Hot Topic: Tips for work and self-care at home

These unprecedented times mean people are looking for ways to look after themselves - both physically and mentally - in the confines of the house. 

It is only right, then, that this month's Hot Topic takes a look at some key tips for working, training and relaxing at home. 

British Swimming's Physical Performance Lead and Performance Nutritionist Richard Chessor provides his insight on the importance of staying active when usual training possibilities are not available, while Performance Lifestyle Advisor Josh Rudd shines a light on the essential need to look after your mental health and maintain some form of routine in the weeks ahead. 

So first up, what advice are our elite athletes being given on to stay physically fit? 

RC: "We've advised the athletes on what land-based kit and equipment they require to enable them to engage in both cardiovascular and strength training at home. 

"The training advice is then tailored to the individual and is based off what their normal training load would be, and how they are approaching this period.

"Some athletes are taking a break and therefore we are encouraging them just to do some light exercise for around one hour each day. This will typically be a combination of circuit training or cardiovascular activity, such as cycling or running.

"For those athletes who are not taking a training break, they will typically engage in resistance training two or three times per week, circuit training or cross-training two or three times per week and between three to six cardiovascular sessions, which alternate between steady-state endurance and interval-type sessions - typically cycling, running and rowing."

Jack Laugher Protein Up and Go social
Athletes like Jack Laugher are now training and doing workouts from home

Of course, the focus is not only elite-level athletes keeping themselves active in some way during the coronavirus pandemic.

While what form of exercise or physical activity you participate in is down to personal preference - and there is a huge range of options available just from your own living room, bedroom or garden - Richard highlights why it can be important to do something at this, and any, time.

RC: "Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for a number of cardiovascular diseases, so it's important to stay active for your medium and long-term health.

"For athletes, they are used to training 10 to 14 times per week, so being active is a huge part of who they are and what they enjoy.

"So it's not only important to help them maintain their performance capabilities, it's also incredibly important to help them retain a sense of normality to their lifestyle."

Staying physically active at home is only one factor of the current government guidelines, which are advising against leaving your home except under certain, specific circumstances. 

With genuine, in-person contact with others now limited, and people's usual weekly plans hugely affected, looking out for your own and others' mental health is important. 

Josh Rudd works with Britain's elite swimmers as a Performance Lifestyle Advisor, helping them deal with many aspects of their lives away from the pool and the gym. 

That puts him in a good position to advise on what people can do at this unique moment in time.

JR: "The coronavirus outbreak is having a profound impact on everyone's daily lives, as the government takes measures to manage the pandemic.

"Everyone reacts differently to changes in the way we think, feel and behave. This varies between different people and at different times. It's important that we all take care of our mental as well as physical health during this time. 

"Some important things to remember when it comes to keeping our mind healthy include...

  • Consider how to connect with others. We are all beginning to adapt in finding ways of communicating that don't involve meeting in person. Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how best you keep in touch with others - phone, text, social media or video are good examples. Consider those you may speak to often, or you may wish to reconnect with old friends. 
  • Talk about your worries. It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that most people will feel the same as you, and sharing your feelings and coping strategies with family and friends can help them also. If you don't feel comfortable in doing this, there are others you can speak to, via support groups or charities, either by phone or online. 

Tiff's One-Pot Chickpea Stew
Why not try some new recipes in the kitchen for downtime?
  • Maintaining a daily routine. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines. Try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (reading, calling a friend etc).  You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week. 

Being away from the office or usual places of work has not stopped plenty of people who are able to work from home, while many schoolchildren and students are continuing their studies. 

So what tips does Josh have for those looking to avoid distractions and maintain a routine for work or study? 

JR: "Being at home for a long period of time can be a difficult situation for some, especially with other family members or small children in the household. Equally, those living alone can feel isolated from the rest of their support network. 

"Ensuring we can be as productive as possible when working or studying from home can be difficult, but consider the following: 

  • Keeping to dedicated workspace. Creating an environment to work from will ensure you can be as productive as possible. Try to prepare a working area at home, like a spare room or dining room table, in stead of a laptop in the sofa in front of the TV. Keep those spaces for your downtime in the evenings. Ensure your workspace is solely for work. If you aren't feeling productive, take a break or make use of your daily outdoor exercise and return to your workspace when you're ready.

National Centre Bath
Athletes and non-athletes are getting used to being away from their usual places of work or exercise - like National Centre Bath (pictured)

  • Maintaining a routine and social connection with classmates/colleagues. Just like any other times, connecting with colleagues or classmates is useful to keeping a routine.  If you would've been in a lecture, try arranging studying around this and consider working during this times. Equally, arranging 'virtual cuppas' with colleagues during the week help you to keep united as a team.  It becomes easier to work longer when you're at home, so maintain regular hours and stick to them too.
  • Making a plan (and sticking to it!). As you would in the office or while studying, make a plan. To-do lists or utilising the calendar on your phone/laptop are all useful tools to avoid distraction. It also gives you a reason to get up, have breakfast and start your day with purpose. Some people find wearing clothes you'd normally wear during the day (as opposed to pyjamas!) useful to stay productive. Don't forget to plan breaks and what time you'll finish the working day.

Above all else, find what works for you. Sometimes the answer is clear, other times you may need inspiration from others who are in the same boat. Your support network or team may be able to provide that inspiration. 

We have been compiling a list of handy and healthy recipes for if spending more time in the kitchen is how you are helping yourself through the current situation. Find them on our Fuel My Friday channel HERE.