That was the question a lot of people were asking themselves when the coronavirus pandemic stopped all team sports and closed every gym in the country.
As a 1st team player and Youth Chair at Milton Keynes Rugby Club, I was naturally disappointed when the season ended prematurely, but also realised the lockdown could have a devastating impact on players’ physical fitness at all levels of the club.
As Youth Chair it’s my responsibility to ensure all members have access to training throughout the playing season. So when the club decided it would provide 30 to 60-minute online fitness sessions, I volunteered straight away as I have a background in fitness coaching, was confident with the technology and had the outdoor space to run the workouts.
When deciding on a name for these fitness sessions we wanted it to reflect the game everyone at the club loves and the isolated circumstances coronavirus had forced us all into. It was the club’s under-14s’ coach who came up with the name that fitted the situation perfectly – Try-solation.
Milton Keynes Rugby Club has players of all ages and different levels of fitness. This presented the challenge of designing a set of exercises suitable for very young players from the under six team and adults, including our veterans several of whom are over 50. We overcame this by offering a “simplify” and an “extension” option for each exercise, enabling the less fit to participate in all the routines while those who wanted more of a challenge could push themselves further.
To ensure no one was excluded because they didn’t have their own weights or other gym equipment some of the exercises involved using household items such as tins of baked beans, water bottles or school bags.
I first tried out the session with the club’s under-13 players (year 8 children) on a closed Facebook group. My partner is their head coach and her son, Harry, is one of the players, so I had a couple of assistants to help me demonstrate the exercises.
After successfully completing this trial run we promoted the Try-solation workouts via various social media channels, scheduling the sessions at the same time training would normally take place (Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings) so as to keep some routine for players and their families.
With all the preparations in place we were ready to go “live” with the first Try-solation workout. It was nerve-racking delivering fitness sessions online to a live audience. I found it particularly challenging coaching people without getting any response as to how easy or hard they were finding the exercises.
To avoid the workouts becoming too repetitive I arranged for the club’s first team captain and vice-captain to lead a couple of sessions, which went down really well with the youngsters who look up to the club’s senior players.
Keeping fit should be enjoyable, so I tried to make the workouts fun as well as physically taxing. One session was themed around Fortnite, the popular video game. Once again this proved hugely popular among the younger players as the session quickly descended into hilarity with everyone performing strange “emotes” or victory dances and singing along while doing the exercises. Another session was themed around super heroes.
I’m delighted to report Try-solation was a huge success. We regularly had 75 people taking part and one session attracted 150, which was amazing! The feedback from the players has been excellent. They’ve said Try-solation not only helped them stay fit, it has in these very difficult times contributed to maintaining the connection and camaraderie between players of all ages that characterise Milton Keynes Rugby Club.
Anyone feeling physically jaded after weeks of lockdown and looking to improve their fitness can find the Try-solation workout sessions on Milton Keynes Rugby Club’s YouTube channel.
Programme Director, Nursing & Quality
Bedfordshire, Luton & Milton Keynes Commissioning Collaborative