Social Fitness Is a Thing: Here’s How to Find it at Home
Now more than ever, exercise and friendship are essential to your physical and mental health. Learn how to have both, without ever leaving your living room.
So you’re stuck at home. You’re feeling stir crazy, yet unmotivated to stir without access to your favorite gym. Or maybe your basketball league is suspended, Pilates class is canceled and yoga buddies are self-isolating in homes of their own. Until it’s gone, it’s easy to overlook how key the social component of exercise is in getting yourself out the door and into workout mode.
Don’t despair. “There are so many virtual options to not only work out at home equipment-free but also connect socially with your network,” says Caley Crawford, director of education for Row House in New York City and a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainer. If you haven’t taken advantage of them before, now’s the time. “When we're restricted in our social settings and environment, it's even more important to give yourself some time each day to sweat, elevate your heart rate and boost your endorphins,” says Crawford. “Both exercise and social interactions play a large role in boosting energy levels and overall quality of life. Keeping those things stable while you’re isolated is important.”
Karen Maxwell, a master instructor for CycleBar in Denver, CO, agrees. “A lot of people are living in fear right now—the more you can get the blood flowing through your body, the better your mind will be,” she says. “I have had several conversations with my fitness friends who have all lost their jobs and are very upset. My advice: When the fear creeps in, recognize it and try to come up with solutions. Then move your body.”
The question for many is how to “move your body” when you’re sequestered in a small space. Sure, there’s running outside. But if you’re not a runner or the weather sucks or you’re worried about coming in contact with someone who is sick, you’ve still got plenty of options. Check this out:
Kelly Clifton Turner, director of education at YogaSix and a yoga teacher in Carlsbad, CA, has a suggestion. “If you're used to practicing in a studio or boutique fitness location, check their social media channels like Facebook and Instagram to see if they are offering streamed classes during any closures,” she says. Some health clubs are providing online classes as well—even to nonmembers.
“The beauty of livestreamed classes is that you can log on with friends to create a virtual and social environment,” says Crawford. “Many classes online even have stats so you can see where you stand in performance amongst the other participants.”
For the uber-competitive, there are also fitness tracker contests. Stridekick lets up to 10 people enter a challenge—who can accumulate the most steps in a month, for instance—and monitors them, displaying and updating their rankings on a leaderboard.
Too cutthroat? Try My Virtual Mission, in which participants can cooperatively pursue a running, walking, cycling or swimming goal. Your team chooses a route between any two locations in the world, then advances along it as members cover the equivalent distance in real life. You can check the local weather and Google Street View on your virtual path.
Find Your Motivator
Maybe you’re more of the one-on-one type. In that case, consider an accountability buddy (or use an app like Strava that serves a similar purpose). Declare your workout goal and report progress daily or weekly. CrossFit champion Kari Pearce uses this technique to force bigger, tougher goals on herself. After her daily workout (and sometimes, multiple daily workouts), Pearce sends her coaches the numbers she hit across various lifts and other metrics. “They have high expectations set for me, so I know I have to get the work done to the best of my ability,” she says. It keeps her honest, she says, “on the days where I’m tired or just not feeling it.”
No need to overcomplicate things, though. If you’re living with family or a significant other, you can go analog. Try running, biking and hiking together, keeping six feet or more between yourselves and strangers. Challenge each other to a backyard football toss or set up a game of Frisbee golf if space allows. What you do is less important than doing it, and making sure someone is helping you keep score of your efforts.
Surviving the Home Workout Hiccups
If you have a lifelong gym habit, working out at home takes getting used to. Concentration is a challenge for a lot of newbie home-exercisers, says Crawford, including herself. “My attention span is short when I'm remote or at home exercising,” she says. Her solution: Divide and conquer. “I prefer pairing two 15-to-20-minute workouts together instead of doing one longer 45-minute workout to keep myself from getting bored.”
Another difficulty, especially if you live in an apartment, is space. No excuses, though. “If you have room to stand up, you can exercise,” says Turner. Basic-but-awesome moves like squats and shoulder presses (which can be performed holding gallon-size water jugs or whatever else you find) require minimal square footage. Mix-and-match pushups, burpees, lunges, mountain climbers, planks, crunches and more to engage your upper body, lower body and core.
Don’t forget about small-space cardio training, either. “Jogging in place can be enough to get your blood flowing and heart rate up,” says Turner. “More active yoga poses can be done on a small patch of open floor—a yoga mat only takes up two by six feet, and you can get a killer flow on that builds strength and flexibility.” Other ideas: Good old-fashioned jumping jacks and jumping rope (in the hallway or stairwell if your ceilings are too low).
Ultimately, you’re going to need to cut yourself some slack. Like the rest of your life, your workouts right now are going to be a little different than what you’re used to. That’s okay. “My toddler was knocking on the door while I streamed a live yoga class online, and my cat kept walking across my mat,” says Turner of a recent attempt. “But was I better off for doing the class? Absolutely.”