This article was published on March 20, 2020

How we’re keeping fit while working from home

How we’re keeping fit while working from home
Cara Curtis
Story by

Cara Curtis

Former TNW writer

As week one of social distancing and quarantining comes to an end — and the realities of it all set in —we’ve been coming up with ways to (try) staying fit during the COVID-19 outbreak. From virtual classes to YouTube to making the most out of your home environment, here’s how TNW’s editorial team plan on burning calories while trapped at home — and how you can too.

Bodyweight workout — Callum Booth

Because I do my best to be a Fit Boy™ (and am basically unbearable), I’ve been building my own bodyweight workout to beat this damn lockdown.

The new TNW Newsletter

Getting to the heart of the European tech and startup scene

“But what sort of bodyweight workout?” I hear my legions of fans screaming.

Well, I’m glad you asked. Because I live on the second floor apartment built in the 1880s (what I like to refer to as pre-Joe Wicks times), there are certain exercises that would probably force my also quarantined neighbors to burst out of their flats, cut me up into tiny pieces, and make a Fit Boy Segments Health Shake™ out of my remains. This means I avoid stuff like running on the spot, intense burpees, or slapping the floor like Charlton Heston in Planet Of The Apes.

[Read: 7 tips for my fellow humans stuck working from home]

Instead, I’ve started building a non-impact bodyweight workout from scratch. Yeah, I’m an inspiration, no need to remind me.

Now, one of the mistakes people fresh to exercise (or even just another type of exercise) is trying to do too much at once. 

So in this set I’ve begun with five simple exercises: planks, dips, push-ups, sit-ups, and squats with a three-second hold at the bottom. I do three circuits of these exercises each session, the whole thing taking between 15 and 25 minutes depending on the day.

It took one or two sessions to find the optimum number of reps for each exercise, but once you’re in that position, you’re laughing. Well, not literally, because this workout is painful and will make you fucking weep if you do it right.

And, goddamn, do the tears cascade down my sweaty, agonized face.

To make sure this workout stays fresh, you want to evaluate your progress each week. Try adding some more reps to each exercise and, importantly, introduce something new into the routine. Try side planks, Hindu push-ups, single leg glute bridges, mountain climbers — really any number of awesome bodyweight exercises you can discover if you do a quick Google search.

I guess this is the point where I’m meant to say something motivational and inspiring, but as a quasi-Fit Boy™, I’ve not gotten that far yet. 

So, uh, have good exercise duration?

YouTube yoga and walks – Már Másson Maack  

Now I’m no Fit Boy™ as I’ve never been that big on working out, but coronavirus lockdowns make it all too clear that humans need some form of exercise to stay sane. Since being stuck working from home, my girlfriend and I have made sure to go on brisk lunch walks (about 2 km) to energize for the afternoon, as well as doing yoga at home.

The thing is, our apartment is tiny so there’s normally not enough room for two people doing yoga at the same time. But in the times of COVID-19, you’ve got to put the effort in to keep your body healthy, so don’t shy away from rearranging your whole apartment to get some exercise done. That means moving any sofas, tables, and other furniture in your way — feng shui be damned — for even the shortest yoga programs.

Our go-to online yoga instructor is Yoga with Adriene, as she’s got a ton of great videos for free on YouTube, with a great balance between exercise and mindfulness. You can find great one-off lessons that suit you (e.g. yoga for sensitive knees) or try out one of her 30-day yoga challenges (she’s got quite a few) which help you slowly build up strength and continuously improve. My girlfriend and I have always meant to try to stick to the 30-day challenges (spoiler alert: It never worked), but you could argue now’s the perfect time to give it a go.

Running and YouTube workout – Cara Curtis

The year I decided would be my time to get fit, coronavirus decided to spread across the globe. While I’m tempted to see this as fate and a clear sign that I shouldn’t train to run marathons, it turns out I need exercise for more than just physical health. Currently in the UK, specifically London, the government advice warns against mass gatherings so I’m still running solo around parks. But once the inevitable call is made to ban all non-essential outdoor time, I’m going to have to get creative when it comes to exercising, especially in a small London apartment. 

