Staying active during the pandemic is not just good for your physical health, it will also help you stay on top of things and remain positive. Fitness trainer Michael 'Micky' Downs has seen both sides of this discussion over the past year.
Strong Body - Strong Mind - a fitness guide during Covid
Based in Kilmacowen near Sligo town, Michael works as a full-time sports coach and fitness instructor, or at least he did until the pandemic forced him to close his doors. But while the decision to cancel group sports to stem the rise of Covid-19 has affected Michael and many others, he decided to put the time to good use with the overall aim of staying positive.
So, while his wife Ciara was out at work, Michael got stuck into the home schooling and cooking the meals, and he also decided to take up drumming - not a universally popular choice for the rest of the household!
While being an advocate of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Michael is no brow-beating fitness evangelist, but he does recommend that people use exercise to stay on top of things. He's also an early riser, and gets out for a walk to "own the dawn" as he calls it.
"These days more than ever while people are struggling, exercise is so important," he says. "Little tips I've used for myself - get up in the morning early, have a routine, plan your day," adding that his mantra is "get up, get out, get active and get healthy."
For someone who was reliant on his clients to support his business, lockdown has caused financial as well as personal challenges. Based on his experience, Michael says that we must always try to look towards the positive, and what we do with our time now will benefit us when we emerge from lockdown.
"I'm receiving the Covid payment, which I'm very grateful for," he says. "I had to re-evaluate how to survive in these times. I'm using the time to my advantage, I've redone a new course, and I also took up a new hobby, so I'm filling my days, and I also have three kids to home school, so I'm busy. I value using the time that I have."
Michael has been reaching out to his regular clients by providing them with free weekly drills delivered over WhatsApp. These are simple exercises which anyone can do within their own home and don't require any expensive equipment.
"I post a video of myself training and I go through a workout each week and I send that out to my clients, and if they need any help or support, they can text and ask questions," he says. "The response has been very positive. At least 70% have texted me back and they are doing the workouts, which I'm proud of, and their kids are joining in on the workouts as well."
In this way he is not only looking after his clients, but he also hopes that when restrictions ease, these clients will return to his classes in good form physically and mentally. He also adds that these workouts aren't just restricted to clients, but that if anyone is looking to start an exercise programme, he is happy to add them to his groups for free. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several times during our conversation, Michael mentions the wellbeing of his own children, and how we must be particularly conscious of ensuring that children get regular exercise and aren't allowed too much time either in front of the schoolbooks or the TV.
"In my opinion, the kids need to be doing at least an hour of some kind of activity every day. People say that they can't go out in the rain - that's what coats are for. Get out, walk, run, keep active. Kids like to spend a lot of time on the laptops and the screens - get them to switch it off and spend quality time with them. They'll value you a lot more if you spend that time with them."
As a final word, he advises anyone who is finding the restrictions of lockdown overly burdensome to get support, and that a friendly face is never too far away. "Don't be afraid to reach out for that support. Contact people, friends or professionals for support and advice. Everybody's here to help each other and there's a lot of us going through this at the moment."
The Keep Well initiative is being delivered by Sligo County Council through the Healthy Sligo, Keep Well and Community Resilience Fund. Please visit our website www.sligococo.ie/keepwell for resources and information, as well as staying up to date on all of the new video releases.