Marcelle Collison- Qualified personal trainer , IFBB pro athlete, and owner of Body Conscious Private Gym. Image: supplied.
Marcelle Collison- Qualified personal trainer , IFBB pro athlete, and owner of Body Conscious Private Gym. Image: supplied.

Expert advice on staying fit during self-isolation

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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For many people a trip to the gym is part of daily life, but with fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus escalating, it has become yet another source of concern.

As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise in South Africa, health officials have urged the public to stay away from all gyms and fitness studios.

South Africa’s biggest fitness branch Virgin Active has already shut the doors of one of its most prominent branches, in Melrose Arch, after one of its members of the gym tested positive for coronavirus last week week.

So what can South Africans do to keep fit as they are urged to avoid gyms at all costs?

The Saturday Star caught up with some of the country’s top fitness experts and nutritionists in the country to get tips on how to keep fit without going to the gym, what to eat to boost your immune system, and whether it is a necessity to avoid the gym during the outbreak of the virus.

Craig Brown- Professional fitness coach, Clinical Performance nutritionist, and owner of CSB Body Fusion. Image: supplied.

Craig Brown: Professional fitness coach, Clinical Performance nutritionist, and owner of CSB Body Fusion

Should South Africans be avoiding gyms and fitness studios?

Like all public spaces, gyms do present a level of risk. Although gyms are taking it very seriously, and have stepped-up sanitisation in all areas, the risk still remains.

We have taken the initiative to start LIVE training sessions via social media, where our international, and local clients who choose to workout at home, can join us for short active workouts. Training is good for physical and mental health, and many of our clients abroad, (we have some in China, Europe, UK and USA) are feeling the pinch of isolation.

What are some of the best home exercises that men can do to keep in shape?

This would be applicable to both men and women. When one has limited equipment at home, we have to rely on mainly bodyweight and compound exercises (exercises utilising multiple muscles to execute).

-Body weight squats in various forms (Sumo, Goblet squats, box squats)
-Lunges - reverse, forward and walking lunges
-Split squats
-Bench dips
-Hip thrusts
-Frog pumps
-Pull ups or chin ups - intermediate to advanced movement, but can be easily swapped out for inverted rows, which are less challenging.
-V ups
-Leg raises

These are just some basic examples, a relatively cheap set of resistance bands will open up a whole other level of more challenging exercises.

How important is it to keep the momentum in your workouts?

I think it’s vital that we continue to train and stay active. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to get their kids involved, make fun workouts, go for walks with the dogs.

Not only for the physical benefits but psychological benefits as well, known as a powerful stress reliever, its positive effects on depression and anxiety, to alleviate boredom while we come to grips with limited movement and social engagements.

What are the important foods to eat to boost your immune system?

One main point I want to highlight, this is not the time for drastic changes to your nutrition. Do not be encouraged to adopt ANY fad diets, or aggressive dieting protocols at this stage.

For most people, common sense prevails , simply start to include a fruit every day, and avegetable to each meal, like with training, increase these small changes weekly or every second week and stay consistent.

Frozen vegetables is a very viable option, so don’t feel you are restricted too fresh, or organic, or special expensive or “superfoods, do what you can, with what you have, and what’s affordable to you at this time.

Some cheaper and long lasting examples :


-A good Whey concentrate powder is handy, and has its own immune benefits attached.

-Various Legumes such as black beans, chickpeas , edamame beans, kidney beans, tinned or fresh - (protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibre)

-Various Nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts

-Frozen vegetables

-Apples, pears, and kiwi for example, hold well in the fridge for longer periods, one can also freeze bananas etc, I make up smoothie packs of spinach, apple, banana, beetroot and celery, which gets frozen till needed, add in a scoop of whey and I have a quick tasty meal bursting with nutrition.

Marcelle Collison : Qualified personal trainer , IFBB pro athlete, and owner of Body Conscious Private Gym:

Should South African’s avoid gyms?

In general, the gym is a place where we sweat so given any occasion, this is a place where germs may spread. I haven’t stopped going to the gym however. 

Fortunately I train at a private gym where they have stepped up the hygiene and sanitation regime, offering hand sanitizers, alcohol sprays and wet wipes.

I am more conscious of not touching my face, not training close to others and ensuring I have my sweat towel with me constantly.

A few of my clients and friends have chosen to train at home and this is another GREAT option as it's keeping you in some sort of routine. Whether you decide to go to the gym, train at home or go for a walk or run…. I think it's important to maintain some level of activity.

