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Alumni Takeover: How to keep fit in lockdown

Sam Heward is Co-Founder of Ultra X, the global ultra marathon series. An accomplished runner himself, Sam gives us some tips on getting fit when isolating:

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant we are all having to make massive adjustments to our day to day life. The extent of government lockdowns, layoffs, furloughs, working from home mandates, school closures, and sports facility shutdowns has changed a lot about the way we live our lives.

If like me, you are a runner, you can count yourself lucky. Yes, we’ve had our races cancelled, but in many ways running for enjoyment has never been easier. You probably have more time on your hands, the roads are empty, and it is getting sunnier and warmer. For the gym monkeys, swimmers, and wrestlers out there I can only sympathise.

Given restrictions on movement, lack of motivation caused by not knowing what is around the corner and the constant temptation of sneaking a trip to the fridge, it is easy for fitness to take a hit. However, now it is more important than ever to look after your health and wellbeing, regardless of your circumstances pre lockdown. We can all come out stronger. Of course, these aren’t the greatest of times. But we have got two options; dwell on the situation or take a positive approach to it and see the opportunity for growth.

Small tweaks can be made in our daily lifestyles that will help with better sleep, better mindset and breaking up the day. Here are my top bits of advice:

1)      Create New Habits

No commute, no travel, the pub is now at home – the lockdown is an awesome opportunity to build a winning routine. Whether it is getting that morning meditation in before opening the emails, doing that 10-minute HIT routine before breakfast, or fitting in a chapter of your book before turning off the lights, the beauty of a habit is that once done for a while the activity, well, becomes a habit. This is the time to get those things ingrained. Let’s make it happen.

2)     Recover

Many people have less recovery time available to them given the current situation. However, if you are now not commuting and have more recovery time available to you, use it. Focus on sleep, routine and eating as well as possible. The energy and motivation you build up now, you will be able will take into your life when things start freeing up again.

3)     Go Virtual

Everyone has been forced online only for the foreseeable, and whilst it sucks that we are not able to get together physically, many of the barriers for getting involved in exercise classes have been broken down. A load of gyms, athletes and brands offer almost hourly HIIT or Strength and Conditioning classes for free via Instagram live or Youtube. If you need a bit of extra motivation or just want to keep it interesting, why not check out a few. You could even put your tins of baked beans, bags of rice, bottled water or flour to good use. They make great dumbbell substitutes!

4)     Pick a challenge

Physical challenges are all the rage. I've done a few during the recent COVID pandemic. Unique and off-the-wall challenges won’t always fit well in your normal training or lifestyle. But this is not a normal period so why not see if you can do 1,000 press ups over 24 hours? If you are a runner, whilst physical events are cancelled there are plenty of virtual races to keep the motivation up. There’s nothing quite like having a goal of a ranking to keep you going.

5)     Get Social

Never know what exercises to do? Want to exercise but do not have much time? Look no further than social media. Instagram is currently awash with #HomeWorkouts. From

our favourite sporting stars to PTs, there are so many to choose from. They’re mainly short, sharp workouts and, looking at the hashtag, cater for a huge variety of fitness levels: from entry all the way up to hard cardio workouts.

6)     Get in the kitchen

In times like these, managing our food and exercise habits can be a challenge. Recently it has not been uncommon to find oneself staring into the deep recesses of the fridge… However, the closure of restaurants and fast food joints and enforced home cooking is a great time to brush up on your culinary skills and actually improve your diet. This is not the time for restriction, a diet of salad and sit-ups is not sustainable (nor necessarily good for mental health) but aim for variety to ensure you hit a range of nutrients. Creating set mealtimes (and sticking to them!) will help your body adapt to the new routine and reduce the urge to constantly graze.

To find out more about Ultra X, including their Virtual Race Series, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or access their website here at

Would you like to share your expertise with Newcastle’s alumni community? Email with your story for a chance to be featured.

published on: 26 May 2020