There is a question forming in the back of many students’ minds as they slowly adjust to the concept of no imminent deadlines or exams, and still others who are perplexed to find they actually miss those six am rowing starts (almost). Whether you finally have the time to exercise, or have suddenly found yourself responsible for setting that time, a dilemma has presented itself. Without the bounteous resources of Oxford’s college and university gyms, sports grounds, and organized and inclusive sports teams, how exactly do you keep (or get) fit over summer?
The obvious answer is to join a gym – but this process isn’t always as simple as it first appears. Even finding one a reasonable distance away may be too much for some more rural students, and not all will offer an honest, easily escaped no-contract membership, leaving you trapped paying for at least a year. Even if you do only end up paying for the time you’re using it, gyms are pricey and tend to hike up fees for non-contract members. You often find yourself paying more than the monthly fee: many gyms will charge extra for sundry deposits and administrative fees, for essential “extras” like lockers, showers and towels to wipe down equipment, and for classes and equipment training. Although keeping up with gym routines from Oxford or using ones you found on YouTube might work for some, others may want to try something else.
Running, the poor man’s treadmill, presents itself as a cheaper, and less community-dependent, option. It requires no passes or payment or parking and the only equipment you need is a pair of good trainers (and possibly a sports bra). It forces you outside and gives you an (optimistically) daily dose of nature and vitamin D. However, the monotony of the movement isn’t for everyone and the self-motivation required may be too much. It certainly was for me, who, inspired by Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, tossed on my trainers and a binbag and got as far as the newsagents down the street before I got heckled by some lads outside a pub and decided that I was too lazy and embarrassed for anything this public.
This led me first to Zumba classes in a local primary school gym hall. It’s ideal for people as lazy as me, as you can’t put your hour a week off if the exact time is set for you and when you get there the threat of mild social embarrassment and a vague sense of competition with the middle aged women around you will keep you going till the endorphins kick in. Most of the moves are standard aerobics so you can copy fairly easily, but the occasional booty shake or jazz hands lets anyone who was the least coordinated kid in their age 6-8 ballet class pretend they can dance (so long as there aren’t any mirrors around).
But if shakin’, or more likely squattin’, your moneymaker isn’t your cup of tea, I’d recommend my new favourite pastime: swimming. Ideal for full body toning, strength and flexibility, swimming is recommended by health professionals to everyone, from practicing athletes to doddering grannies. I was previously partially put off around age thirteen by the same reason as many pubescent girls: body self-consciousness. But, when for the first time in years I stood by my local pool in the brand new swimsuit I’d spent almost an hour choosing, I had the shocking revelation that no one was actually looking at me. Filled largely with a combination of kids aged eleven and under, pensioners, and tired looking parents, the pool was teeming with bodies with their own problem areas and wobbly bits, and amongst them I didn’t stand out at all. Standing there with my legs artfully crossed to hide my cellulite, I suddenly felt like a bit of an idiot for putting this off so long. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone gave a shit.