Lockdown One Year On: How Lockdown Affected The Way We Keep Fit
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When the country went into lockdown last March, George Millward, from Oxfordshire, weighed 22.4 stone.
Then the 21-year-old student caught coronavirus - which left him bedbound for days and struggling to breathe for weeks after.
"The first day I had a little cough, nothing major," he tells us. "The second day I had a terrible fever, my head was on fire but the rest of my body was freezing, and I was in bed all day.
"And the last day I was in bed all day again and felt like I had no energy, like my body was shutting down.
"When I'd come back from a walk, it felt like my lungs were closing a bit and I would have to sit down and focus on my breathing. And I was alone in my uni house at the time, so I was fairly worried that if I passed out because of this no one was there to help me."
After he recovered, the serious health scare left George realising he had to make a change.
But thanks to a national lockdown, it meant George could no longer count on the gym.
So he worked with what he had, using a set of dumbells and some resistance bands to exercise for a couple of hours a day, four times a week, as well as walking for up to three hours a day.
Sticking to his strict diet and exercise plan, George has managed to lose an incredible 7.8st (48kg) in the past year.
"My motivation was very internal," he says. "I've always loved sport and exercises, which is why I do a sports coaching course at uni, but it got to the point where I wouldn't look like your typical sports coach, and I was also not happy with how I look or felt, which impacted my mental health along the way too.
"My family and friends have also been a massive motivation for me, not allowing me to slip with diet and always encouraged me to keep going."
And in a strange way, lockdown has given him the opportunity he needed to kick on with his fitness goals, having recently launched a YouTube channel to encourage others like him to do the same.
Adding: "My plans and goals for this coming year are to improve myself mentally after the struggles of lockdown, and I also want to run a half marathon this year. That would be a massive achievement, as I was obese eight months ago."
But his story isn't unique. Pre-Covid, many of us would routinely amble to the gym before or after work, half-heartedly trudging along on the treadmill or attempting to lift weights with the big lads by the mirrors.
Then overnight, gyms were closed, sports teams were told to stop meeting up; and we were shut off into our flats and houses - none of the gear and out of ideas.
If you could do it outdoors, with little kit and for free, it was suddenly worth considering. Alternatively, your spare room, garage or storage cupboard was about to become a gym - if you could find a shop that had anything left in stock.
Figures from low-cost chain Sports Direct show that between March 2020 and the end of February 2021, the sale of training gear actually rose by 112 percent, with weight sales up 560 percent, and yoga mats by 1,035 percent.
The retailer also found that 37 percent of customers said they became more active since lockdown started, as 'working from home had given them more time to eat better and exercise more'.
Similarly, a survey of LADbible readers found that almost 30 percent of people said they actually became fitter during lockdown.
For many, this strange new reality was an opportunity to turn their lives around, without having to set foot in what can often be an intimidating place for a newcomer.
David Cook, from Southend, Essex, tipped the scales at more than 20 stone in March 2020, but when he was placed on furlough, he saw it as the freedom to get fit - something his job hadn't allowed him the time to do.
The 30-year-old said: "Before lockdown, I wasn't that active, as my job was shift work so I had no routine, so it was easy to be lazy. Plus I liked going out to eat, so it was easy to overeat.
"I had a gym membership a few times when I was healthier but again that all changed with my job routine."
Increasing his exercise bit by bit, and getting creative in the kitchen - where he now had no choice but to spend more time - David began to see the benefits from his new lifestyle and has since lost more than six stone.
"I would try to walk for at least an hour a day," he said. "At weekends I would do between three to five hours of walking a day. As I got fitter from that I would start to do short runs, and I worked from there.
"There were a few times where I did want to give up - the days where I would wake up tired and not want to exercise - but I got past that by reminding myself where I wanted to be and would just push myself."
Adding: "The impact has been great for me this past year. I feel so much better in myself. I am now running a lot. Last January I completed a 50k run over the month and this month I'm doing a 75k challenge, which I would have never done in my life before now."
But this all begs the question: where does it leave the fitness industry?
UK Active, the country's leading association for commercial gyms, recently
estimated that around 400 gyms, swimming baths and sports centres had been
forced to close due to the economic damage wrought by the pandemic.
The body also warned that if centres were forced to stay closed for much longer, another 2,400 could be at risk of shutting down for good.
But with the UK government recently announcing its roadmap out of lockdown, with gyms set to reopen from 12 April, there is hope on the horizon.
A recent poll of LADbible readers found that 58 percent of people can't wait to get back to the gym - though they might look a bit different when they do.
And a spokesperson for PureGym said despite the challenges the company was 'optimistic' for the future.
They said: "We have seen incredible levels of engagement from both members and non-members with our live workouts on the free PureGym app and on social.
"We hope that by the summer we will start to feel the positive impact of the vaccination programme and will gradually be able to return our gyms to 'normal'."
Echoing these sentiments, Sports Direct said this hinges on being able to convince people that gyms are safe spaces.
"The challenge for gyms sits in the short to mid-term while the effects, impact and memories of COVID-19 are still present. The pandemic has created some great opportunities for the sector, with more people active than ever before. Success will come in converting those people to members of a gym," a spokesperson told us.
"For member numbers to return to per-March 2020 levels, we need to assure consumers that clubs are safe spaces to train. Building confidence in usage of their services is key for the future of the industry.
"Some of the key trends gyms will need to adapt to survive in the short term is by driving home the message of safety in the gyms themselves."
But while he is one of those who is keen to get back into the gym as soon as possible, George says he hopes the positive lessons from Covid, though very few, aren't forgotten when the country is eventually unlocked.
He said: "I think it would be great for gyms to do more online classes and outdoor activities, not just because of Covid, but because it's a wider range of activities that people can get involved in, which is great for everyone."