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'When this all passes over, what will you look back on and wish you had done?'

Keeping your body and mind healthy is even more imperative now that we are staying at home. We speak to some fitness experts.

Brian Keane giving one of his home workouts.
Brian Keane giving one of his home workouts.
Image: YouTube/Brian Keane

THE VAST MAJORITY of us have seen our daily routines turned upside down by the government’s instructions to stay at home and maintain social distancing.

And while it is crucial to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland, the mental and physical wellbeing of the population must also be a priority. 

Gyms and fitness facilities have been closed down around the country — with those involved in team sports instructed not to train together — so people have had find other ways to stay active.  

“It depends on what works best for you,” replies fitness coach and mindset speaker Brian Keane, when asked for his advice. “If the weather is nice, then go for a walk, a run or a cycle outside. If you’re doing a workout in the house, in the garden or wherever there is space, there’s loads of free workouts online.

“I’ve got around 30 body workouts on my YouTube channel, so you don’t have to go through a paid programme to do those. All you need is your own body weight and enough room to do squats, push-ups and variations of those movements.”

As his programmes have all been online since 2016, Keane has not been affected greatly by the new measures. Last year, he also created home versions of his workouts to cater for the growing demand.

“Nothing has really changed, it’s the same problem,” he tells The42. “If someone is short on time or has too much time but can’t leave the house, training at home works for both. A good workout doesn’t change because there’s a pandemic — a good workout is always going to be a good workout.”

Keane also hosts one of the top fitness podcasts, which has hit over three million downloads and represents an audio option for those eager to sharpen their knowledge.

“We just chat to some awesome people,” he says. “World experts in health, fitness and diet. We’ll have a couple of people coming on over the next few weeks talking about health and fitness around Covid-19.”

Having previously lived in the US and London, Keane believes Ireland, as a nation, are more than capable of coping with testing situations.

I think the Irish are one of the most adaptive people on the planet. If something goes bad we’re like ‘okay, that’s a bit crap’, and complain for a day, but then we just get on with it. I think we’re just the best in the world at it.

“There’s been a lot of positivity online over the past week and we’ve adapted to the situation really well. I think that’s down to us as a nation more than anything.”

Source: Brian Keane Fitness/YouTube

Dublin-based personal trainer Alan Brennan, who owns the Life is Fitness Health & Performance Centre in Terenure, was forced to shut his doors last week. He has since added all his clients to a private Facebook group and set them simple, manageable targets to hit each week.

Brennan has also conducted some live video sessions — focusing on mobility, stretching and basic but effective bodyweight resistance exercises.

“The only real certainty we have right now is that we now have more time,” Brennan says. “I would recommend that the average person try and move their body daily.

“A simple but effective strategy I use with clients is setting a daily step count to try and reach each day. Yoga and some basic stretching will also be great for the body and mind during these difficult times.

“What I’d say to anybody reading this is that it doesn’t matter how small the workout, or the duration of the walk, run or cycle. What matters is that you are consistently doing these and building momentum. There’s a saying I use with all my clients ‘actions start to become very effective when they meet the habit of consistency’.

“If anyone is struggling or would like help, don’t hesitate to contact me on any of my social media platforms. If I can, I’d be happy to offer advice.”

batch Alan Brennan outside his gym. Source: Instagram/alanbrennanpt

High performance coach Pat Divilly has worked in the fitness industry for many years but now specialises in the mind and meditation. 

“Every trainer seems to be doing free workouts on Zoom conference calls, which is great,” he says. “There are so many resources available now.

“It might be an opportunity to try the things you haven’t tried before and not stick with your usual routine — whether that’s something like a boxercise class online.

One of the things I would encourage people to try is yoga or pilates and not to necessarily stick to what they would normally do, if that is high intensity work.

“That’s a big expenditure of energy and the stress that we’re experiencing is taking a lot of people’s energy. Yoga and pilates are more about rejuvenating and putting energy back into the body. I think that’s important.”

Aoife yoga Yoga teacher Aoife McManus. Source: Instagram/Aoife McManus

Aoife McManus is a yoga teacher who gives classes to adults and kids around Dublin, while also working as a personal trainer in Westwood Gym. She has opted to move Yoga with Aoife to YouTube and now records from her living room in Tallaght.

“People are doing so many different things online now,” Aoife says. “I’m putting my classes on YouTube for clients and it has taken off even more than I expected it to.


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“I’ve received great feedback from adults, many of whom have been doing it with their teens, while the kids class has proven to be really popular.

One parent told me they are trying to stick to the school routine and putting on my class instead of PE. Others said they’re joining in with their children, which is really cool.”

Ireland is still in the first stage of this pandemic, and it looks set to drag on for a number of months rather than weeks. 

“I think we’re in a little bit of a honeymoon period,” Divilly suggests. “Although people are stressed and they know there is a madness coming, I think they are enjoying the bit of slowing down. I know we’re in self isolation but there are a lot of people out exercising.

“People seem to be making the most of it and I’ve seen a lot of positivity in terms of community spirit.”

IMG_9896 Pat Divilly giving a seminar. Source: Pat Divilly

Pat has recently set up a free 14-day Facebook group called ‘We Grow Through What We Go Through’ that is providing people group coaching calls, meditation practices, journaling prompts and personal development challenges.

“I’m issuing a different video every morning at 8am that is meditation and journalling prompts,” he says. “The journaling is about looking after the mind with simple things to give people a bit of perspective. It’s telling them ‘look, what has happened has happened and there’s no point fighting that’. It’s about coming up with solutions.

Another thing we’re really focused on is the box breath. It’s a really simple meditation. With the stress we’re experiencing, a lot of us are in fight or flight response all of the time, but this is about putting people into a more relaxed state.

“You’re essentially drawing a box, so you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and then hold for four. I’m encouraging people to do that for five minutes twice a day. It will just settle the mind for people whose minds are going a bit frantic. It might be something to finish the workout with.”

Divilly believes a little perspective is needed in relation to the bigger picture and encourages (safely) making the most of the extra time we might have on their hands. 

“When this all passes over, what will you look back on and wish you had done?” he asks, “because it will pass at some point. For me, I don’t want to say I lived in panic during those months. I’d like to say I did some study, did some workouts and caught up with friends on Zoom to make the best of a bad situation.

“I think it’s good for people to have perspective to say ‘this is going to pass over’ and then we will have new challenges — economically and everything else — but let’s not let panic override where we’re at now.”

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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