physical exercise

Free yourself from data and trust your feelings

Fernando arcos pexelsFernando Arcos - Pexels

What indicators do you base yourself on to assess your daily shape? What diagnosis do you base yourself on in order to know whether your next training session will be light, moderate or intense? In a previous post, I told you about the danger of being obsessively preoccupied by data. Personally, I trust the short moment of introspection which allows me to connect to myself rather than the link which is automatically produced by the latest cutting-edge application on my smartphone that promises to inform me about my shape… The visual analogic scale which is proposed by Laurent et al. (2011) invites you to estimate your perceived level of recovery. Using it before a training session is a practical way of assessing your recovery day after day and that way to estimate your performance level over the next session: 

Laurent 1One of the main features of our society is the omnipresence of data, a huge yearning for untreated data, and figures. Objective data is king, and leaves little room for the development of a critical mindset, self-awareness, and education. The sport’s world does not escape from this avalanche of data and reports. A systematic review of the literature was carried out in order to compare the relevance of objective markers assessed during off time and training (blood markers, heart rate) as opposed to subjective markers (e.g. mood, perceived stress) to follow up on the responses to training load variations in athletes. The main outcomes showed that subjective data reflects training load variations more accurately than objective data. Thus, depending on the authors and as part of the athlete’s daily follow-up, subjective markers should play a key role in assessing the athlete’s shape in response to the training load; and objective data, which displays a high level of scientific evidence, should only complete this assessment. This subjective data will be all the more reliable because the athlete will have been early accustomed to listening to him(her)self and taking decisions based on his(her) perception. Finally, as suggests James Williams, an ex-Googler who stepped down in order to become a philosopher: “On the short term, these tools (i.e. new technology) distract us from the things we should be doing. On the long term, they can distract us from the life we wish to lead… These technologies put our instincts before our intentions”. For every one of us, it means taking back control over our relationship with technology in order for it not to disrupt our precious path to self-awareness.

How to stay active during the lockdown

What about you, how do you remain physically active during this unprecedented period?


Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

The lockdown is necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19, but it leads the overall population to be less physically active. Even if it is not clearly visible, this decrease is effective during this period. Let’s not be distracted by the visible part of active people, which is blown out of proportion through the magnifying mirror of social networks. Let’s rather consider the invisible part - much more important and quiet - represented by all those who have stopped exercising in their daily lives. The extended stay at home policy increases sedentary behaviours (excessive sitting or lying down time) and decreases energy expenditure; it also contributes to anxiety and depression. In Paris, individual physical activity is banned between 10:00am and 7:00pm. This is a way to toughen the measures to strive the coronavirus spread in France. But this is an additional constraint which will not favour “people programmed for laziness” to physically exercise, i.e. people who are not naturally inclined to physical activity and would rather lie on the sofa. In a different time, Nelson Mandela faced much stronger constraints, which did not prevent him to rigorously follow a training plan during his 27 years of captivity. Here are some lockdown tips or how Mandela managed to stay active in his tiny prison cell. A damp prison cell of 2m2 in which his daily routine started at 5:00am, from Monday to Thursday. In spite of daily and exhausting manual labour, he started by a 45-min run on the spot, followed by 100 push ups, 200 crunches, 50 lunges and calisthenics exercises, during one hour, aka the same duration as the one tolerated outside during the 2020 lockdown… Mandela stuck to this routine from Monday to Thursday, followed by a 3-day period of rest. As a training and recovery enthusiast, I can only be in awe of this opportune alternation between physical activity and recovery time. In addition to boosting your immune system, physical activity is a real moment of release: “Physical activity releases tensions, and tension is the enemy of serenity. I realised that I worked and thought more efficiently when I felt fit, and I consequently rigorously followed, throughout my life, the discipline of training” (Nelson Mandela). The World Health Organisation recommends 2:30 hours of moderately intense physical activity or 1:15 hours of vigorously intense physical activity, or a combination of both per week. These recommendations can still be applied at home, with no special equipment and in a restricted space. Just have fun with a skipping rope, the staircase in your building, weighted plastic bottles or a simple chair on which you can perform several strengthening exercises! Are you interested in another lesson to maintain your physical activity under strict constraints? I knew a soldier who was very fond of running and who spent several months at a time on an aircraft carrier. He told me that he was happy to have a hundred meters of tarmac to pursue his intermittent, back-and-forth training… So, I urge you, as from tonight or tomorrow morning, to make the most of running outside which is still an available option, for now! What’s more, physical activity in the evening paves the way for a good night’s sleep! Take your kids out in the pushchair, they will be delighted to breathe in some fresh air! The ban of any kind of individual physical practice in Paris between 10:00am and 7:00pm means that you can still do it between 7:00pm and 10:00am, which means a 15-hour leeway scope per 24-hour cycle… Once more, the lockdown period, as uncertain as it may be, can be overcome in good health and can be the opportunity to set some healthy habits that you will stick to when this crisis is over.