What are some of the basic exercises that women can focus on at home to make sure they get an overall full body workout?

Always warm up properly, go for a five minute walk. Make sure you have a sweat towel and a bottle of water with you. After your warm up: Music on and get ready to work up a sweat.

There are so many combinations/ exercises to use that can be effective and leave you feeling great afterwards:

Give this a try: After your warm up:
Complete all the exercises listed below, then take a 60 seconds break/ rest and start the next round, completing a min of 4 rounds:

-Jumping Jacks x 25
-Squats x 20
-Walking Lunges x 20
-Push Ups x 15
-Crunches x 20
-Plank 60 seconds

60 seconds Rest and start another round.

After completing all rounds, remember to go for a nice cool off walk, keeping hydrated and stretching properly!

Other exercises include: Burpees, side lunges, skater skiis, tricep dips, bird dogs, stationary lunges, pelvic lifts, Knee ups/ jogging on the spot, wall sits, elbow taps,
standing calf raises.

What are the important foods to eat to boost your immune system?

Start by having a good serving of vegetables with your meals, good complex carbohydrates and lean proteins! These are always the basics for healthy living and a healthy lifestyle.

Other foods to boost your immune system include:

-Lean proteins (Fish and chicken)
-Green tea

Adam McConnell- Sports Scientist and Personal Trainer. Image: supplied.

Adam McConnell: sports scientist and personal trainer:

Should we be avoiding gyms?

By no means have I stopped going to the gym, and for the majority of the population I would recommend they also continue their daily physical activities.

Our best defence against any respiratory condition is our immune system, and the fitter and healthier you are the better your body will be able to fight the disease.  

Being healthier may not definitely stop you contracting the disease but it will certainly help you fight it off.

For the minority of the population, by which I mean people who are at high risk of being more severely affected, such as the elderly and people with respiratory problems, I would recommend self-isolation, away from all public places, not just gyms. 

The irony of it all is all gyms are a lot quieter at the minute, with so few people being there that the chances of contracting the coronavirus are very slim. Besides, any gym worth their salt should have a stringent cleaning regimen in place, whereby all equipment and surfaces are regularly being disinfected, preferably with an alcohol solution.  

So, therefore, a gym is potentially a better place to go than even the supermarket or a coffee shop.

What are some of the best home exercises that men can do to keep in shape if they aren't able to visit a gym?

In the absence of gym equipment there are literally hundreds of exercises that can be performed using purely bodyweight.  

Whether it’s at home, in the office or on the road, people can use their own bodies to create enough resistance to have a great workout.

Please bear in mind that if you are feeling symptomatic you must ensure to keep your heart rate down, to minimise the risk to your heart. 

In this instance, refrain from doing any physical activity and rest for as long as your body tells you to.

What are the important foods to eat to boost your immune system?

A good, healthy, balanced diet is the key to all aspects of human health.  

All of the systems in our bodies, including the immune system, require specific nutrients in order for them to function properly and remain healthy, and if we are not taking in the necessary macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, lipids and water) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) then our organs and systems will not operate at optimum levels.
 The best sources of food for our daily needs are fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses and water.  

We should think of meat as a treat and have it as an added bonus with our meals, preferably not every day and not as the primary item on the plate.

Cutting down on unhealthy saturated fats, alcohol and sugar would also greatly reduce health and immunity issues.

Chris Walsh- Strength Specialist. Image: Supplied.

Chris Walsh- Strength Specialist

Have you stopped going to the gym?

As a gym owner, I have advised my members to stay in and do home workouts. As a result  my own gym is empty, so I’ve been training there. Obviously if more stringent measures are put in place, then I’ll grab a Kettlebell and continue at home.

What are some of the best home exercises that men can do to keep in shape if they aren't able to visit a gym?

I’d definitely suggest using Kettlebells as you can get a great full body workout using minimal space and equipment. Also throwing skipping and body-weight exercises into the mix keeps it fun.

How important is it to maintain momentum in your workouts?

Even though life has become chaotic with the outbreak, it’s important to stay on top of your health by remaining active - this is something within our control. 

We’ve seen what a three week Christmas break does, so with no timelines, being more sedentary and with apps like Uber Eats, I’d encourage sticking to a training routine otherwise it could literally become pear shaped very quickly. It will also lift our spirits during testing times and keeps our immune systems strong.

What are the important foods to eat to boost your immune system?

If we do catch COVID-19, our immune system is responsible for fighting it. So make sure you eat as healthily as possible.

Focus on eating a variety of foods within the basic food groups to get essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc are infection fighting micronutrients.

