This free programming kept me fit during the lockdowns
As many of you may be aware, I was a regular CrossFit disciple before the COVID lockdowns closed my local box (that’s what CrossFitters call their gym)
Around the same time, I developed an issue with my foot that prevented me from running much. So I was really worried that I was going to fall out of shape dramatically during the lockdown.
To my relief, I discovered the seemingly limitless supply of fitness programming on YouTube. It really is amazing how many high-quality workouts are posted there. For free.
I started by doing a TON of core workouts. Never before had I focused that much on my core, and I’ve been very happy with the results — as pretty much any exercise/activity we do leverages our core in some way.
What’s great about these core exercises is that they’re quick. 10 focused (but intense!) minutes 3-4 days per week is really all you need to see pronounced benefits. I do a bit more, but that’s because I’m a glutton for punishment…
I’ve since graduated to all sorts of other workouts — some similarly focused on specific muscle groups (chest, shoulders, arms, legs, back, etc) and some all-around HIIT ones. After doing years of coached CrossFit classes, I’m pretty amazed at how close you can get to the same quality workout with these videos, some floorspace, and very little equipment (most just use your bodyweight, or perhaps a pair of dumbbells and a chair).
For anyone looking for an affordable way to get fitter for free — whether for health reasons or just to look good at the beach this summer — I thought I’d share here the YouTube channel that I pretty much use daily now:
It’s run by a couple who have amassed an impressive catalog of free playlists by workout type. If you’re not sure where to begin, they have a 6-week series you can follow, with a new exercise set programmed every day.
Despite how shredded Tiff and Dan are, this channel is for anyone, regardless of fitness level. Just do what you can, take breaks when you need to, and listen to your body. If you stick with it, you’ll quickly find yourself being able to match pace with the instructor.
Just thought I’d share this resource with you all. As a big fan of Living Capital, I believe improving our health is one of the most important investments we can make. And the lockdowns didn’t do us any favors on that count.
Whatever course you choose — whether online videos like these or other forms of movement and exercise that give you a solid full-body workout — will be fine. The important thing is to just get going!
Are there any specific core workouts/exercises that you found particularly beneficial? I’ve got some lower back problems and have been to a number of physical therapists and have some core exercises from them, but would like to add some more. There’s just so many options it’s almost impossible to know where to begin.
I should start by specifying I’m not a physical therapist/doctor, so the usual caveats of “some guy on the Internet said…” apply here.
I’d recommend starting with the workouts marked “total” here. That means they’ll hit all major muscle groups of your core: lower abs, upper abs, obliques, etc. I also think the core/abs exercises at MadFit and Pamela Reif are worth checking out, too.
If you find that one of those muscle groups is particularly weak, there are also videos with routines dedicated to that specific group, and you can supplement your program with those to strengthen it.
A longtime observation/opinion I have is that weight-bearing exercises are an important part of strengthening the back and sustainably healing/preventing back pain. These are exercises like deadlifts, weighted squats, kettlebell swings and pull-ups.
You have to be careful at the beginning because you can damage a compromised back further if you lift with bad form, lift too much, etc — so I highly recommend following a progression supervised by a professional trainer, at least until your back feels strong and you’re confident you have the form right.
But as someone who used to have back problems in his 20s (nothing makes you more helpless than when you throw your back out!) but is now approaching 50 with no issues for over 15 years, I attribute that success mostly to regular strength-bearing back workouts.
And, of course, a good core 🙂
I find a good baseline workout, if you don’t have access to a pool for lap-swimming, is to wear a ski parka so that you sweat, and then to spend maybe a 1/2 hour walking uphill, and a 1/2 hour downhill.
It is also adaptable to different ages. I did it when I was 40 and I did it today, when I’m 63.
I share your passion about core work. I was a regular pilates student prior to the pandemic and while there are lots of mat class videos around, what I have loved most is my pilates wheel. They charge $10 a month to access their video library which is packed with lots of videos geared towards a variety of levels of fitness and also a variety of durations.
Thanks Adam, will take a look at those.
It’s funny, I’ve been to several PT’s for my lower back and each one has recommended completely different exercises (there’s some overlap, but minimal). I haven’t found any of them to be particularly beneficial. Have had xrays and CT scans, and they’ve never found anything that stands out, just the typical wear and tear of a 58 year old body.
OTOH, I had a neck problem about 15 years ago, nerve impingement that caused numbness and pain in one hand/arm, as well as severe pain in my upper back. Once that settled down I did my upper back exercises religiously for a while, then gradually stopped. It flared up again, worse the second time. Since then I’ve been doing a limited set of band exercises for that region and have kept it mostly under control. So there probably is a set of exercises that would do the same for my lower back, I just need to figure out what they are.
I started working with multiple trainers (through work) a few years ago – building strength plus trying to heal some lumbar disc issues. It was definitely an adjustment, because nearly everything was a core exercise.
“Hey Will, I want to get back to deadlifting and squats.”
“And how about some arms/chest”
<next workout program = light deadlifts, even more core workouts>
I’m used to it now. I just laugh.
You’re never doing enough core workouts.
That tells me something about how you wound up with the PTs that you saw.
I retired almost 2 years ago but I practiced for 41 years with particular specialty in the spine and particular attention to chronic spinal problems. I taught in two universities, taught CE courses in 40 states, and wrote chapters in textbooks. I was considered the one of the best in the country in treating low back problems and would put my knowledge up against anyone. But I was always surprised how many PTs ignored many of the basics that patients responded to very well. The type of treatment, of course, depends upon the outcome of the assessment.
If you’re willing, you can PM me who you went to and I may have an idea of their competency. If you provide your zip code, I may be able to provide a better alternative.
Just as an aside, many lay people and professionals don’t fully comprehend how the psychoemotional status of a patient can contribute to pain that doesn’t respond to mechanical measures. It can be profound. Many PTs fail to understand and address this component.
A strong core that has (1) strength, (2) responsiveness, and (3) endurance is important but I find that many PTs, trainers, and others are overemphasizing core strength while neglecting other factors. Functional relaxation is one of the most commonly neglected factors which, in many ways, is the antithesis of strength. Vladimir Vasiliev is an example of functional relaxation at it highest level of operation. He’s just come out with a new video for healing the back that looks promising but I cannot fully vouch for it as I have not yet personally viewed it in its entirety.
Here’s a little sampling of his functional capabilities. Note the functional relaxation with everything he does. I don’t see many people who do heavy deadlifting and heavy squats who have this kind of fluidity and effortlessness.
He also has a keen understanding of psychoemotional factors related to the body, posture, movement, pain, motivation, etc.
My core was probably strongest in my 30s but that was also a time when I had significant low back pain because I chronically held tension. Stress also plays a very large role.
I also think that the very high level of training I did for many years may have been one of the factors that ultimately contributed to my cancer for a variety of reasons including free radical production and oxidative loading. Think of people like Lance Armstrong. No training is not good, some is good, but too much can cause problems, sometimes in the short term and other times in the long term. The difficulty is the problems may not show themselves for decades. One should always be searching for balance.