rsz 20200419 130255We’re three weeks into lockdown - and my new exercise regime - and although I’m hitting my daily walking target the idea of exercising in the house rather than hitting the gym is still feeling a little alien to me.  I keep seeing all these memes about rampaging women with three inch roots stampeding to the hairdressers post-lockdown and I can’t help but think Rodney may well have the same ‘we’re open’ response from the public!  

So if ever there was a word-pairing that felt like it could have been made for me ‘sofa exercises’ is it. I’m not necessarily an expert sofa-lounger – too fidgety! – but I am inclined to prefer slower-paced exercises such as yoga and Body Balance.  Combine this (mis-leading!) title with the lovely family photo of instructor Rachel perched on her sofa with a SUPER-CUTE toddler and you may fall into the same trap I did - I saw this as a family-friendly session that would be a nice easy week three for yours truly and her teenage neice, Jenna.

I’d say I was about 50/50 right with that initial train of thought.  That is, it was easy for half of the people taking part. 

rsz 20200419 131445

Rachel had obviously decided that she's missing standing at the front of a class as much as we’re missing being there and lined up her children to ensure her motivational-instructor persona doesn’t waste away.  Her ‘sofa-exercises’ are all variations on circuit training moves, requiring you to shift your bodyweight  - given that I’ve landed squarely in the ‘masterchef lockdowner’ camp I really wish I'd done this in week one - to offer up the killer combination of strength training, cardio and core in one heart-racing session.

For fans of circuit classes, this is what you’ve been waiting for. For anyone looking for a routine that will fire up nearly every muscle group in the body—deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors – this is the one for you! For beginners like me – you should absolutely try this! Yes, it’s a tough workout but you can go at your own pace and start at 20 secs instead of 40 (see below the video), building up to the timings recommended by Rachel, the smiling assassin. Here’s what’s included:

  1. Sofa Mountain Climbers
  2. Sofa Tricep Dips
  3. Sofa Side Plank – Leg Raise
  4. Bulgarian Split Squats
  5. Decline Push Up
  6. Scissor Kicks
  7. Bicycle Twists
  8. Sofa Sit Ups
  9. Sofa Leg Crunches
  10. Sofa Glute Bridge – One Leg

Rachel recommends doing 40 seconds exercise with 20 seconds rest. 40/20 workouts fall under the umbrella of Tabata workouts and are used in HIIT (high intensity interval training) a lot. I had been fooled by the ‘sofa’ word people! Different work-to-rest ratios are used for different training types and varying levels of fitness so the good news for people just starting out is that you can adapt the combination to match your level; the key is simply to be consistent as you work towards this 40/20 split. EG 20-seconds of work/10-seconds of rest, 30-seconds of work/30seconds of rest.

Perfomance athletes and those of you who are at high levels of fitness will use the intense tabata workouts to reach your lactate threshold; over time, your body will become efficient at clearing lactate, and you will be able to hold a faster pace for a longer period of time. 

Anyone quick at exercise maths will have worked out that Rachel’s 10 exercises on a 40/20 blast will only take 10 minutes. Even in non-lockdown times most have us could squeeze this in. Right now, it’ll barely make a dent in your hours to be filled. What it will do though, is bring you all of the physical and mental wellbeing gains of a full-on cardio workout! Now that, I like!

Jenna is 13 and her exercise of choice is horseriding and badminton, both of which she has been missing during lockdown.  Our living-room session was really good fun and I think might even talk her into doing it with me again. Although I'd like to point out with far longer legs and considerably less body weight to pull up and down, she was at a distinct advantage! 

How Did We Do?

rsz 20200419 131015I know from my own fitness levels that I wanted to start a little short of 40/20. I decided on a 20/20 starting point to ease myself into things. I have exercise-induced asthma which started in my early-forties (yes, it’s a thing!) and too much intense cardio leaves me horribly breathless.  I do think it’s important to know your own capabilities and to push yourself to do only as much as is safe.  This doesn’t mean I'll be doing 20/20 three weeks from now… I'll build as my fitness levels increase.

It took us a few goes to get the techniques for each exercise right and neither of us mastered the leg lift on the side-plank - in fact Rachel’s toddler looked more co-ordinated than me! My core just didn't hold up when I added in a layer of balance. If you find you’re the same then stick to doing side plank for a while before you add in the harder option. 

Interestingly, I do like a ‘core’ exercise. It focuses my brain and conjures up images of 20-year-old-me’s effortlessly flat stomach. After my first week of Mrs Hinch I could feel my abs for about 3 days afterwards – it’s such a good buzz - so I’m determined to get this nailed down and I'm aiming to work up to the harder ‘leg raise’ option in the next couple of weeks.

I think I said it in week 1, but my upper-body strength is terrible; this made the decline push-up a killer.  We were so bad that Roy got down to give us some tips - see his technique on the right! 

I downloaded a Tabata Timer onto my phone for the 20/20 buzzer. There are loads to choose from and it will depend if you’re android or i-phone as to which is best. I daresay some newer phones have them built-in to their health apps.

All in, this is the regime for me: 7 – 10 minutes of cardio to tag onto my stretching is completely do-able.   I’d like to say I’ll do it daily but I think three times a week is as good a place as any to start.  I’ve not done a circuits class for a long time but this has really put me in the mood for it – looks like I’ll see you in the stampede come gym opening time!  

For more Live Active At Home workouts, checkout the new instructor-led videos from the team on lockdown!