Coronavirus: A lockdown journey from couch to kettlebells

BBC Technology 02 Jul 2020 11:35
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
Zoe Kleinman and kettlebell

Of all the roles life has carved out for me, this one has to be one of the most unexpected.

But sharing my DIY lockdown kettlebell regime on social media, primarily for the purposes of self-motivation, has resulted in an avalanche of requests for help and support for others - mainly women - wanting to do the same.

My most recent picture, shared after eight weeks of almost (ahem) daily 20-minute workouts, had nearly 100,000 views and resulted in a very funny pitch from a fitness company wanting this 40-something BBC tech reporter to become a brand ambassador.

I'm not about to give up the day job, but it was a flattering - though undoubtedly misguided - gesture.

Online searches for them in the UK practically doubled from 2.1 million in March to 4.1 million in May, according to Redbrain, an e-commerce platform with access to the data of millions of shopping searches and how they translate into sales.

When lockdown hit, I realised that I suddenly had an extra three hours in my working day that wasn't taken up by the commute - and that I was spending more time than ever sitting far too close to the snack cupboard at home.

However, also within reach were my dusty kettlebells, which had been deployed as doorstops.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people out there who do - Google "kettlebell workout" and you'll get around 34.5 million results.

However, I also began to spot emerging themes in the exercises and I gained an understanding of which ones were best for achieving what I wanted: core strength.

Slowly, I built myself a workout based on those elements - adding some extra ones along the way as people started to contact me and share their own favourites (I'm not sure whether to be grateful for the recent addition of Russian twists, which are as painful as they sound).

Personal trainers Emma McCaffrey, Zoe Baker and Viki Potter found themselves having to rethink their entire business model of outdoor classes for a core market of 35-50-year-old women practically overnight.

Since switching their classes to invitation-only Zooms, women from Wales, Bristol, Newcastle and the south of France have joined in.

After much trial and error, the trio have settled on a format that works. Clients don't have to use the camera if they would rather not, and everyone apart from the instructor is on mute throughout.

It's also not the easiest way to teach and, of course, any feedback about technique or posture is impossible.

However, the format has become so successful that they now plan to keep offering Zoom classes despite the loosening of lockdown rules.

Image copyright Colin Howells

He does however have some advice for those of us picking up kettlebells for the first time.

Bending your back during the famous kettlebell swing move - where you swing the bell holding on to the handle with both hands from between your knees to shoulder height and back down again - can cause injury.

He also says it's important to choose the right weight and not to start out too light.

"Make sure you keep your spine straight when you're swinging the kettlebell. Squat, with your feet about shoulder-width apart, put your weight on your heels, shoulders relaxed and back."

"Always do a little pre-swing - gently, just between your legs, before you start, to minimise injury risk," Colin says.

"It's a really good exercise and really enjoyable," he says. "You could start to see results in a month if you stick to it."

"Keep it simple to start with."

I think I'm on the right lines though because this week I managed to do a handstand for the first time in 30 years.

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BBC techEmmaEmma McCaffreyZoe Baker
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