Fitness-wise, when Emily Solman first arrived at Essex University, she wasn’t up to much. She’d been a gym regular at school, but, as with everything during those first months, hitting the gym at uni felt intimidating. So she started running. It was free, it was flexible, it kept her moving, it made her happy. Which, if anything, has to be the primary reason you work exercise into your week: it is a crucial element in maintaining good mental health. As Solman puts it: “It’s easy to get a bit down and stay locked in your room.”
Quite which type of exercise will work for you, though, is a matter of trial and error. King’s College undergrad Ehis Ilozobhie describes freshers’ fair as “everyone shouting at you to join this or that club”. For many, campus sports are the perfect solution: you can stay fit while making friends. If you prefer to work out in public, but not in a team, keep an eye on what gyms near you are starting to offer.
Elizabeth Okogba – an instructor at London gym chain Third Space and personal trainer (@bestversionofliz) – highlights apps such as Mindbody or Classpass. They help studios fill spaces, so you get to pick and choose from a slew of local options at discounted rates, without committing long term.
Then there’s the slew of social media-based fitness content you can fall out of bed into. Chloe Ting is having a moment right now on YouTube, as is Tallila Henchoz with her Instagram Live sessions. Straight-up students just trying to keep fit are perhaps an even better source of inspo. Check out vlogger and recent graduate Kris Hui, who started posting workouts a couple of weeks into lockdown.
Okogba cautions to look out for good coaching cues (knees shouldn’t go over your ankles when doing a squat, say), because you need to understand how to do a movement, and why. “I think she’s pretty and I want her body type” is not a good enough reason to pick someone. Find instructors who educate you and challenge you to hone your skills.
Solman says workouts mostly need to not be boring. “I do like to get a little bit sweaty, but repeat the same exercise more than twice and I’m out, I’m not doing it.” For Ilozobhie, going for a run is more pressure than it’s worth. He’s more likely to just walk the 45 minutes home from campus instead of getting a bus.
Even if your thing is just dancing for 10 minutes to your favourite tune, says Okogba, do the exercise that gets your limbs moving, your heart rate up and your spirits lifted. You want to find a way to keep moving that isn’t about the body as much as it is the life that you want.