How To Carry on Losing Weight or Gaining Muscle In Lockdown

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If you haven’t heard of Covid-19, then you probably died of another disease several months ago.

What is seemingly a slightly more nasty case of the flu is in the news every day at the moment, and having far-reaching effects on businesses, schools, and shops; and gyms certainly aren’t immune (pun intended).

If you’ve been advised to self-isolate, or are just too scared of catching it to go in anywhere where there might be large gatherings of people; the gym on a Monday evening is probably the first place you want to avoid.

Gyms are in fact potentially one of the worst culprits when it comes to providing a breeding ground for viruses. Not only are you in close proximity to Karen waiting for her turn in the squat rack, but you’re also at risk of picking up bugs from people that left hours ago. Big gyms chains like Pure Gym and The Gym Group are acknowledging this, and even offering specific advice for people worried about Covid-19

Aside from offices and trains, there are probably a few other places where you have loads of other people all touching the same stuff with their Coronavirus-y hands. Notice how the 10kg dumbells are always missing from the rack? Just think how many people with varying levels of personal hygiene have touched those throughout the course of a day; you might be washing your hands every 45 seconds but is everyone else?

gym covid-19
A dumbbell rack. Otherwise known as Covid-19 roulette

It’s not up to me to tell you whether or not to carry on going to the gym while the Covid-19 outbreak is rife; I’d personally carry on going because I value gainz more than not getting the sniffles, but if you have decided to self isolate, here are some ways to you can stay on track with your goals without access to a gym.

Weight Loss

This may come as a surprise to you, but you don’t need access to a gym in order to lose weight. In fact, you don’t technically need to do any activity all, so if this is your goal, it should be pretty easy to stick to, even if you are self-isolating.

  • Let’s say you normally do 3 half-hour HIIT circuits at the gym each week; you can easily replicate that at home with zero equipment, there are tons of workouts out there; if you feel like you need someone egging you on, search YouTube for a HIIT tutorial or similar 
  • If for whatever reason you can’t do your HIIT workouts at home, just replace them with walking. To burn the same amount of calories you’ll probably need those walks to be over an hour, but the plus side is that walking is really easy
  • If you don’t want to walk for an hour, replace you 3 x weekly HIIT sessions with seven half-hour walks per week. It’s tricky to say but should burn roughly the same amount of calories
  • If you were walking every day AND doing 3 x HIIT sessions, then you’ll need to replicate that. Basically; use a combination of home-based bodyweight sessions and walking to burn roughly the same amount of calories that you were before
  • If you can’t or don’t want to replicate the amount of exercise you were doing in the gym, you’ll need to reduce your food intake instead. Let’s say you were previously losing weight while eating 1800 calories per day. If you decide you’re going to significantly reduce the amount of exercise you’re doing, then you might want to drop your calorie intake by 10-15% to stop you from gaining weight. This would mean eating between 1620-1560 calories per day. If you weren’t counting calories to start with, thinking about skipping a meal
  • Weigh yourself every day. In my opinion, everyone should be doing this anyway, but if there are big changes to the amount and/or type of exercise you’re doing, scale weight will allow you to quickly spot if your weight is starting to creep up (before you see any visual changes) so you can quickly do something about it.
If you weigh yourself every day, you’ll be able to quickly spot any rapid increases in weight and take action. You can use the FitBit app (above) to track weight, even if you don’t own a FitBit.

Muscle-Building

This is a bit more difficult to achieve without a gym (unless you have a home gym) because building new muscle generally requites a certain level of resistance. There are however a few workarounds.

  • Invest in some weighted bands. There are some decent sets out there that have a significant amount of resistance; these will allow you to do most of the basic pulling and pushing exercises 
  • Bodyweight training can work too, although you’re more limited in terms of what you can do; push-ups and air squats will be your go-tos. If you can get a doorframe-fitted pull-up bar you’ll also be able to hit your back to a decent degree
  • If you have a few years of lifting under your belt, bands and bodyweight exercises probably won’t be enough to significantly increase muscle-mass but they’ll certainly be enough to maintain it – try to match the intensity, volume, and frequency of your resistance workouts
  • Keep your calories and protein at the same level; this isn’t as important as continuing to resistance train, but if you really want to preserve as much muscle as possible, you should have all the bases covered.
  • Track your workouts, this is something you should be doing anyway, but aiming to increase your volume load (even if the volume load drops when you switch to bodyweight or banded exercises) will keep you motivated and ensure that you’re pushing yourself.

Take-Aways

If you’re in the middle of a fat loss phase, not being able to get to the gym really shouldn’t dent your progress. In fact, you should be treating this as a great opportunity to experiment with how much progress you can actually make just by walking and eating a bit less; you may realise you don’t need the gym at all to lose weight.

Muscle growth or maintenance is a bit trickier. In order to trigger muscle growth, you need to apply increasing levels of tension to the muscle consistently over long periods of time. In order to that, you’re going to access to some suitably heavy weights (unless you’re a complete beginner).

The good news is, it’s likely to be a lot easier to maintain muscle, simply by using it in some capacity. For example, a few sets of press-ups should be enough to maintain your chest. Just remember to stay at maintenance calories and get 2g protein per Kg of bodyweight.

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