In the early days of the COVID shutdown, fitness equipment was almost as scarce as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. When fitness clubs and gyms shut down, people sought alternative workout methods.
An unexpected silver lining from the global pandemic allowed people to focus on the three F’s: family, friends, and fitness.
One local fitness trainer who has witnessed this firsthand is Lisa Hammill of GoodLife Fitness in Cambridge. GoodLife’s clubs have re-opened at reduced capacity with all-new protocols, but even during the early days of the quarantine, she saw an increase in people refocusing on fitness.
“Maybe people who were less active before are more active now,” Hammill said. “The main reason: probably just because it’s something to do. We were all stuck at home. It was easy to go out for a walk or a bike ride or play with the kids in the backyard, whatever it was. It was just something to fill your time, really.”
Where fitness club members used to use weights as part of their workout regimen, Hammill said some of her clients got creative by lifting broom handles with paint cans as a crude barbell system.
Hammill couldn’t access her home base at GoodLife, so she brought the gym into her home by investing in a TRX Suspension Training system, a popular at-home workout setup. She welcomed the change of routine and learned alternative ways to keep busy.
“I didn’t find it too challenging,” Hamill said. “It was almost a nice change of pace. I was used to doing a boot camp or weighted workout in the club, so it was nice to force myself to try different things and get creative.
“It was great for my clients too. I would send them exercises to try based on the equipment they had. Just to keep them busy and motivated and check in on them during these times, because it’s weird.”
While some clients changed their routine, others opted to use the time at home as means to begin a workout program for the first time, or get back into fitness again after a long layoff.
The benefits of a regular workout routine are undeniable, but Hammill explained it’s important to find an activity you enjoy. Her clients are more likely to stick with a program when it’s something that doesn’t feel like “work”, more like “play”.
When people ask her to recommend a simple workout to start with, she always suggests an activity that people will look forward.
“Honestly, my answer is the one that you’ll do. Something that you’ll enjoy and doesn’t feel like it’s something you have to add to your day or it’s a hassle to do,” Hamill said. “You want it to be enjoyable because that’s what will make it fun and make you want to keep doing it farther than just that initial excitement of starting something new.”
Hammill recommended that anyone looking to get into a new program to ease into their training regimen, whether it be running, cross training, or resistance training. Not only is it important to ease into the program, but participants should have all the proper equipment and workout gear.
“Just like anything, if you start a weight program, you don’t start with the heaviest weight in the gym. You have to work up to it,” Hamill said. “Just like running, people need to get their bodies into shape for that. They should have proper footwear. People don’t think of that, usually. They think a sports shoe is good for anything, but not necessary the right support for running.”
Repetition and consistency are crucial in a workout regimen, but Hammill cautions that sticking to the same plan week after week can allow the body to get comfortable. She recommends changing up workouts to maximize performance.
“It’s important to always mix up your workout plan so that your body’s always guessing,” Hammill said. “So, you’re always going to have results; you’re not always doing the same workouts three times a week. If it’s getting easy, it’s time to change it up.
“Maybe increasing weight if you have it, maybe increasing speed if you’re running. If you’re used to running long distance, maybe you’re doing some shorter intervals. If the body knows it’s coming, you’re not going to be seeing results, because it’s used to it. Kind of throwing a curveball at the body is going to make sure that you’re seeing the best results.”
GoodLife Fitness centres started re-opening across Ontario as part of Phase 3. Part of the new protocols requires members to book one-hour time blocks to work out, members must wear masks when entering and exiting the club, and the facility closes down for a 30-minute reset every hour for cleaning.
As of now, less than half of Hammill’s clients have returned for in-person workouts, as some are opting to stay home, instead using remote workout sessions over Zoom or Facetime.
“It’s weird times and people aren’t really sure: ‘Is it safe to be coming back?’ That kind of thing. We’re definitely doing our best to get people back when they’re ready, but if they’re not quite ready, we’ve tried to factor that in as well and give people options that way.”