Well, it’s happening: professional sport has been cancelled, with everything from the Premier League to the Olympics postponed, while the prospect of ever increasing social isolation means that the nation’s exercise ambitions are having to be scaled back by the minute.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Spectator Life is here to help, with some physical activities and sporting contests to get the blood pumping. So whether it’s the Isolation Olympics or the Coronavirus Cup, here’s how to settle who gets that final loo roll.
Indoor tennis ball football
At school, we were forced to play the beautiful game with a tennis ball in the playground, because my school was run by the fun police who valued preserving windows over producing the next Wayne Rooney. But all those years in the game, on those mean tarmac streets, taught me that a tennis ball in a confined space is a versatile thing. All you need is the ball, a room with walls, and two floor lamps, plants, umbrella stands or stacks of books to act as goalposts. And for your opponent — room mate, girlfriend, family members or cats are all worthy adversaries.
This is both the noble sport, and also the natural conclusion of spending three months in isolation with your close family members. But don’t take it as a negative; boxing is a hell of a full body workout, will teach you discipline, and help assert a house hierarchy, which should keep the peace moving forward. Who needs gyms and rings when you have your kitchen? Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, flick on the kettle, make some tea. Anything to escape another episode of PE with Joe.
Oh for those pre-internet days when, instead of staring at our phones, we used to flick plastic figurines around a felt mat to kill time. Created in 1947 and having its heyday in the 60s, this is about the most retro game out there. A few hours of practice and you’ll soon become as adept at scoring goals as you were at checking the football scores on the sly in the office.
The UK is beginning to move away from bloodsports like fox hunting, cock fighting and bear baiting (except in Norfolk, where there are no cases of coronavirus at the time of writing. Coincidence? I think not). But spring time is moth season — the time of year when the cashmere-eating bastards begin to emerge and eat your valuable clothing. Hunting them is not only entertaining, but also a public duty, and there are no legal ramifications for doing so. Be your weapon a tea towel, fly swat, can of bug spray or your grandfather’s service revolver he accidentally-on-purpose didn’t hand in at the end of the war, it’s a pastime anyone can dive into. You can even stew the ones you catch to avoid those supermarket queues.
Yearning to remember what the world used to be like five days ago? We have the ideal contest for you — monopoly might not involve too much physical activity but it will provide a much needed release from lockdown as you amble freely down Park Lane (that’s until you get sent to jail and then the reality of your situation may well coming flooding back).
In order to raise the stakes, let me introduce you to the concept of ‘extreme monopoly,’ where you place a solitary new card in both the ‘chance’ pile and the ‘community chest’ one. The chance card has the word ‘pandemic’ written on it — when it is drawn, the player sets fire to the board. It can only be extinguished when someone else picks up the ‘Rishi Sunak’s economic bazooka’ card from the community chest pile. For extra lockdown exercise, you can require all players to conduct a physical sprint around the flat or house each time they pass go. Like the daily Covid-19 press conference, it helps keep the heart rate up.
This one isn’t actually a joke — I’ve been instructed that at least one of these entries has to be a viable sport. One of the joys of the digital age is that it’s increasingly easy to take part in a yoga class remotely, as the teacher videos themselves and beams the footage directly into your living room. And we shouldn’t sneer: yoga is brilliant for people of all ages and abilities — it helps with strength, aerobic fitness, flexibility, and has massive benefits for mental health. It’s the perfect sport for people confined to a small space.
The prison workout
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the prison work out. Why, I hear you ask, do incarcerated men always look so hench? Because when you’re stuck in a cell for most of your day with nothing to do except press ups, sit ups and squats, that’s what you end up doing. Notorious criminal Charles Bronson even wrote an exercise guide on the back of his time behind bars. I mean, I can think of worse people whose muscle mass you could try and emulate?
The Tour de Living Room
Hey, you remember those Peloton adverts that were everywhere at the start of the year? That indoor bike connected to a virtual class via a video link? With that strange, wild-eyed woman who seemed oddly at ease with her husband suggesting she needed to work out more? Oh how we laughed! It was such a silly advert!
Three months later and I suspect some of us really, really wished we’d bought one.
Need a sport where winning comes second to taking part? Want to add a bit of escapism to your day? Try snorkeling in the bath! Granted, it’s limited in terms of how far you can actually go, but with some table salt and a plastic straw you can basically recreate a week in the Maldives.
The “putting away game”
I stole this one from my editor who, for the sake of showing some parental solidarity during lockdown, admits to playing this one with her kids, who haven’t yet smelled a rat. Simply place your clean laundry basket in the middle of the living room. On the count of three get your kids to take out an item of laundry and deposit it as fast as they can outside the bedroom door of its owner, keeping a tally as they go.
The person who sorts the most gets a gummy bear, or gin, depending on their age. Your washing is sorted without you having to lift a finger and you’ve stopped your offspring from gnawing off their own arm with boredom. Win win.