With gyms currently closed across the country, you’d be forgiven for calling it a day and putting your fitness aspirations on hold. But it turns out skipping the gym could lead to more pressing consequences than just an isolation blowout. Studies have found a direct link between physical exercise and mental health, so keeping a firm grip on both is the only way you’re going to be able to survive isolation with any sort of positive outlook.
One person who knows all about both sides of the equation is Luke Istomin. The Sydney local co-founded fitness mega-franchise F45, before leaving to launch RE:UNION Training in 2018. Since then, the active icon has been helping Aussies kick their exercise goals one 30 minute sesh at a time. But aside from just focusing on pumping iron, Istomin is deadly serious about the mental side of your workout regime. Something he thinks is more important now than ever.
“The reality of the situation has hit and the novelty of staying at home each day is upon us, it’s crucial that we get into some kind of routine each day to make sure we do not create lasting bad habits that will be even harder to break once we return to our regular lives,” he told Man of Many. “Personally, I feel that watching the news every single day regarding COVID is having a hugely negative impact on so many of us. We are only guessing at the moment when some kind of normality can resume. Why put yourself under so much stress about something out of your control? Focus on today’s tasks, and the rest will take care of itself.”
So, with that in mind, Luke has partnered with The Iconic for a guest spot on the platform’s Home Workout series. We asked Luke his tips for maintaining a healthy body and mind during isolation.
1. Create the Workout Arena
The first task in upping your home workout environment is creating one in the first place. A cluttered house is no place for a zen workout or even a frantic one. Istomin suggests building your arena, both mentally and physically before entering it.
“Even if you are working out in your living room, then move your coffee table out the way for that workout to give you a dedicated workout space for that time. Turn off your phone or any other distractions and make it all about you,” he says. “Give yourself a target to hit for each session. Be it X amount of reps… Going for X amount of time…. Have a clear goal of what you wish to get out of each session and get after it.”
2. Focus on Resistance Training
Despite what you keep telling yourself, going for a run every second day isn’t doing much to work off that whole pizza you ate for breakfast. Istomin says a foundation of strength training will help build a better overall fitness base, even in these trying times.
“To get the best results from your workout, you ideally want to be doing resistance based training as your foundation,” Istomin says. “This can be structured to be strength-focused on some days to help build as much lean muscle which, in turn, BURNS more fat, faster. We can then add HIIT to our workouts on other days, or at the end of our strength sessions to help the process. Remember, the more muscle your body has, the more calories it burns. Doing HIIT full time with little muscle mass (no strength training) means you will simply burn both muscle and fat.”
3. Target Large Muscle Groups
If you’re trying to get a healthy mind and body during isolation, you can fall into the trap of only exercising the muscles you know how to exercise. Istomin suggests taking the time to research a few extra movements, focusing on the major muscle groups first. “You should always work on the biggest muscle groups first and multi-joint (compound) movements for the most effective results,” he says. “The fitter and stronger you become, you can add so many variables to make the workout more challenging.”
To help make your workout more challenging, Istomin suggested five different variables;
- Heavier Weights
- More reps
- Tempo work to have the muscles kept more time under tension
- Single limb work
- Less rest periods
4. Create a Strategy and Plan
“We all have different challenges at the moment, but it all comes down to your priorities,” Istomin says. “The benefits of working out far outweigh the negatives. Mental health improvements, cognitive function, increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass, sense of achievement and pride, accountability and motivation are just some of the benefits you will get from committing to a workout routine after just a few short days.”
At his RE:UNION Training studio, Istomin’s sessions range from 30 to 50 minutes each day. The fitness icon explains that while it may seem hard at the time, it’s just a fraction of day, and if you can’t put aside half an hour for yourself, how can you expect any sort of improvement? “That’s less than 4 per cent of your day. An investment of 4 per cent to turn your life around in all areas is the best one you will ever make,” he says.
Further to that, Istomin advocates setting a measurable goal, on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. ” A plan without execution is just a dream. So commit to it and hold yourself accountable to it,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be dramatic, rather, set yourself up to win each challenge, and not fail easily. It can be anything from reading a book on a topic you’ve always wanted. Giving yourself a physical challenge e.g ‘Do 10 push-ups unbroken’. A nutritional challenge eg. ‘go booze-free for X amount of days. My personal challenge this week was to not eat a packet of grain waves each day!”
5. Get Creative
Luke’s final tip for a healthy mind and body during isolation ticks both boxes. “Whether you have a full home gym set up, or nothing at all, it’s about making the most of your options,” he says. “We have some of our online members working out with nothing more than wine bottles, backpacks, boxes etc and getting the job done well. If you are fortunate to have access to equipment, then some dumbbells and some resistance banding would be all you need to do some amazing workouts each day.”
Whether you are a fitness fanatic or just a casual gym-goer, the importance of staying mentally and physically healthy is a year-round endeavour. Rather than spending your isolation period smashing Netflix and eating tacos, take the time to boost your mood with a bit of healthy activity. Check out more of Luke’s tips at his Instagram.
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