Running indoors simply won’t work. I’d have to do 5,000 laps of my living room just to hit 3km. So instead, I’m going to be using YouTube workout tutorials which is something I’ve always wanted to do anyway. Similarly to Már, I’m going to start with Yoga with Adriene, a yoga teacher with hundreds of tutorials and 6.28 million subscribers. She caters to all levels and has a very calming presence, something we all need right now. 

I already know I’m going to miss running, not to mention how worried I am about my depleting Strava stats. 

Zwift and Sufferfest — Matthew Beedham

As a cyclist in my spare time, I’m used to spending the winter months training in the garage on a turbo trainer in solitary confinement. It’s one of the best ways to avoid the cold and wet winter days, and maintain fitness for spring. I’ve already ridden over 1,000km this winter on a Tacx smart trainer, and it’s been relatively enjoyable. 

At this time of year I would normally be outside training, which I can still do alone. I prefer riding alone anyway, so no change there. But when I must stay indoors, the online training-come-video games Zwift and the Sufferfest have been absolute godsends. 

In short, hooking my race bike up to the smart trainer and firing up Zwift or Sufferfest means I can complete an incredibly focused, intense, and accurate workout without leaving my house. 

Zwift is great because some of my friends back in the UK use it, and when we all get the chance, we can ride — and race — together in its virtual world. Sufferfest, on the other hand, has a few other tricks up its sleeve: Yoga, strength and mental training. When the mood takes me, I’ve been dabbling in a few yoga sessions to keep things interesting. 

Perhaps the best bit though, unlike Cara, I don’t have to worry about losing Strava stats. All the workouts I complete on Zwift and Sufferfest upload directly to the fitness tracking platform. All my virtual miles, personal records, and suffer scores are recorded as normal.

Honestly, I’d be quite content — given the circumstances — to carry on training like this for the rest of the year if I have to.

The only downside is that my life does feel an awful lot like that Black Mirror episode, ‘Fifteen Million Merits.’

MMA YouTube — Abhimanyu Ghoshal 

Since I don’t have a lot of gym equipment at home, I’m following MMA legend Bas Rutten’s workout, which only requires a pair of dumbbells and a little room to move around. The intense half-hour routine involves shadow boxing, squats, lunges, push-ups, and weights.

It’s surprisingly difficult to get through the entire set while maintaining your form, so I’d recommend aiming for 14 minutes to start, and adding on a minute every couple of days.

This workout is from an old DVD set, which you can find on Amazon. Alternatively, you can look up Bas Rutten’s MMA All-Around Workout on YouTube and follow along with other fit folks who run through the entire routine while following his instructions. Once you know the shadow boxing combinations and each exercise, you only really need the audio to follow along.

Running around the patio and online yoga — Yessi Bello-Perez

I’m trying to eat as healthily as possible but the truth is I’ve been munching on chocolate, crisps, and doing the occasional set of squats in between. 

Bearing in mind that a lockdown is imminent here in the UK, I’m planning to be more strict with regards to both diet and exercise in the longer term.

I’m lucky because I have a garden, so it’s likely I’ll be running around my patio furniture just to try and get my step count up. The squats will continue, and I will definitely be picking up my weights (4kgs, don’t judge me!) and doing some light arm and leg exercises to tone and keep my fitness levels up. I’m also considering running up and down the stairs, but I’ll have to think about this a little because I’m pretty clumsy.  My yoga teacher is running online sessions so I will try and attend as many as possible. 

I think it’s important to do what’s right for you and not to beat yourself up if you don’t stick to your routine every single day. These are unprecedented times and seeing peoples’ home workouts on Instagram stories can be a little overwhelming. Try and do as much as you can and find something you actually enjoy doing so it feels like less of a chore. 

