Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time editing articles that have focused around the theme of joy. I’m not just saying this so that I can plug The News-Letter’s fall magazine, though you should definitely check it out — take even five minutes out of your day to read or watch one of these pieces and I guarantee it will brighten your day.
A natural result of reading about what is bringing other people joy in these pretty troubling times is to reflect on what brings you joy. I’ve found that in this adapted virtual world that we’ve been living in since March, I’ve definitely been reaching for some familiar favorites. I’ve been baking a lot, drinking many cups of tea and making my best effort to complete Netflix before the semester’s end.
However, I’ve also turned to new things. One very faint silver lining that I’ve discovered out of all of this is that I have a decent amount of free time to put toward (mostly) healthy habits.
For the last three years I have been trying, and failing, to find any sort of exercise routine. Before coming to Hopkins, I had always been involved in sports teams, and so I had a routine built in for me. When I came here, I very much felt like I was in the middle of that college octagon or decagon of getting good grades, sleeping enough, having a social life, eating healthily, being involved in extracurriculars — the list goes on. Seemingly there’s always something that has to give, and for me the first thing to go is always exercise.
This semester though, I haven’t been able to fill every spare moment with extracurriculars or seeing people because that simply isn’t feasible or safe. More free time coupled with two weeks of quarantine when I arrived in Baltimore in August meant I could add in something new from the octagon.
I forced myself to have some sort of routine so I didn’t just slowly lose my mind, and that definitely helped set me up for the rest of the semester. I’ve got into the routine of exercising four times a week, and like many people, I (re)discovered yoga during lockdown, which I do two or three times a week as well. I know that’s not super impressive, but for me it’s been a vast improvement on anything I’ve ever managed to do during a semester at Hopkins. There have also definitely been weeks that I’ve missed, but the beauty of having a routine, as my roommate so wisely told me, is that I now know that I can do it and can easily get back into it.
I have a calendar on my wall that my sister gave me for Christmas, and as there are very few events to put into a calendar anymore, I give myself a little tick every time I workout. Yes, I really have made myself a star chart for exercise.
The best part of all of this for me is that, with gyms closed and my inability to run for anything other than a bus, I’ve started to exercise purely for fun. After being a cox in high school and exercising for the purpose of losing and maintaining weight, I decided to stop weighing myself when I got to college. There’s always been a small part in the back of my head, though, that viewed exercise purely as a way of changing or “improving” my body — thank you, mainstream media, for that one.
But now that I see few people and spend most of my time in leggings and sweaters, what my body looks like matters even less than it did before. I’ve been able to rethink my approach to exercise and see it as a fun way of relieving stress and doing something my mind and body will thank me for, rather than as a way to change something about myself that doesn’t need to be changed.
During quarantine I tried out a bunch of different workouts. I tried Instagram barre workouts and following YouTubers doing weights with tins of beans, high intensity yoga and circuits. I was Goldilocks searching for the workout that was just right, both for me and also the small space I was working with.
Eventually I discovered a few YouTubers doing dance high-intensity interval training. I did ballet and tap until the age of 11 and have always loved dancing, even if I’m not good at it now at all. Spending half an hour to an hour channeling my inner Ginger Rogers and working out to Mamma Mia!, The Rocky Horror Picture Show or even the Shrek soundtrack is the ridiculous, lighthearted relief that I need right now.
I know that some people are actually far busier now than they were before the pandemic. But I can confidently say that in three years I had not worked out before class once at Hopkins, and if classes were in person that would still probably be true. While I definitely have busier weeks, having established a routine means that I can still fit things in, and this is definitely easier given that most aspects of my life now take place in my 267-square-foot bedroom. I think it’s okay to take the small wins when you find them, and for me this is one of them.
It’s important right now to take care of your mental and physical health in whatever way you can, and for me that apparently now means dancing around my bedroom to One Direction. I hope you find whatever that is for you.
Amelia Isaacs is a senior from London studying English and Writing Seminars. Her column consists of general life musings and occasionally explores the mostly weird but often wonderful experience of living on this side of the Atlantic.