With gyms closed, workout classes cancelled and a stay-at-home mandate still in effect in most states, you’d be forgiven for relegating exercise to the ‘too-hard basket’, particularly if you’re wearing many hats.
One mother believes she has found the ideal alternative, and the timing of her home workout may have a lot to do with her success.
Juggling her two young boys’ homeschooling with a full-time job as a pharmaceutical rep, Kellie La’Brooy says she feels the fittest she’s ever felt – and credits her fitness upkeep with helping her get through the past seven weeks of isolation.
Before Australia’s coronavirus restrictions were imposed, she would pay to attend up to three pilates classes every week.
They helped her de-stress, but she struggled to break free from feeling “so busy” all the time.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, her schedule got even busier, but she no longer feels like she’s chasing her tail – and that’s for one big reason: Starting her day with a workout.
It could be a three to four kilometre walk, a bike ride with her two boys, or using the skateboard that’s been hidden in her garage to follow pilates instructor Jodie Sheehy’s YouTube tutorial on how to achieve pilates exercises without the expensive machines.
Ms La’Brooy would aim to work out at least every second day for 45 minutes to an hour in the morning.
That way she feels “10 times better” than how she woke up.
“I think I just realised how good I felt after I was doing it. Then I thought, OK, this is what I need to do through this time to just really help me stay on track. And to be honest, I just feel better mentally and physically,” Ms La’Brooy said.
“It gives me a clear head … I eat well, I sleep better, I drink more water and I just feel more organised.”
Start your day well
That’s not to say mornings are the prescribed time for exercise, but there are benefits to starting your day with some physical activity, accredited exercise physiologist Kate Bell said.
“It brings some immediate focus into our day, it increases that feeling of being in control … (because) it’s a tick in a box and it’s done … and just starts the day off with a bang,” said Ms Bell whose personal preference is to work up a sweat in the morning.
Being outside and getting some vitamin D has a positive effect on our melatonin levels that regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
“All of those things linked together, you get that really big lift in endorphins, those feel-good hormones,” she said.
“If you can get that feeling at the beginning of the day, there are studies that actually show you’re more productive throughout the day, you have a better mood and you sleep better, which in my book makes it easier to get up the next morning and do it again.”
Like Ms Bell, psychologist Harry Moffitt, a retired soldier with the Special Air Service, also prefers exercising in the morning.
“You’re more likely to make healthier choices with eating (during the day),” Mr Moffitt said.
“Neurologically, hormonally and other mechanisms in your body are probably set for exercise in the morning.”
If you’re feeling exhausted at the end of it, it is probably a sign you’re doing too much.
Also if it has been a while since you last exercised, start small and gradually build your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, he explained.
What’s most important is establishing a routine where you’re exercising at the same time every day (if possible), Mr Moffitt said.
You should also look beyond just exercise, he said, referring to a US military concept called ‘Performance Triad’ which posits that the foundations of wellbeing are in exercise, nutrition and sleep.
“We rarely think about the three in combination or setting those three things really rigidly and adopting a routine, and I think that’s a really fundamental aspect,” Mr Moffitt said.
“Sometimes you might be exhausted because you’re not getting the right nutrition, or you’re not getting the right sleep.”
And Ms La’Brooy has a message for parents who feel they can’t spare themselves even a few minutes.
“If we don’t look after ourselves, everything else falls down around you; the kids, the family, the household,” she said.