Keeping Cork Healthy: Home work-out tips

The Echo is teaming up with the Mardyke Arena UCC during this lockdown period to give readers weekly tips on how to stay fit and healthy. In this edition, advice for experienced gym-goers during lockdown, and how aqua therapy can help you. See fitness videos at Doing a fitness class from home? Share it with us, using #KeepingCorkHealthy and tagging ‘Mardyke Arena UCC’
Keeping Cork Healthy: Home work-out tips

Agata Helka, chartered physiotherapist and aquatic therapist at the hydrotherapy pool in the physiotherapy clinic in the Mardyke Arena UCC, Cork

WITH the recent closure of gyms, inevitably more people will resort to home-based workouts, writes Niall Barry, Strength & Conditioning Coach at the Mardyke Arena UCC.

For many, this will mean mindless repetitions of squats, lunges and push-ups.

Now, for someone new to exercise, this can work brilliantly and lead to great progress over a number of weeks. However, a more experienced gym-goer will require more of a stimulus to make progress.

Adaptations that are seen following exercise are caused by stress being placed on the body, with the body then adapting to this stress. Hence why the beginner can make progress with the most basic of bodyweight exercise but the person with more experience will not.

Here are some helpful tips on how to place more stress on the body when using bodyweight exercises, thus making your workouts more effective:

1. Isometric Holds

Isometric holds involve holding the bottom position of an exercise for an extended period of time. An example would be holding the bottom position of a push for 30 seconds.

This method of exercise forces the muscles work harder for a longer period of time, resulting in more muscle fibres being used.

2. Slow Eccentrics

The eccentric portion of an exercise is the lowering portion or the descent. By slowing down this portion of the lift, again more muscle fibres are being used which will lead to the working muscle getting stronger. An example of this would be performing the descent of a squat for 6 seconds.

3. Timed Sets

Timed sets involve pairing two exercises and performing as many rounds of a given number of repetitions in a given time.

This could look something like as many rounds of five repetitions each of push-ups and lunges in five minutes. Increase the time by one minute each week to progress.

4. Add Load

If all else fails, it is possible to add load to exercise with items commonly found around the house. Fill a schoolbag with bottles of water or books, use the coal bucket, or even get a family member or housemate to hop on your back for a set of squats.

Get inventive and have some fun with it, training doesn’t always have to be serious.

Check out the Mardyke Arena UCC’s free online classes on their YouTube Channel.

Physio Corner — Aquatic Therapy?

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” Lao Tzu.

Aquatic exercises have a long history, both in physiotherapy as well as in maintaining good health and well-being, writes Agata Helka, Chartered Physiotherapist at the arena clinic in the Mardyke Arena UCC.

They offer range of benefits, from improving function, balance, and pain levels to boosting your mood and self-esteem.

Research shows Aquatic Therapy (Aquatic Physiotherapy methods using individually tailored aquatic exercises), can be very beneficial when used straight after surgical procedures and acute injuries. It is also widely recognised in a treatment of a multiple conditions associated with loss of function, pain and in balance problems with variety of origins.

Mechanic qualities of water provide a unique opportunity in a rehab process. Buoyancy, the force acting upwards against the gravity, allows the painful joints to be moved freely with plenty of support. The drag-resistive effect of water allows gentle muscle strengthening by providing 3D resistance. This is the reason exercises in the water are very often “go to physical activity” for people for whom the pain or lack of mobility are the main features of their condition.

Research shows exercising in the water has many positive physiological effects too. Hydrostatic pressure, acting on our body at chest depth immersion, results in blood and diaphragm being displaced upwards towards the heart and the chest wall being compressed. As a result, this provides a unique opportunity for efficient cardiovascular and respiratory training.

Our heart is pumping 30% more blood per heartbeat, an ideal starting level of exercise for a sedentary individual. Also, the oxygen availability for the muscles during aquatic exercises increases by 225%, as a result of simultaneously increased circulation and cardiac output.

Aquatic exercises provide our bodies with efficient expiratory (when swimming) and inspiratory muscles training due to chest wall compression under the pressure of the water. This quality is widely used for those with spinal cord injuries or muscular dystrophy but also for those who feel deconditioned and aim to go on a journey of improving their fitness.

Water exercises are safe, as exceeding tissue tolerance in the water is dramatically reduced. As a result, often they serve as a starting point in rehab. They improve function and quality of life, reduce pain levels and allow you to move again without fear.

An aquatic environment will allow you to do movements you thought incapable of doing, or the ones you assumed were long gone out of your range. You don’t have to be a swimmer to exercise in the water. With a good support from a physiotherapist or qualified aquatic therapist you will find your way into the aquatic world. Water is gentle yet powerful in many ways. Give aquatic exercise a go! Don’t resist it!


The arena clinic based at the Mardyke Arena UCC, a centre already recognised for excellence in its facilities, will remain open during this period as their physiotherapy services are deemed an essential health service.

The clinic will continue to operate under Government and HSE guidelines.

The arena clinic is a unique clinic, incorporating physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and specialist rehabilitation. To book an appointment contact the arena clinic at 021 490 4760 or visit to book online.

Simple Leek & Carrot Soup Recipe by Mary Carmody

Ingredients: 1 onion

2/3 cloves of garlic and a few more if you like it!!

1 leek

4 carrots

1 tsp. dried coriander

1 tsp. dried oregano

1000ml of stock (e.g. Bouillon powder or use bone broth if you have it)

A handful of fresh coriander and a small handful of fresh oregano if you have it but dried oregano is sufficient for this recipe; 1 tbsp. coconut oil, salt and pepper for taste.


1. Chop all vegetables to a similar size.

2. Heat oil in pan and add onion and garlic and lightly fry for 2 minutes on medium heat until soft.

3. Add leek and carrots and sweat for 3-4 minutes before adding in dried herbs and stock.

4. Bring everything to boil and simmer for approx. 15 minutes until vegetables are soft (use a fork to test) and add fresh herbs a few pinches of salt and pepper and blend up.

Visit for more recipes.


The Mardyke Arena UCC are running Free Fitness Classes Online via their YouTube Channel. New classes will be added each morning (Mon-Fri) at 7am and available for you to do in your own time. Next week’s schedule:

Monday: HITT

Tuesday: Circuits & Core

Tuesday: EYL Strength & Tone (Energise Your Life Over 55s Class)

Wednesday: Pilates

Thursday: 10-10-10

Thursday: EYL Pilates (Energise Your Life Over 55s Class)

Friday: HITT

* To catch up on our Keeping Cork Healthy series, see below.

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