How to fit your social time and workouts into your life
Forget guzzling pints, we’re giving our all with push-ups. The pandemic has changed many things, like how and when we exercise.
Ever since Jane Fonda kicked off the aerobics craze in her leotard and leg warmers, the fitness industry has been driven by trends. Barre, boxercise, boot camp – you barely have time to update your sneakers before a new “must do” workout arrives, vowing to build muscle and burn fat faster than any other.
But no-one saw the pandemic coming, and with it a revolution in how we regard, and protect, our health.
As schedules have become more flexible and time in lockdown has brought introspection about health and wellness, it seems that we’re swapping our nights out for… workouts. In short, it’s now squats not shots; push-ups not pints as “working out” has become the new “going out”.
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How to socialise while you sweat
Pilates teacher and founding instructor at Barry’s Australia gyms Molly Gay suggests these tips for swapping socialising for sweating.
I love a sunset picnic. Grab some friends, food and games, and you’re ready to go.
2. Choose fitness catch ups
Schedule your catch-ups (or meetings, if you’re lucky enough) so they centre around fitness. This could be a long coastal walk or a class; whatever suits the situation.
3. Get the kids involved
Family workouts that are fun are a great way to bond and spend time together.
4. Treat yourself with socialisation
Schedule a fun night in after a late workout. You won’t feel like going to a bar super sweaty, so plan a night in with friends after a late class.
5. The early morning class
Book in an early class for the morning after a night out (bonus points if the studio charges a late cancellation fee). This strategy is sure to keep late nights in check.
Gay adds that the pandemic not only prompted greater health awareness, but also a willingness to step outside our comfort zones and try something new.
“I noticed people leaned into the new trend where fitness is about mental as well as physical strength,” she tells Body+Soul. “Old excuses stopped working because schedules suddenly became more flexible and workouts went from being in a gym to at home.”
“We’ve absolutely changed our lifestyles to working out more and going out less,” she says. “It helped that for a while there we couldn’t do much else. When the bars and clubs started to reopen, we realised that we were having just as much fun going to a class or hanging out in the park. It was a bonus that we felt way better the next morning.”
While a night out may feel great at the time, you can end up feeling worse the next day. It’s just one of the reasons why Seven Network news presenter and mother-of-three Jodie Speers rarely compromises her Sunday-morning run with friends by having a late night.
“It’s the one time of the week when I can get out for exercise and a chat, and I really look forward to it,” she tells Body+Soul. “Sundays feel a lot better when they start with a run rather than a hangover – and that flows over into the rest of the week, too.”
Di Westaway, whose business Wild Women On Top runs the charity hiking challenge Coastrek in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, says she’s seen a huge rise in the number of people out walking, and believes it’s driven by the deprivation created by lockdown.
“When you take something away from us, we learn to value it more. People realised they feel a lot better when they get out of the house, even if just for a walk around the block. It’s a guaranteed mood-lifter.”
Since the traditional Coastrek events that raise money for Beyond Blue had to be postponed during COVID, Wild Women On Top devised a more flexible fitness challenge called Stayin’ Wild that could be done in or outdoors, and alone or with a group of friends.
As participants worked to reach daily challenges, they were less likely to sabotage their efforts by going for a big night out, Westaway observed, however, she makes the point that working out rather than going out doesn’t mean her groups of hikers miss out on fun or celebration.
“Walking out is going out because it’s combined with a clifftop cuppa or a pink gimlet. There’s always cake with our workouts because the more energy you burn, the more you can eat when you’re done.”
While working out offers a natural high – and you can still get your dancing fix through Zumba, “sober raving” or No Lights, No Lycra dance-in-the-dark classes – there is another upside that goes beyond hangover and overspending avoidance.
Because alcohol is a depressant and exercise produces the feel-good hormone dopamine, working out rather than going out is less likely to cause a falling out.
Fitness-industry experts note that since the start of the pandemic, smaller, bespoke fitness groups have sprung up as people, unable to socialise together, have formed connections through exercise.
Sydney yoga teacher Jane Barnes, for example, now teaches small groups of women in their local neighbourhood rather than a yoga studio, and says her clients relish being able to work out with friends close to home.
“I love teaching yoga to groups of girlfriends,” she says. “We can make it fit in with their schedules, it feels more personal and it’s the perfect balance of Zen and coffee afterwards.”