While lockdown has been an opportunity to operate at a slightly slower pace in many ways, for many parents – and especially those also trying to work – the chance to take a moment for oneself has become increasingly hard.

Despite this lack of personal time, we are all extra-specially aware of the need to stay healthy and improve our fitness post-COVID. So we asked Leah Camenzuli, one of Malta’s top personal trainers and a mother of one (and a bump!) what we should do – and passed on some of your questions. Leah’s approach to wellbeing and fitness is both extremely inspiring and totally realistic, so read on for some really great advice on how to make the most of your diet and exercise intentions when you don’t have a moment to yourself…

  1. “I really feel as though I have only 15 minutes in a day to commit to doing some meaningful exercise – how can I make that count?” What can we do if time is really, really tight?

It’s a common misconception you need to grind away in the gym for over an hour for it to count. 15 minutes is more than enough time to squeeze in some meaningful exercise but that is only if you’re willing to push yourself that little bit harder.

When you’re on a time crunch, I would always opt for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The goal of 10-15 minutes of high-intensity training is to cause the greatest possible disturbance on muscle fibres in the shortest possible time, which in turn greatly increases heart rate, and oxygen uptake.

The truth is, 15 min workouts only work if you put your all into them (so you leave feeling like you literally can’t do any more). Tabata timing is a great option – 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. Find eight of your favourite sweaty/heart pumping exercises (squat jumps, mountain climbers, burpees etc) and complete for four rounds of them.

  1. “I wasn’t very fit at all before lockdown and I am really keen to get fit now to boost my immunity. What are the most basic, effective things I can do to get me started?” What are the best first steps for absolute couch potato, out of shape beginners? 

First and foremost, it’s true exercise can indeed boost immunity – but it does depend on the intensity and consistency of your workouts. Together with exercise, frequent handwashing, social distancing, and maintaining a balanced diet is the best way keep your body as healthy as possible.

My advice for people just getting started is to NOT to jump straight into the deep end. It’s so important to ease into exercise that will increase the longevity of your fitness journey. Going too fast too soon not only increases your chances of burning out but can also increase your chances of injury.

I always advise my newer clients to “leave their ego at the door” and gradually build up their strength and endurance over time. How to do this? Avoid going too heavy with the weights, avoid too much high impact (jumping) exercise, and instead aim to raise your core-based exercises. For example: use a step to raise your push ups, mountain climbers, plank, and burpees etc. Then, as time goes on and your confidence increases, gradually increase weight, add jumps and remove the step which is a reward in itself.

  1. “I like the idea of a YouTube workout but worry that I won’t be able to follow the teaching properly which might cause injury?” Which are your favourite resources for exercise inspiration and good online teaching?

YouTube workouts are a great way to get moving at home but unfortunately a very easy way to injure yourself. This is especially relevant if you’re new to exercise or not confident with certain/newer movements. Form is everything. It helps you work smarter and improves overall performance.

Exercise inspiration is everywhere – Instagram is a great place to start. As for good online teaching, Active Spirit Malta is offering fun and interactive virtual classes. This way the trainers (myself and Angele Satariano) can keep an eye on your form, make any corrections if necessary, and motivate you throughout the session.

  1. “I’ve relied heavily on wine and chocolate to get me through lockdown. I feel like I need to boost my diet to get my energy and happiness from something else.” What can we swap the wine and chocolate for that will still feel like a treat?

Nothing wrong with a little wine and chocolate but it all boils down to how much and how often you’re consuming them. One glass of red wine and a few squares of chocolate will not stop you from your goals whatever they may be. It’s all about moderation. However, if you’re like me and ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is the best way to go, I would completely remove temptation from the house or eyeshot, and swap it out for healthy alternatives. Herbal tea and a handful of dates (or any fruit really) are a great little guilt-free treat.

  1. What will be your lasting memories of COVID-19?

Uninterrupted time with my little family. Most mornings I duck out to instruct fitness classes for a couple of hours but it was so nice to not have a 5.30am alarm and just to be able to ease into the day. Also, we found out we were pregnant with our second little bundle just before the lockdown began. Because of this blessing, we had a few appointments to look forward to and I could suffer in silence with first trimester woes.

Despite the seriousness of the pandemic and knowing/appreciating the sacrifices people made day-in, day-out to help those suffering, I felt so blessed to be in the safety of our home. We had each other and our health. This period together is a time I’ll remember forever.

Let us know if you have any questions for Leah – we’ll keep in touch and pass on replies. Add your questions in the comments below or email editor@minimalta.com 

Leah Camenzuli

A wife and mother of one who is passionate about fitness and motherhood. The driving force behind her love for fitness is to empower women to see the strength and beauty of which a woman’s body is capable.