The Effect of Lockdown on Exercise Patterns

With the global pandemic having started at the beginning of 2020, there are many interesting trends in exercise patterns. In this post I’ll explore the effect of lockdown on exercise patterns that I can clearly see in my own personal Strava activity history.

With COVID-19 hitting and forcing many people to work from home and avoid public spaces, many routines have been turned upside down.

For me personally, my working routine did not change too much. I had already been working from home 4 days a week, even in 2019. I added a 5th day in 2020, bringing me to a fully remote work routine. This extra day did still have a small effect, adding more free time that I would have otherwise used for commuting.

The Effect of Lockdown on Exercise Patterns and Trends

Looking very broadly, I have noticed a few different patterns that people have fallen into in general.

  • More exercise and training, most likely due to a more open schedule (less commuting).
  • More cardiovascular training (more hours free in the day to run) but less strength training (avoiding public gyms).
  • Less exercise in general. Perhaps this is due to people staying home and not using the gym during the work week, nearby their former offices.
  • Less exercise in general, possibly due to depression or feeling down as a result of the global pandemic.

In the list of patterns I’ve noticed above, I fall squarely into the second one.

I have found myself completely cutting out any outings unless completely necessary. I even switched completely to online grocery shopping and delivery. With the extra remote day in the week, I also had a few extra hours free around my day job.

This has meant far more cardiovascular exercise for me (read trail running)! I’ve also cut out my strength training routine at my local gym, which was giving me some balance to my overall training plan.

My Results Since Early 2020

From the beginning of 2020, I’ve significantly ramped up my trail running efforts. In the last 5 months, I’ve run just over 1000km. Averaging just over 200km a month. I certainly didn’t come close to that in 2019.

I’ve been filling up my Strava trophy case quite quickly!

strava trophy case

As a side note, I really like the Strava challenges feature. Joining the challenges at the start of the month does wonders for motivation, especially when it comes to the longer running ones like monthly distance and elevation.

This year is definitely a personal record in terms of the amount of running I’ve done.

My clear increase in running from February 2020 to September 2020, peaking at 231.2km for July.

As I alluded to before, this comes down to going out less. Less time commuting, shopping, or running small errands out and about. Also less time in the gym.

Speaking of which, I’ve noticed my weight drop slightly. I’ve lost around 3-4 KG since the start of the time I started ‘lockdown’ (early February).

I believe this is down to more cardio (of course more calories burned), and less gym resulting in some muscle loss.

To try to offset the loss of my 2-3 days of gym I was doing each week, I’ve tried to incorporate some basic exercises like pushups, squats and basic dumbbell training. For pushups I aim for 100 a day every second day, and for the squats I try to do a few sets of 15-20 each.

Without the dedicated gym space at home, I find myself rarely using the dumbbells though.

Another big change for me personally is that I’ve managed to start running ultra marathon distances. With the increase in free time I’ve found the inspiration to start doing ultra trail runs.

What Does a Changing Routine Mean For Us?

For those who have regressed and slipped into an exercise-less routine, all I can say is that you should try to break the cycle and kickstart your fitness again if at all possible. For me personally, trail running brings phyiscal and mental well-being. Look toward boosting your energy levels along with these benefits!

As for the lucky ones that have eased into increased exercise during the global pandemic, I see it as an obvious win-win scenario. Not only are you getting more exercise and keeping up your physical and mental health, but you’re also keeping yourselves occupied by substituting exercise for other forms of entertainment that had been dropped.

Going forward let’s all strive to maintain these good habits, even if our daily routines go back to how they were before.