Is it possible to do a full body workout without any gym equipment at home?

Yes it is. Pull-up bars using door frames are readily available and easy to install. With so many online workout programs focusing on bodyweight exercises and core conditioning, having a yoga mat is paramount. 

If you have a bike, you can even purchase a roller and create your own spinning setup in front of your TV.

I’ve got tons of free Workouts with minimal equipment on my website under ‘blog’ - www.360training

Stacey Holland - TV presenter, Wellness Architect , and Yoga Teacher. Image: supplied.

Stacey Holland - TV presenter, Wellness Architect , and Yoga Teacher:

Have you stopped going to the gym?

It’s a challenging one because if gyms are not well maintained from a hygiene perspective then they can be a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and other pathogens like Coronavirus. 

If you are feeling ill or experiencing any of the symptoms associated with the virus as shared by our Department of Health and the WHO; then you shouldn’t be training anyway.

Your body is telling you to rest and exercising when you’re not well can do more harm than good. That being said it’s also important to get on board with the social distancing initiatives by training at home if you train at a larger gym facility.

I Train at a boutique gym, The Yard Athletic in Fairways, and this allows me to train yet maintain the recommended distance of 1-2m distance from other gym members.

It’s important that your gym communicate hygiene strategies and practices over this period: there should be additional cleaning methods implemented to allay fears and ensure members are certain that precautions are in place. 

The Yard Athletic in conjunction with my new fitness venture, LiveFit with Stace will be sharing workouts that you can do in the comfort of your home so follow me on social media for updates on workouts.

What are some of the best home exercises that women can do to keep in shape?

I always love going back to the trusted movements of squats, lunges, push-ups, mountain climbers (with socks on a tiled floor), skipping and various kettlebell movements. 

The best exercises are the ones that you can perform safely and effectively with what you have around you. You don’t always need equipment, body-weight movements can be just as effective.

Also, remember its about what you do consistently. Try and schedule your one workouts the same way you would a gym session.

How important is it to maintain momentum in your workouts?

You are the sum of the habits your perform consistently. As I mentioned above, in order to maintain your fitness levels you acquired at the gym, you are going to have to apply dedication and discipline in your home workouts.

Choose a time that suits both you and your family or even incorporate your family to ensure accountability and try to stick to the times set. 

Don’t make excuses and shift workouts out to suit other activities because soon enough, the workouts will be replaced with something else.

What are the important foods to eat to boost your immune system?

We need to understand that immunity is a complex set of systems and processes and ‘boosting’ ones immune system isn’t as simple as it sounds. We all have varying states of immunity that can be influenced by a multitude of factors. 

In fact, we want a healthy immune system and that means having a healthy body. Certain foods and supplements can assist the body in functioning more effectively thus allowing the various elements of the immune system to do their job effectively. 

So understand that there isn’t a straight link between certain foods and enhanced immunity, there are a number of processes that are improved in the body that thus confer enhanced or improved immunity. 

The first thing you can do to improve your health and thus improve your immunity is to remove altogether, or at the very least greatly reduce, the amount of processed and junk food you’re consuming, at the same time start eating more wholefoods that are as fresh as you can find them or you can afford. 

Try buying from farmers and markets where you can speak to farmers or find out about where the produce comes from and how it was produced. Eat fresh and cook at home as a rule rather than an exception. 

If you must consume packaged or processed items and the packaging states that the contents contain more than 5g of sugar per 100g, try and avoid it.

Think of your immune system being like the Protective Forces of a country, city or town: there are various types of officials, of varying ranks, (organs, systems and processes) all coordinating efforts to identify, locate and neutralize whatever threats (pathogens like viruses) that exists in the environment (your body).

 These officers should always be communicating in order to enhance each individual and team effort. Processed foods, sugars and hydrogenated oils, chronic stress and disease end up jamming or distorting the signals of communication between these officers causing further mayhem and confusion and a lack of effectiveness in certain areas which prevents the officers from doing their jobs.

As you can see, aating a good diet and taking various supplements enhances this entire system by providing each team, each unit and each officer with the various support and supplies necessary for doing their jobs.

That being said, if ever there was a time that your body needed Vitamin C it appears to be during infection, according to the research. Things like zinc and selenium (found in Brazil nuts) are great as well as herbal support like Echinacea and Olive Leaf Extract.

Is it possible to do a full body workout without any gym equipment at home?

Yes of course. For centuries humans have been training their entire bodies without a single piece of equipment or simply by using ‘equipment’ available in the environment around them.

The Saturday Star

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