How to exercise in self-isolation.

Two weeks ago, my university emailed to inform myself and my flat mates that we would have a fourteen-day period of isolation. This meant that we would be forced to remain in our rooms as much as possible as a precautionary measure to stop the virus spreading within our kitchen group and beyond. The only times when we were permitted to leave our rooms was to go to the kitchen (with a kitchen rota implemented), collect a delivery and to smoke or vape.

These restrictions were tough to take for a group of first year students. Frustratingly, the news came shortly after freshers week, reminding us that we should have appreciated the little freedom we had in a week of failed parties and online events. It was also a progression past the initial lockdown that we faced in March. Unlike then, we were not allowed to go outside for daily exercise; unless we had a cigarette in hand while jogging.

In an illegal kitchen meeting we discussed how we were going to handle our period of seclusion. We came to the conclusion that shopping journeys, laundry visits and exercising were essential despite the new measures. We took responsibility for governing ourselves aware of the potential consequences of being caught by the university. But there was reason behind our set of measures:  

Delivery slots for our groceries were hard to come by and didn’t always warrant the charge nor the use of plastic bags. Overflowing laundry and a lack of clean underwear were also problems that had to be resolved. Lastly, we didn’t agree with the university’s decision to allow smoking rather than individual exercise outside.

The risk was low for the first two essentials; both shopping to survive and washing clothes to stay hygienic could easily be justified. Exercise on the other hand, although agreed as an essential in my kitchen group, could be deemed an inexcusable breach of isolation rules.

So, reluctant to join the illegal ravers in receiving fines, I had to get creative. The first few days consisted of home workouts. YouTube as always is the source of tutorials and follow along guides, ensuring that I exercised safely. These workouts soon progressed into mini football drills to maintain my eye foot coordination and annoy my flat mates in the process by bouncing footballs off of corridor walls. Next, I felt really adventurous and travelled to what cannot quite be described as a garden but a small green space to the right of my accommodation. This allowed me a bit more room to stretch my legs and was a release from days of sitting in my room.

But the question is whether any of these substitutes come close to the real thing. Activities like stretching, yoga and callisthenics training can be done alone easily, partly down to the help of people like MBE winner, Joe Wicks. Sports like football are slightly more limited due to the lack of space to work on key elements of your game, like shooting or long-range passing. Worse still, running is out of the equation unless you have access to a treadmill or you feel satisfied with running on the spot for half an hour.

Most importantly, what all these things miss is the social element that makes them more enjoyable. Many sports become social events, with players going to pubs after games or forming tight bonds that come with frequent meetings.

But regulations have meant that we have had to find alternatives. I checked WhatsApp groups to banter with team mates about the latest results, receive team updates and challenge friends to see who could do the most loo roll keepie uppies.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to go through a period of isolation again but like many things this year, I have learnt how to adapt and stay positive.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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