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Bowdoin’s weightlifters find creative ways to stay strong in quarantine

April 16, 2020

With gyms around the country closed, weightlifters, athletes and anyone looking to get stronger during quarantine are dealing with new problems of access. The solution?

Trees, and sometimes decks.

Members of Bowdoin’s strength and conditioning communities are inventing creative ways of building muscle and staying active.

“I’ve been finding [workouts] on social media and then using either some basic equipment I have at my house or find[ing] alternative equipment,” said Olivia Giles ’20, one of the leaders of Bowdoin’s Weightlifting Club, in a phone interview with the Orient. “For example, I really like doing pull-ups, but I don’t have a pull-up bar. So, I went and found a tree and did some pull-ups in the tree.”

Giles thinks that returning to the basics with bodyweight movements is a great opportunity because it allows people to gain a base of muscle before going into the gym and lifting heavier weights, which can be dangerous for those who don’t have that foundation.

“It might be a good thing for us to bring back into the [weightlifting] club and reintroduce people to these movements because, especially for new lifters, [who make up] the majority of our club,” said Giles. “It will allow them to feel more comfortable before they actually start working on the big weights,”

Bowdoin’s Head Coach of Strength and Conditioning Neil Willey agreed with this approach and described how he and his family have stayed active and strong with bodyweight workouts while social distancing.

“At my house, we have a little balcony and a deck outside, so my family has been doing pull-ups and chin-ups on the edge of the deck,” said Willey in a phone interview with the Orient.

But having less equipment or a smaller space doesn’t mean a workout can’t be challenging, Willey said.

“One of the exercises I’ve put in some of these workouts is just a one-third pause push-up. So, you’re in a push-up position, go down one-third, hold for five seconds, go down two-thirds, hold for five seconds, go all the way down to the bottom, hold for five seconds and then come up,” said Willey. “The big thing as far as getting stronger is just really trying to make these movements challenging just like we do in a weight room.”

In addition to designing exercises specifically for athletes, Willey has also recorded home workout videos that will soon be available to the entire community.

“I put together a three-day program with three workouts you can do throughout the week. It’s got warm ups and all the exercises, and each of the exercises that are linked to the video, so if someone doesn’t know what a movement [is] they can click on it and watch what I’m doing,” said Willey. “I recorded them all in my living room. So everyone should be able to do most of them in a similar space.”

While creative methods and bodyweight movements are great alternatives to working out at the gym, Giles pointed out that everyone can benefit from support because it can be hard to get motivated and exercise every day on one’s own.

“Having someone to keep you accountable is really helpful, even if you’re just [calling someone] on FaceTime. It’s nice having someone to tell me to keep going and keep pushing,” said Giles. “When you are working out by yourself, sometimes you might think ‘well, I don’t have to do it all,’ but if you have someone watching you, they can keep you accountable.”

Whether doing pull-ups on a tree or working out in one’s living room, Giles and Willey strongly suggest incorporating movement into everyone’s daily routines.

“Get up and move around, whether that’s walking up and down the stairs or a few laps in your living room.” said Willey. “I feel it myself if I sit around for a day working on the computer or helping my kids with schoolwork. If I skip a day, stress levels get higher and you feel so much better if you can just get some movement.”

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do a certain workout,” Giles added. “I try to mix it up between upper body and lower body workouts, but if I find something on social media that I think would be interesting to do, I just do it because I know at least I’m working out.”


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