Rory Southworth is no stranger to an extreme challenge. Earlier this month, he led a group of thirty people on an "expedition" to Everest Base Camp.
Like any other climb, he donned waterproof clothing, a rucksack of supplies and erected a tent. The one difference? The expedition was virtual, and the group ascended the daily height of the trek by just using their stairs and homes, updating each other on their journeys on social media.
"Every morning, I would send an encouraging video message to the team while dressed in a jacket and ski goggles - either in a tent or under my bed sheets pretending it's a tent," he said. "At the end of the day, repeatedly running up and down my steps thousands of times is a stupid idea, so there had to be some level of humour to it."
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Prior to his Everest challenge, Rory, 27, who lives in Lancaster with his girlfriend, scaled the height of Snowdon on his bottom step, Ben Nevis on the steps down to his garden and ran the hill at the back of his garden 29 times to ascend Scafell Pike.
"If I didn't have these projects, I don't think I would be able to manage this situation as well as I have been," he said.
Figures from the British Chambers of Commerce, which were taken between March 25 and March 27, revealed 44 percent of firms planned to furlough at least half of their workforce, and as the nationwide lockdown shows no sign of letting up, some people are using physical challenges to pass the long hours at home.
"A few people on the expedition were key workers, some had lost their jobs and others had been furloughed and were needing a purpose," he said. "It's about being creative and having a narrative-driven goal where you're doing it for more than just exercise."
Starting from Lukla in Nepal, Rory planned the trek by working out the basic heights of each of the destinations he would travel to, then calculating the distance between them. That gave him the height he would need to cover each day.
Then, he divided that height by the total height of his steps. That gave him the number of "reps" he needed to do - or the number of times he had to run up and down the stairs, in order to achieve his daily goal, which he logged using a step counter on his phone.
"You have to go up a step and down a step to count that as one because we're not just going up we're also going down," said Rory. "We've ascended Everest base camp and come back down."
Last week, Freddie Bennett-Willett ran 26 miles in his back garden after the Manchester marathon he was set to run this month was rescheduled due to coronavirus. The 38-year-old previously battled with alcohol addiction after a high-pressured city job left him feeling unfulfilled.
"I was depressed, drinking heavily and getting into trouble at work. Then, my dad died very suddenly. That gave me a crash course in life being short, and precious," he said. "This means having goals is important to me - especially now when many people are saying things like 'is it too early to reach for the gin.'"
Freddie, co-host of Over the Influence podcast, lives in Liverpool with his wife, a hospital doctor, who is currently working night shifts on the frontline against Covid-19, and their two sons. After measuring the garden, Freddie worked out he would need to run 3000 laps in order to achieve a distance of 26 miles, and wore a GPS tracker to monitor his progress. The 'lockdown marathon' took him six and a half hours, and he raised a total of $2000 for the NHS.
"After four hours, my knees were getting sore and I was dizzy from running around in circles. It was so tempting to quit," he said. "But I kept thinking that I was doing it for my wife - she was going to be back working in hospital soon, and the NHS needs our support."
Due to social distancing rules, technology plays a key role in maintaining morale throughout the challenges. 34-year-old Kirsten Cook took part in Rory's Everest expedition in between working from home for a law firm and caring for her three-year-old son. She said connecting with the team each day over social media provided her with an "escapism" from her busy life in lockdown.
"Sometimes we talked about the challenge, but often we spoke about other things - what beer we like to drink, our kids and our dogs," she said. "It's connecting to the public like you would in the pub."
For Jo Mitchinson, being able to continue swimming while in lockdown has been a lifeline. The 41-year-old teacher has severe asthma that is complicated by a laryngospasm, a spasm of the vocal cords that temporarily makes it difficult to speak or breathe. She swims for the Team Luton Swimming Club, where she would normally complete around 4000m per session before her high-risk status left her housebound.
"It was almost surreal being told I couldn't swim. My husband always says the easiest way to calm me down is to put me in water," she said. "It felt like that massive coping strategy had disappeared overnight."
Jo installed a paddling pool in her garden where she could set herself training challenges similar to those she did previously. She can swim long distances in it by attaching a belt around her waist to a resistance band, which is fastened to a wheelie bin full of water.
"I'm currently swimming around 3000 metres a day. It's not training, it's about staying fit and happy. When I get out of the water, I feel like everything is back in perspective. I'm healthy," she said.
Natasha Tiwari is a psychologist and CEO of private education company The Veda Group. "When we're focused, engaged and enjoying ourselves doing something we love with no sense of time, we're in something called "flow state" - or play. It provides a level of challenge which only slightly exceeds our level of skill; so we're improving, but we're also having fun and feeling capable rather than overwhelmed and anxious," she said. "In a time such as this when many people feel as though they have no control, this is more important than ever."
Nick Spooner knows this idea better than anyone. He is using isolation to cycle the 3400km route of the 2019 Tour de France, without the time trials, on an indoor exercise bike to raise money for Hope Not Hate. When he was fifteen, he was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a neurological condition that causes chronic weakening of the peripheral nerves and the muscles. After being told he had to give up sport, he battled with mental health throughout his early twenties.
"Now I've come out the other side of battling mental health problems, I see how exercise has a beneficial impact. It's really helping me cope with isolation," he said. After two surgeries - one in his right foot in 2017, and on his left last November - the bike became a vital way of "keeping him busy" and helping his "recovery and rehab."
Nick, 31, is averaging 40km a day on his stationary indoors bike, although admits he needs a rest break every five days due to his healing foot.
"I try to make sure I've got some good entertainment going on. I've been listening to the new Code Orange album, and podcasts too - they keep me going," he said. 'I'm not a professional cyclist, so I think on that basis, anyone can give it a go. I'm doing this for my mental health more than anything."