When it comes to being alone for long periods of time, Jenny Tough is a bit of an expert. She’s an endurance challenger, the ambassador for Shand Cycles, and a solo adventure specialist, so regularly heads off on extended adventures all by herself. She was the first person to run unsupported across the Bolivian Andes, for example, and spent 25 days running across Kyrgyzstan on her own. As coronavirus pushes more of us into self-isolation and social-distancing becomes the norm, Jenny has shared her tips for surviving and thriving in lockdown. Here’s what she says.
Plan and create a routine
‘It helps to have a plan,’ says Jenny. ‘On an endurance challenge, avoiding boredom and keeping concentration is crucial. ‘Decide which podcasts/audio books you’re going to get through, or what project you’re going to do that you’ve been holding off for ages. ‘Hold yourself to account. This will help maintain your motivation.’ It helps to stick to a routine or schedule each day, even if your usual workday has been disrupted. Try to keep some structure in how you spend your time so you don’t end up still in bed at 3pm.
Host a watch party – where you and your pals all agree to watch the same thing at the same time, and can chat online throughout – or agree with your family that you’ll all use this time to get really into a new podcast. Jenny says: ‘When I’m on an adventure, staying in touch and sharing experiences with my friends and family at home is so important. ‘You might not be in the same room but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch a film or listen to a playlist at the same time, and discuss it as you’re doing so.’
Appreciate small moments of social interaction
‘It’s so important to smile,’ says Jenny. ‘On endurance challenges in remote mountain areas, I go days without seeing anyone, and those I do see don’t speak my language. ‘When I did see other people, it really uplifted me to simply exchange smiles or a wave. ‘So when you do go outside, make the effort to make eye contact and smile at the other people you pass. Just remember not to get too close!’
Make sure to rest
Sleep is so essential to maintaining physical and mental health – make sure you don’t let your routine slip and end up tossing and turning all night long. Jenny says: ‘On a tough challenge, I have limited hours when I can sleep and it’s vital to make the most of that time. ‘During lockdown, it’s easy to get off a normal routine and that can make you moody. ‘Stick to your usual sleeping hours, even when you don’t need to, in order to stay rested and healthy.’
You know how important staying active is right now. ‘Make absolutely sure you take the daily outing we’re permitted,’ says Jenny. ‘Use the time to push yourself a little – the rush from a hard workout lasts a long time, and helps with stress and anxiety. ‘If you’re the competitive type, try a challenge with friends – I’m personally doing 50 push-ups a day with friends around the country. We check in daily, and it helps feel connected.’
Use this time to get creative with your food
You might struggle to find your usual go-to ingredients when you do your weekly food shop. Reframe that as an opportunity for experimentation rather than it being a bummer. Check out Jack Monroe’s Lockdown Larder for inspiration on what to do with bits in your cupboard, then keep an eye out at the shop for any items you wouldn’t usually buy – then base a meal around them. ‘I travel to a lot of places where I have to eat foods very different to what I am used to,’ says Jenny. ‘When there’s not much left on the grocery store shelves, accept it and see it as a challenge to try new things. ‘Buy what you can then when you get home use Google to find new recipe ideas.’
Jenny says: ‘When things get tough, I’m a big fan of mindfulness and meditation. On those long days at home, and with odd things happening in the world, a bit of zen time can be helpful – even if you’ve never tried it.’