Claire Eccles and Louise Annat, founders of Harrogate’s very own Heaven & Hell Fitness, explain how exercise can help us all survive this sorry state of confinement with kids.
It’s day whatever of week 4 of lockdown 3. And if you’re struggling to find sanity and the will to even get out of bed, then you’re not alone. This groundhog life of juggling teachers on Teams, work demands and snack rations is sapping everyone’s mojo. We hear you.
The World Health Organization now recommends we do 150–300 min of moderate intensity exercise a week, with added muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. But how can mums do this when kids and chaos litter every room and hoover up every ounce of your headspace and time? Time that you could happily spend on the sofa in front of Bridgerton with a glass of vino, given half a chance?
That’s why exercise, and finding the time and space for it, is vital to our survival. For our immune system, for our mental health, and just to get through these dark days. But finding time to be active can be a huge hurdle, especially if you work or have very young children. You need to ringfence the time and jump on any opportunity. Try early mornings, when it’s relatively quiet and before the demands start. Get your kit on, grab a light breakfast and get moving. Short, sharp bursts are great when you’re pushed for time. A quick half hour of cardio by 8am sets you up for the day, and it’s one big fat tick off the to-do list.
Another fitness slot could be at 9.15, once the school bell rings and the kids are settled into their first lesson. Their concentration levels are higher, buying you time for a mood-boosting class, like 90s-style aerobics or fitness Pilates. And with so many people flexing their WFH hours, you can still get to your dining room desk by 10am.
If you lack staying power, or are stuck in a rut, try something new. An abs class or some kick-ass boxercise could be just the boot up the backside you need. Mix it up with different classes to suit your energy levels. Our online timetable is varied, fun and shakes you up when you can’t face another set of Joe Wicks’ spidey lunges.
Finding space at home is crucial for your sanity, exercise or not. Being cooped up in four walls with the same people is hard. You don’t need much, but you need to mark your territory. Pick a room and keep a mat and water handy, so you’re ready to start. The kids might be trashing every communal area, but ignore the mess. You’ll find somewhere for that half hour, even if it means the dog getting an eyeful. Pick from our live classes or pre-records, which really suit busy parents like Emma. “I love being able to access pre-recorded classes as I can fit them in when I have time, especially now I’m working part-time and home schooling two young children.”
If you can escape the house for 20 minutes, then get your trainers on and go walking, running, whatever your body is fit for. A winter jog in the fresh air, with some vitamin D thrown in, can really get your blood pumping and perk you up. Walking with kids in winter can feel like hostage negotiation. But being outside is important when they’re not getting that runaround time at school break. Daylight, even in this bleak winter, is essential for their emotional wellbeing and sleep. Kids who sleep well have better brain function and resilience. So, try to get out at lunchtime or when school ends, before screen time starts again. Even a walk around the block in the dark can be quite an adventure. Whether they are with you or not, your kids seeing you all glowing and smug from exercise will set a good example for them. And if it puts mum in a good mood, they will soon help you make time for it! Jenny, one of our members, told us that “dipping in and out of classes whilst juggling home schooling has been a life-line. When I exercise, my patience levels are higher and I am a happier person to be around.”
Our philosophy at Heaven & Hell is about helping you create rituals and consistency. Taking bite-sized steps rather than trying to do everything at once. It can feel like a slog at the start, but the benefits will soon come when you chip away at your fitness goals. You’ll feel stronger and fitter, more energised with a fired up immune system. And the mental health benefits are huge. It’s a cliché, but true: putting on your own ‘oxygen mask’ first will help you take care of everyone else. Staying active can make you feel that bit more positive, more patient and able to cope. Taking that time out will make you feel less stressed and less resentful, no matter what the day throws at us. And you never regret doing a workout!
We know some people are missing the gym and their classes, working out with real human beings. We certainly do! But exercising online is here for the foreseeable. It’s safe, accessible, affordable, and ideal when life is hectic, as Steph explains, “Being a mum to a toddler and a needy rescue dog, as well as running a business, can make finding time for fitness really challenging. The online classes that Claire and Louise have introduced have been a god send!”
If social interaction is what you’re missing, Heaven & Hell is a positive and supportive group. Everyone of any age is welcome, whatever fitness level they’re at, and however much they want to get stuck in. With up to 80 classes a month and several pay options, we’re all about fun, choice and keeping you motivated. Giving you more time, sanity and energy for the things (and people) that really matter.
Kick-start your fitness by contacting Louise or Claire here.