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Summer Health & Fitness
Tracy Griffen

Leith’s Lockdown Lessons


This is no time to be camera shy,” I said to myself as I set up the tripod. The last few months have changed how most of us work. When I started Griffen Fitness in 2005, I had no idea that in the future I’d be leaping around a telephone mounted on a tripod in a fitness studio, delivering workouts via video calls throughout a global pandemic. That’s the interesting thing about running a business; you never know what’s round the corner...

Edinburgh’s port has always been an industrious and entrepreneurial place. Over the last 3 months, we’ve seen how our local businesses have persevered and adapted to these unprecedented times. Kudos goes to Storries bakery, open throughout, they persevered through the Beast from the East snowstorm too. No matter how bad things get, there’ll always be a macaroni pie!

Special mention also to Richard and staff at Leith Cycle Co, you may have seen their patiently waiting, socially distancing, customers on the corner of Balfour Street. They’ve been keeping Leith moving while offering free bike repairs to NHS staff. Add in Artisan Cafe on the other side of Balfour Street - check out the ghost sign – and we’ve got a wee social hotspot on the Walk.

According to the 2011 Census report on population density:

‘The Leith Walk area, with a peak of nearly 26,000 people resident within an 800 metre radius (equivalent to a density of 12,900 persons per is the highest - higher than anywhere else in Scotland including Glasgow’,(surprisingly).

This number will likely have gone up - there was a 30% increase in the decade between 2001 and 2011, and more flats are being built even as I write.

We exist in close proximity to each other in these parts. Mid-pandemic I was daydreaming about where in the world I’d chose to be, and funnily enough it wasn’t on an idyllic tropical island, but Leith. I value neighbours and local community more than ever.

Taking fitness pug Coco for her morning perambulation always involves chatting with a number of people about how they’re getting on. It’s hard to feel lonely where there are so many folk to chat to (at distance, of course!). And a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. We’re all collectively a little close to the edge at the moment but if we talk to each other we can ease the discomfort.

I asked the I Love Leith Facebook page to ‘describe Leith in 6 words or less’. Over 400 comments were posted - along with some colourful language. The most common word was ‘home’. Leith is our home. Leith Walk is our home. Not just a roof, not just a thoroughfare.

And if we hadn’t seen it before, we certainly have seen it now. It is staggering that the still-under-investigation tram project has been given the green light. I would love to see a fleet of Scottish-made electric buses instead; they are much less disruptive and more easily adapted to future fluctuations in our population.

I’d also very much like the world to be a calmer, greener and kinder place (ironically, a lot like it has been during Lockdown, except without a killer ‘flu).

When we take the time to ask others how they’re going, and really listen to what they say. Compassion and empathy, in an active way, is a powerful thing.

Checking in with my regular fitness clients is the primary reason I developed webcam workouts. When I first started Griffen Fitness, I used to cycle around Edinburgh getting clients fit from home with minimal equipment.

Things have turned full circle, and once again I find myself instructing people to fill a tote bag with cans of beans to use as a makeshift dumbbell. It’s amazing how much fitness equipment you have at home without realising it.

I train a number of people with underlying health conditions, including MS and post-stroke, as well as seniors (80 years+). You can do a whole workout sitting on a kitchen chair - it’s easy when you know how. And learning the knowhow of exercise without a gym is my message for everyone.

Learn a few stretches and bodyweight strength exercises (that is using the bodyweight as a resistance, i.e. squats) with correct form and, hey presto…you have a home workout!

There are also suitable levels of push-ups for every individual; you can even do adapted push-ups on your knees if you have dodgy knees, or a knee replacement. You can also try them standing up against a wall. It’s all about developing the confidence to train your own body. Look at it as being self-sufficient.

Here’s one of my favourite at-home workouts, which I keep up my sleeve in case of emergency. Grab a pack of playing cards; shuffle the deck, turn the top card, and go!

♦: Press Ups

♥: Star Jumps

♣: Striding (alternate) Lunges

♠: Squats

Joker: 30 second plank

The number of reps will equal the number on the card i.e. an ace = one rep. A 10 (you guessed it) = 10 reps. All picture cards = 12 reps. See if you can get through the whole pack.

Optional extra: Employ a bored child as your dealer come assistant.

That playing card workout was featured on the new Edinburgh Lockdown Economy website which is well worth a gander for lockdown specials and delivered goodies.

My favourite delivery so far has been an afternoon tea from Ostara on Coburg Street. Remember that this should be followed by a run, possibly taken while singing “calories in/calories out, that’s what it’s all about!”

Twitter: @tracygriffen


Artwork Victor Fraser. Photo Andy Wright


Things turn full circle, once again I’m instructing people to fill a tote bag with cans of beans to use as a makeshift dumbbell


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