How coronavirus changed our connection to exercise


These everyday Victorian women told us what worked, what didn’t, and what they’re looking forward to now restrictions are easing

While stay-at-home restrictions were in place, we asked what our This Girl Can – Victoria ambassadors were doing to stay active at home.

Now that they’re easing, we asked them about their experience with exercise and physical activity throughout the restrictions.

What they told us was that connecting with others is a big part of getting the physical activity they need to feel good.

What worked during restrictions

Connecting online:

  • “Doing an activity like Bollywood dancing with others via Zoom was amazingly uplifting and I felt connected to people,” said Jagriti.
  • Melinda found: “Virtual marathons kept me motivated and moving”.
  • Angela also connected to virtual group activities: “We would all commit to a 5km walk/run/cycle every Saturday and we’d post our photos to share where we had been,” she said.

“We set up the family room and called it the gym. Had fun confusing my hubby by saying we were going to the gym,” said Sue.

  • Sue followed a home fitness program with her daughter: “Having someone to workout with at home kept me motivated,” she said.

Connecting with the local neighbourhood:

  • “Walking with one friend at a time has been an amazing way to reconnect with people I love and just talk and walk,” said Sindi, “we are all usually so busy doing other things together that we don’t get the real conversation very often”.
  • “I set a goal of walking a marathon a week,” said Courtney, “friends who lived close by joined in. We then connected this with a fundraiser virtual walk”.
  • “Restrictions meant shorter rides close to home, however I developed a hack for that. I rode every street in my suburb, and the few surrounding suburbs. Despite a boundary of about 3km square I was able to clock up over 50km just riding in the local streets. The neighbourhood thought I’d gone totally nuts as I rode up and back and round and round,” said Tina.

“I rode every street in my suburb, and the few surrounding suburbs… the neighbourhood thought I’d gone totally nuts,” said Tina.

Knowing that connecting with your body helps you feel good:

  • What worked? “Getting started and actually doing the activity,” said Jagriti, “especially walking and getting some much-needed fresh air. Felt like heaven during lockdown!”
  • “Incorporating more yoga and body weight exercises,” said Tracy, “I will definitely continue doing both of these!”
  • “At the heart of it I think it’s all about This Girl Can,” said Natasha, “as in literally what CAN I actually do inside? Can I walk around the house? Can I go up and down the stairs? Can I put on some music and dance?”

What didn’t work during restrictions

Not having structure and support:

“I struggled. I prefer a team environment… I do better with fixed times, expectations and people,” said Marnie.

  • “I struggled. I prefer a team environment. I’m not good at motivating myself. Also, as a teacher, I was working crazy hours and was so mentally exhausted. Exercise would have been a good solution, but it was often dark or I didn’t make the time. When I worked from home, I would force myself to walk my dogs. That helped…My biggest issue? Not getting my heart rate up and having a consistent schedule. I do better with fixed times, expectations and people,” said Marnie.
  • “I missed the support and accountability of my team,” said Melinda.
  • “I wanted to add more walking but it never happened!” said Sue, “I also wanted to do some online yoga but did a couple of sessions only. I discovered I need to commit to a class time to get things done.”
  • “Using weights at home didn’t work for me,” said Sindi, “cats got in the way often and the bench I was using was slightly too short and I strained my back a little then quit until I can get back to the gym.”

Being hard on yourself (kindness is essential):

  • Angela found that when she wasn’t getting the incidental exercise she was used to before restrictions, “it started to make me feel tired and lethargic. It also made me be quite cruel to myself, and that inner negative voice started to take over. I decided to try to be kinder to myself and replace any negative thought with a positive thought instead. I stopped being so regimental with my exercise and instead decided to be kind. I gave myself the freedom to do what I felt like when I had the time. My life juggling work, kids and online schooling got pretty hectic sometimes so this seemed to work well.”

“I stopped being so regimental with my exercise and instead decided to be kind,” said Angela

  • “At the beginning of isolation I was very motivated so I began doing online workout videos and it was great. Got my heart rate up and really sweaty,” said Dinasha. More recently, she has been busy with her studies, and given herself permission to take it easy: “I’ve sort of taken a step back from working out just allowing myself to be a little lazy. Definitely will be getting back into it though with starting those online workouts and going for walks regularly.”
  • “I come in from a flexible approach,” said Natasha, “if your body really doesn’t want to do the burpee, listen to it and don’t, think about what else your body can/want to do.”

What to look forward to now restrictions are easing

Reconnecting with people, team mates and face-to-face classes:

  • “Getting back to reformer Pilates when the gym reopens. I usually do 3-4 classes a week as I find it helps with my lower back and hip strength reducing chronic lower back pain,” said Sue.
  • “Playing cricket, going swimming and attending fitness classes,” said Dinasha.
  • “Getting back out on the field with my friends and team mates!” said Tracy.
  • “I think everyone is dying to hold a kettlebell haha,” said Natasha.
  • “Dance is back,” said Sindi.
  • “Playing team sports again – touch footy!” said Melinda.
  • “Getting back to cricket training when I can. I miss having a laugh with teammates. I’m also hoping Parkrun might open again soon. In the interim though, at least now I can go running with friends again which has been good for the soul,” said Angela.

Can you relate to what did and didn’t work for our ambassadors during coronavirus restrictions? How about what they’re looking forward to?

We hope you found this inspiring and comforting to hear from these everyday women who volunteered to share their story about getting active as our This Girl Can – Victoria ambassadors.