Dumbbells, weightlifting, and pullups — Thomas Macaulay

I’ve been working out at home for quite a while as I’ve got a weightlifting bench, dumbbells, and pullup bar. They take up quite a bit of space, but can be packed away quite quickly if necessary. Would definitely recommend the pullup bar for anyone who wants to do strength training, and a skipping rope for some cardio. I also do yoga by following classes on YouTube. There’s loads of them.

Nintendo Ring Fit Aventure — Rachel Kaser

I’ve been breaking in my Nintendo Switch game, Ring Fit Adventure, though admittedly I probably would even without the quarantine. I’m missing my usual dance classes, if only because I’m less motivated without my teacher’s energy, but at least no one can see me in my room, doing strange things with a plastic ring and some Joy-Con.

Like Yessi, I’m also lucky enough to have a yard. I also have a dog that, while getting on in years, much prefers the yard to the house, so we’re getting out when the rain isn’t too bad. Even without the exercise, it’s just nice to get some fresh air now and then.

Also, if anyone needs a reminder, you can set your Fitbit to yell at you to get up every now and then. Since I’ve been working from home since before this started, I’ve had it set up to tell me to move just so I don’t get deep vein thrombosis on an average work day.

Jogging and “heart points” — Tristan Greene

I’m lucky enough to be self-quarantining with my family on a beach in Baja, so I can still get outside for long walks and jogging on the shore. Aside from that, it’s lots of stretching and deep dives into my Google Fit statistics to make sure I’m getting enough “heart points” — just like Link from The Legend of Zelda. 

Jogging — Bryan Clark

Like Tristan, I’m also lucky enough to be quarantined on the Pacific. Since the gym is closed due to coronavirus, I’ve recently taken up this new fad called, uh, jogging. I believe it’s “jogging” or “yogging” — it might be a soft “j”. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.

I miss the gym. Running makes me cry. But at least the scenery is nice.

Virtual fitness classes — Anouk

My indoor fitness routine stems from the time I was either too lazy and/or poor to go to the gym, and I’ve perfected it over time. You’ll need:

  • One yoga mat
  • A mirror (someone people hate watching themselves exercising, I find it helpful)
  • Dumbbells (I don’t have dumbbells so I always use bottles of laundry detergent)
  • Towel
  • A water bottle
  •  A laptop, tablet, or phone

I have tried many virtual fitness classes over time, but I always come back to this power pilates class: 

It is the most efficient 30-minute workout ever created. It features Linda, the creator of the workout, the host, Anna, who’s very annoying and cheery, and one other woman who doesn’t talk for some reason. I’ve seen it so many times I can recite it word for word — Anna keeps talking about obliques and to this day I don’t know what they are — but it’s still very effective.

To get a full workout, I often combine two different training sessions: to start with, the first 17 minutes from this cardio-focused video below (high knees and mountain climbers, that kind of stuff) before moving on to the 30-minute power pilates video above. — Ivan

I’m a member of a fitness chain called which involves a ton of exercise forms such as boxing, strength training, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workout). A lot of workouts even at the chain’s gym doesn’t involve any equipment.

Luckily, also has an app that hosts live workout sessions, and a ton pre-recorded workouts. So, I try and join these sessions when I can.

However, with this gloomy atmosphere all around, I often don’t get motivated enough to go through these sessions. So, I’ve developed another workout routine: I take a small break from work, play a song, and repeat a number of exercises while it’s playing. Yep, I’m ready to be “Lifehacker Ninja” or any other fancy title management people can come up with as my new official designation.

Hopefully we can keep up these fitness routines for at least three months — the amount of time the UK government advised our lives would be disrupted. It’s times like this that we’re thankful for YouTube’s existence with its endless video options for time-wasting content or hours of footage on how to get shredded at home.

How are you staying fit while working from home? Tell us on Twitter.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with