By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer
Just like everyone else, my life was put on pause during the months of March through present — no in-person class, no restaurants, no shopping malls, no trips, no gym.
I’m no gym fanatic, but I do enjoy yoga, attending fitness classes at the McLane Student Life Center, the post-workout endorphins and my favorite — the StairMaster. Not to flex (literally), but every summer at my home gym, I practically owned that machine— I worked up from 10 minutes, to 25, then even 45 minutes straight on the machine.
With the busyness of classes and extracurriculars, I didn’t have as much time to hit up the gym, so I let it fall to the wayside, but when we were sent home during our extended spring break in March and classes changed to a remote format, I was of course disappointed, yet excited. This change of plans presented me with the opportunity to prioritize my physical fitness again.
However, that dream was curbed pretty instantaneously. On March 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the statewide stay-at-home order in my home state, and my family and I, along with the rest of California, confined ourselves to our home.
So it began — my COVID-19 at-home fitness “journey.”
At first, I can honestly say I was heavily discouraged — being locked up all day at my desk doing schoolwork, not having any heavy-duty workout equipment (StairMaster!) and my mom’s delicious cooking weren’t necessarily motivating me to get moving. However, after enough weeks of feeling down and groggy, I figured one workout in the living room in front of the TV couldn’t hurt in an attempt to defunkify my mood.
I turned on my TV, chose a “Fat Burning for Your Whole Body!” video off of YouTube and started sweating away for a whole undisrupted 30 minute tutorial.
I began to try out every fitness guru on YouTube and every challenge that was available: Chloe Ting’s “Get Abs in 2 Weeks,” Emi Wong’s “SLIM LEGS IN 20 DAYS,” Amanda Bisk’s “Lockdown Challenge,” the classic “Yoga with Adriene” by Adrienne Mishler and more. You name the popular fitness YouTuber, I probably have done, or at least attempted (and probably stopped if it was too grueling), one of their workouts.
It was so liberating — working out in the comfort of my own home, not extremely self-conscious about all of the ripped and confident people you’d typically see at the gym, not embarrassed about what shape I was in. Simply not comparing myself to others, I was able to focus on my own fitness goals and what I enjoyed.
I wasn’t experiencing my usual “gym phobia,” which is real, and defined as “the fear of going to the gym and working out in front of others,” according to Fitness 19.
What else makes home workouts so effective? Less in-person pressure.
With regularity and habitual implementation, one can grasp the fitness goals they’ve always dreamed of — they can also do it all without the equipment that comes along with a gym.
Thousands of the YouTube fitness videos are “weightless” or “no equipment” friendly, but it can be difficult to believe that muscle can be built without additional resistance like weights and equipment.
“Body weight training — using only your body weight for resistance — can be an effective type of strength training and a good addition to your fitness program,” Dr. Edward Laskowski, from Mayo Clinic, said. “The resistance training effect you get from using your body weight can be as effective as training with free weights or weight machines.”
Laskowski said that muscle balance is heavily utilized when performing exercises such as squats, abdominal crunches, and pull-ups. Additionally, he said that switching up one’s body weight exercises can individually work each major muscle area group as well.
Now, one of the most obvious yet practical reasons to try out some workouts away from the gym is plainly that same reason — you don’t have to be at the gym.
Personally, I will be a bit skeptical the next time I’m in a gym, because being indoors among sweating and heavily breathing bodies during a pandemic doesn’t sound like too much fun for my germaphobe self.
Not only this, but with all of the back and forth us college students have been doing between traveling from school to home and vice versa, we need versatility and convenience when it comes to getting in a workout — and that is the ease that internet workouts can provide.
“My favorite bodyweight exercises are simple, [and] can be done anywhere,” Dr. David Webner, sports medicine physician for the Crozer-Keystone Health System, said.
Some may argue that the environment that the gym can provide can encourage them to push farther than they would have at home, or that home workouts are easier to slack off during.
According to Peter O’Shanick, NASM-CPT, the atmosphere that a gym can provide is essentially unmatchable if you have health aims in mind.
“A gym is a highly specific space with a very clear purpose, and the resulting focus can help keep you driven and motivated during your workout in a way that the distraction-heavy environment of home may not. Even the act of traveling to the gym places you in a mindset of intention, whereas your at-home workout places you in tantalizing reach of your couch, kitchen, and computer,” O’Shanick said.
While this may be true; according to the New York Times, gyms in many of the most populous states in the country are going back-and-forth between open and closed due to the pandemic. Some may also be too nervous to commit fully to a monthly membership if unfamiliar with regular exercise, or if one is able to zero-in on their fitness goals with intent in their own homes, working out from home can be the safer and more logical option.
Lastly, home workouts are appealing to those of us who were athletes in high school or have experienced injury. Without the pressure or stress to compete with other gym-goers, one’s ability to focus on the exercises and to perfect the movements is much more accomplishable.
Personally, I have experienced injury throughout my entire high school running career. Between patellar tendonitis, series of shin splints, torn menisci and months of physical therapy, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of modified workouts.
Thanks to video platforms like YouTube and Instagram, I have been able to adjust my probably-forever pain in my joints to work for me.
Not only is the internet a place to find modified exercises, but a hub to find ANY sort of exercise. It doesn’t matter if your thing is heavy lifting, pilates, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), two-week fitness challenges or cardio — whatever you’re looking for, you can and will find.
If any college students, like me, have struggled to get up the drive to sweat, now is the best time to try those workouts you’ve bookmarked behind closed doors without the looming meatheads watching or your self-esteem plummeting. The gym can be an effective escape and motivating place; but sometimes, when it comes to exercising — there’s no place like home.