By Catherine Duffy

Throughout my life, I had never been that into fitness. I grew up dancing five days a week, so staying active had never been something I had to worry about. However, things changed when I started university. As much as I want to deny the existence of the “Freshman fifteen” I did start to notice a few extra pounds on my body as my lifestyle changed. I accepted the change and put a lot of pressure on my weekly yoga class to keep me fit!

I began working out in my third year of university. Between societal pressure to look a certain way, and the $100 I paid for the campus gym, I figured a few visits a week to the campus fitness centre definitely wouldn’t do any harm! I made at least two appearances at the gym every week, heading straight for the cardio machines to make sure I burned as many calories as I could. I didn’t focus on strength training, as I had no idea where to start, and feared the many judgmental eyes around the gym. 

I continued going to the gym over the summer paying a reasonable monthly sum at the local “Fit 4 Less.” Again, I would constantly head to the elliptical feeling more and more satisfied as the number of calories I burned increased on the equipment’s screen.

In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen in Canada, the university gym quickly informed students that it would be closing its doors. My heart sank as I got the email sharing the news. Where would all of my pent up energy go? I had gotten into a really good habit of going at least twice a week. What would I do to stay fit now?

While the first two weeks of quarantine resulted in my adopting the lifestyle of a sloth, I knew that I couldn’t stay healthy continuing such a routine. I began taking daily walks around my neighborhood. The fresh air made me feel much better and my Fitbit vibrated with joy as it noticed my movements! Feeling frustrated with my 10,000 steps a day goal that now seemed impossible to meet in light of the new situation, I changed the settings on my Fitbit so that my goal would be 5000 steps every day. The goal felt more attainable, and consequently, I felt motivated to reach it every day knowing it was something I could do with just a half hour walk.

Since the gym was no longer an option, I decided to open my own little fitness studio in my room! Though the only equipment I had was a yoga mat, I found the Internet had many exercises I could do with just that. I began to do an ab workout daily alternating between arm workouts and leg exercises to go along with it.

I found a Youtuber online named Pamela Reif who demonstrates exercises clearly and has many videos designed for beginners. She offers daily workout plans for those seeking a bit more structure and provides some innovative ideas for those with no equipment at home. No free weights lying around in your basement? No problem! She suggests water bottles as a replacement.

Paula Reif’s Youtube workout video. Photo courtesy of Catherine Duffy.

After two weeks of committing to exercise every day, not only did I feel healthier, I already felt stronger. Core strength had never been a focus of mine, but in the privacy of my own room, I felt comfortable struggling to do a simple ten rep exercise until I became a pro. Putting an hour aside every day also made me feel less lazy, and when I did put time aside for TV, I knew that I had at least been active for some time throughout the day.

The pandemic has taught me that I don’t need to invest in a gym membership to stay fit. The internet is filled with free fitness videos, and with enough discipline, you can combine daily walks and strength training at home to stay in shape! It’s so much easier to squeeze a ten-minute ab workout at home than to make your way to the gym. Instead of finding two times a week, in my formerly busy schedule to go to the university gym, I’ve found a way to incorporate a little bit of fitness in my everyday life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that staying active in order to feel healthy is much more important than exercise with the sole goal of losing weight. This pandemic has given me the chance to make a lifestyle change that has been feeling better about myself and my daily routines.

By Jay Abdella

When gyms are closed and working out with your friends is not an option, what do you do? For myself and other students at my university, twice a week, we are treated to Zoom Yoga by my friend Melanie Adams. Adams, a certified instructor-led a power hour yoga class every Monday while school was still in session. Melanie’s goal is, “to provide yoga to other people in a high quality and accessible way.” Her classes are often the first time a student is exposed to a structured yoga regiment. For those who do not have access to a structured fitness program, yoga is a great way to dip your toe into exercising.  

Many college students are drawn to yoga because of its accessibility and lack of equipment. Many people equate exercising with using big fancy machines or running for miles on end. With yoga, all you need is yourself and a small amount of space around you. Due to this, yoga is a highly accessible recreational and athletic option for many students and adults!

 Melanie’s classes allow students both new and old to stretch out, relax, and become one with the universe. As someone who flexibility is close to zero, having a chance to stretch out each week was a great weight off my shoulders. In addition to taking the weight off my shoulders,yoga has strengthened both my muscles and my endurance, traits that are important for my primary sport; Karate.. For those still in school, yoga has benefits between different athletic fields. For instance yoga promotes flexibility in your muscles which are beneficial to those who are involved in projectile sports such as throwing basketballs, baseballs or any sort of flying object.

Melanie Adams’ class poses for a picture before class lets out for Spring Break. Adams (Front and center) has been leading classes at Clark University since September. (Photo Credits to Melanie Adams)

Adams began her yoga journey, taking her first yoga class in high school. It was there where she found herself connecting with her teacher Casey on a deep level. [add some description]“My teacher, her name was Casey and I have been practicing with her for almost five years now. She has really inspired me over the years through her teachings and having a relationship with her,” said Adams. Through her relationship with her teacher, Adams began to think about her future in yoga. The summer before Freshman year, she found herself hunting for opportunities for certification. Eventually, after surfing the web, Melanie took the biggest leap of her life so far; investing $3,000 of her own money into becoming certified as a yoga instructor. 200 hours of yoga training later, Adams walks out with her own certification to teach.

When students received the notice that Clark University was moving online and all athletic programming was being suspended, Melanie sensed a problem. Many students that attended her class throughout the school year had no access to yoga from home. In addition, she was concerned that the connections she had made with her yoga students throughout the year would fade away “I had certain student relationships with the people who came to my classes every week, and I was worried about when school was closed having those relationships put on hold, so I started teaching the classes on zoom so that I could still have a weekly connection and still be a part of those peoples wellness routines even though it is in a much different way,” said Adams

Now, Melanie hosts yoga sessions twice a week for students who are interested in continuing their weekly stretch-out. On Mondays, it’s Happy Hour Flow (Destressing), and on Wednesdays, it’s Rest and Restore (Finding Your Inner Self). 

As she has transitioned to online yoga, Adams has found that it helps her keep a connection to those who have attended her classes in the past. While zoom powers this connection, online classes only go so far. Adams laments that some participants have their cameras and microphones muted so that she can’t make sure they are properly following along. She also has found that she can’t be as emotionally invested in her classes as she was back in school. 

“I feel like I can’t get as emotionally themed in my classes because I don’t know whether people have a place to work it out after class is over. I have to find the balance between talking about real issues and knowing it could trigger someone to have a worse experience after class and not being able to help,” said Adams

Adams leads a free yoga class near her home in Massachusetts. (Photo credits to Melanie Adams)
For now, as we all sit in isolation, at least for a few days a week, we can stretch out, relax, and pretend that the entire world isn’t falling to pieces around us. If you are interested in joining Melanie’s class, it is every Monday at 5 pm Eastern Standard Time and Wednesdays at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time. For those who want to get their stretch on, here is the link to the classes! Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/9697543823 and the access code for the room is  969-754-3823.