Women Share The Pandemic Workout Routines That Keep Them Going

Artwork by Meg O'Donnell
How much thought goes into scheduling your workouts? Is it a decision made on a whim, based on how you feel that day? Or is it meticulously planned according to your needs and goals? Most crucially, how has it changed since the world turned upside down and we retreated indoors in March 2020?
According to the ClassPass 2020 Trends Report, lunchtime workouts are on the rise. The fitness company reported that, for the first time ever, lunchtimes during the work week are the most popular time for people using their app. They're attributing this to the rise in people working out not only at home but also online. When you don't have to commute or wait for the gym showers, many of the time or organisational barriers that would have made lunchtime a particularly tight squeeze for a HIIT class are removed.
We asked our Money Diaries Facebook group (as well as our colleagues at R29) about how and when they work out at the moment, and why. As it turns out, there are compelling – and highly individualised – arguments for each time of day. Of the hundreds of respondents there was a pretty even split across times of day, suggesting that it isn't so much that lunchtime is free but that the ability to be flexible, pass the time or just enjoy the sunshine is as important to our changing fitness habits. The time you work out matters less than how it makes you feel and how it fits in with what you want to achieve – whether that's alleviating WFH aches and pains with Yoga with Adriene or sweating off a stressful day with Body by Ciara.
Ahead, we've outlined just some of the ways people are working out in the pandemic. From dedicated CrossFitters to Couch to 5K – and with online accessibility a must – there is inspiration aplenty, whatever your fitness level.

Morning Routines

Ideal for people who want to get it out of the way, people who don't want to make excuses, people who miss their morning commute or those with a hair-washing schedule.
Danielle, 27, Newcastle, works out first thing five times a week with Joe Wicks The Body Coach app.
"I genuinely wouldn’t do it if I left it until later – I like to get it over and done with first thing, and it sets me up for the day. This is the first time I’ve exercised regularly, the pandemic has reinforced for me how good it is for my mental wellbeing."
Chemmie, 29, London, works out weekdays and weekends in the morning, five to six times a week.
"I'm part of Club V which I signed up to last year. The founder Talilla Henchoz did live IG workouts at the beginning of the pandemic and I used to do those, then she launched Club V, which is a live fitness programme which incorporates HIIT, strength, boxing, yoga etc. I'm obsessed – her energy and the variety of workouts is amazing.
"I am definitely not a morning person but I have grown to be and now I love getting up early to work out. I usually get up an hour before the session to have a pre-workout read, scroll, etc. – it's a whole new routine which I now can't imagine not doing. I like to get the workout done first thing because it sets me up for the day and I feel less groggy. I also know I'm more likely to find excuses not to work out if I do it later in the day."
Claire, 28, Wirral, runs before work every morning.
"I can only run before I’ve eaten and it sets me in the right frame of mind to work, almost like a fake commute. I used to walk to work every day and only run three or four times a week before work."

Lunchtime Workouts

Ideal for people who want to break up the work day, miss their lunchtime socialising, those taking advantage of WFH flexibility, or people who want to trick themselves into it.
Jess, 35, Devon, does HIIT with Joe Wicks The Body Coach app in her lunch break.
"It’s the least bad time to work out as I already get up early and by the time the evening comes around, I am DONE. I struggled to find time before the pandemic so I didn’t work out. Now I WFH and I can do it in my lunch break."
Somer, 27, Ipswich, works out at lunchtime four or five times a week.
"I do running, Les Mills on demand, bike ride or yoga. I can't socialise with anyone at lunch so need something to do to pass the time. I used to always spend lunchtime chatting with colleagues and would exercise less often in the evenings."
Sian, 29, Surrey, goes for walks every day at lunchtime.
"Since the gym has shut I can’t get motivated to do anything else. It gives me a break from the laptop and gets me out when it’s daylight. I don’t feel the pressure of having to get up early to exercise or go out when it’s dark. I’ve found they massively help my mental state too. Before the pandemic, I didn’t class walking as exercise so went to the gym in the mornings. I think I’ll go back to morning gym sessions when they reopen but will keep up the walking for my mental health and wellbeing."

Evening Workouts

For people who need their later day energy, are adapting to their body's needs, who don't want to feel rushed, who want to enjoy the daylight at their own pace, or need a clear end to the day.
Nat, 30, Bushey, mostly works out after work three or four times a week.
"I do a mixture of Fitness Blender HIIT and Peloton strength (did CrossFit pre-lockdown). I struggle with motivation at the moment. Pre-pandemic I would get up at 5.30 and smash out a class before work or go to a lunchtime class in the city. Now I’m at home all day, sluggish AF and struggling to force myself. 6pm before eating dinner is the only time I can semi-force myself into it and even then it’s half-assed."
Georgia, 28, London, works out after work five days a week using Heather Robertson's free workout playlist.
"In summer I was working out in the morning but now I walk outside at lunch to make the most of the daylight and finish early enough thanks to flexitime that 30 minutes of HIIT doesn't eat into my evening!"
Charlotte, 25, Somerset, works out after work three to five days a week.
"I do homemade HIIT workouts, dance workouts (emkfit on YouTube), anything to get me moving and feeling happy. Every workout starts with a dance warm-up! Handstands/yoga-style stretching. Doing it post-work means I have to leave my desk and stop thinking about work – it refreshes me for the evening so I don't collapse on the sofa from mental tiredness. Plus it's dark and cold so going outside isn't fun."

Flexitime Workouts

For people who want more variety in their exercise or need a range of destressors.
Lauren, 27, London, does a mixture of yoga in the mornings and HIIT every other lunch break.
"Every morning when I wake up (6am) I do Yoga with Adriene, then around 1pm a HIIT session using Centr app because who doesn't want Thor teaching you how to work out.
"The yoga gets me going for the day, forces me out of bed and I get to stretch after not moving at night. But mainly it gets me out of bed. I do the Centr workout at lunch because it lets me have a bit of a break and gets me off my desk. I know that if I were to do it at the end of the day, I never would find the motivation. I categorically did not work out before the pandemic. Because I had to walk a distance to get my trains to work and then I'd be moving around all day, I never saw the need. But now I'm at home and I'm lucky if I clock 1,000 steps in a day (thanks, anxiety over going outside). I needed to do something to at least pretend I had some control and routine."
Lucy, 31, Fife, works out several times a day.
"I work out throughout the day to break up WFH: walk at 9.30, CrossFit at lunchtime 12.30, then walk and/or run at 3.30. I work out six days a week, six CrossFit workouts from my gym plus extra programming, then run three or four times a week on top of that, roughly 12-20 miles. My gym workout of the day is scaled to whatever equipment I have to hand – I have a rope and a barbell along with lots of body weight stuff.
"It breaks up my day sitting in front of a computer and makes me more productive and active. Especially with the walks getting my steps in as I’m now stationary, sitting behind a desk all day.
Running is a new addition but it is helping me to relax and destress, especially after the daily government announcements. I can switch off and concentrate on my breathing to help me run better. I run as far away from my house as possible, then walk back home and put a plan in place for whatever the government has said and how I can keep my sanity/ mental health good."

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