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Fit without the gym or sports club: ‘Instagram is filled with workouts’

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Now that university buildings, libraries, restaurants and cafes are closed due to the coronavirus, many students are spending most of their time at home. An hour of working out in the gym won’t be possible for a while either, because gyms have closed as well. How do students stay in shape? “Go for a walk or cycle around, but not in the woods.”

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Fourth-year medicine student Jorn (24) parks his scooter in front of the bootcamp field in De Uithof. At least three times a week, he rides his scooter from his room in Kanaleneiland to this field at the Leuvenlaan and works out for half an hour. He usually works out in sports centre Olympos, but that’s not an option right now. He looks at the only other person using the field. “It’s really quiet right now, but sometimes, the field is completely filled with students.”

Aside from training at the bootcamp park, Jorn goes outside every week for half an hour of jogging. That’s also his advice to other students who are having a hard time being cooped up inside all day every day. “You can go for a nice run in a park, and it’s more fun to do with friends. Or cycle around for a bit.”

Jorn’s workout this Thursday afternoon consists of strength exercises such as pull-ups and dipping to train his arm muscles. He gets inspiration for his workouts from the internet. “At home, I watched videos of people working out, and I pay attention to the kind of exercises they do. I then turn that into workout schemes of my own.”

Because of the coronavirus Jorn can’t follow any courses – not even online. “I don’t have a lot to do right now, everything’s closed. Sitting still makes me restless, and that’s why I’m forcing myself to work out.”

‘Sitting inside a lot can make you depressed really fast’

Third-year Psychology student Ariana (23) doesn’t like staying inside for long either. Along with a friend, she cycles through the Rhijnauwen woods near De Uithof three times a week for half an hour. On the days she’s not cycling, she does one-hour yoga sessions in her room. “There are so many yoga teachers and personal trainers doing live lessons on Instagram. They’re free, and you don’t need any special equipment, not even a yoga mat.”

She usually frequents Olympos with her friends to do yoga group lessons, pilates, or ballet, but now, she’s stuck in her room in De Uithof a lot. “It’s nice to get up and move for a bit. I like going outside to get some fresh air, especially when the sun is shining. Living a healthy life is important to me, even if it’s hard not to start snacking when I’m studying. And sitting inside a lot can make you depressed really fast.”

‘Working out indoors is boring; I want to be able to move’

24-year-old Master’s student of Neuroscience & Cognition Maria has just submitted her first draft of her thesis, and is waiting for her friend near the Cambridge flat, to go for a walk together. Twice a week, she takes a 20-kilometre walk, and she visits her boyfriend in Leidsche Rijn each week to go cycling or inline skating. “Working out indoors is boring; I want to be able to move. And I don’t want to cause any nuisance for my downstairs neighbours.”

Work out with other people, Maria says. It’s more fun, and you won’t come up with excuses not to do it. But don’t walk too close to each other. “I pay close attention to our distance when we go for a walk. If another pedestrian is coming our way, my friends and I will walk behind each other so we’re still keeping at 1.5-metre distance. When I’m with my boyfriend, this is trickier, and I don’t always stick to that rule.”

On the bootcamp field, Jorn also says he doesn’t always follow the RIVM advice. “The amount of people dying from the coronavirus isn’t that bad,” he says.

‘Most lessons are short so people are more inclined to join’

Olympos posts a new workout on its YouTube channel every day, such as fifteen minutes of boxing, or a forty-minute dance lesson. The sports centre in De Uithof will have to remain closed for now as well. Some videos cater especially to students who only have a small room to work out in, and others are appropriate for elderly people

Trainer Harrie de Jong created those workouts and arranged all the equipment for the recordings. Those do take place in the sports centre. When they record the workouts, he’s the director. For the lessons for the elderly and the body & shape training sessions, he’s the presenter.

He came up with the idea for the home workout sessions with his colleagues, shortly after the government announced last month that all restaurants, cafes and gyms were to close that very evening. “That gave us quite a fright, but we wanted to keep people active. The Monday after the government announced its decision, we started recording the first training sessions, and two days later, we put the first video online. Most lessons are short, so people are more inclined to join in.”

Aside from the recordings, the gym is only open for maintenance. And even then, only a handful of people are allowed to be inside. Director Cees Verhoef works in his office a few days a week to take care of things. “I wasn’t prepared for this. We’ve never experienced anything like this. We have to improvise together, but health is priority. You can work out from home, too: instead of weights, lift bottles of water, and use a chair to do dips.”

Verhoef would prefer teaching sports classes in a park. “But then, everyone can come work out, and people will be too close to each other. With video lessons, it’s much easier to keep your distance, because everyone’s at home.”

De Jong would also prefer to see people keeping their distance. “Go for a walk outside, or cycle, but don’t go to the woods because it’s too crowded there. Find an activity within your home. Take your Nintendo Wii, or decide for yourself how many push-ups or crunches you want to do in a day. Schedule a set time each day when you’ll exercise.”

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