for each leg, 4 in total), 2 burpees, 2 short shuttle sprints. Repeat with 20 toe taps and 4 of everything, then 30 and 6, 40 and 8, 50 and 10, then 40 toe taps and 8 of everything, back down to 10 toe taps and 2 of everything. Finish with 3 x 30-second hovers/planks.
- Renee Valentine is a journalist, qualified personal trainer and mother of three. firstname.lastname@example.org