With gyms, fitness centers shut down, student-athletes find new ways to work out to stay ready for season


Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia

DePaul sophomore forward Jake Fuderer looks onto the field as pouring rain comes down on Oct. 27, 2019.

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic is agonizing everyone globally. The increasing number of cases every single day along with the delaying of the vaccine is causing ruckus in the world. With a layer of despondency encapsulating us in this current situation, it is very easy for us to lose our stability, both physically and mentally. 

With the statewide stay-at-home order for Illinois, practicing social distancing and self-quarantine is being preached more than ever. The virus has forced all gyms, fitness centers and other physical activity spaces to close down temporarily. So with most of us held down at home, athletes of every kind, from professional competitors to ordinary fitness enthusiasts, are looking for ways to combat their daily dosage of serotonin through workouts. 

For some, fitness and working out is a way of life. The dopamine high after an intense workout transcends any drug and is incredibly addictive in the long run. Missing a workout or two has the capability of sending a fitness enthusiast in a very dark place. 

Many of the top athletes who have excelled in their sport for years are also being forced to step out of their comfort zone and continue their fitness endeavors within the realm of their own houses. As we remain confined within our houses, The DePaulia caught up with some athletes to inquire about their personal workout routine and regime.

Keeping Yourself Motivated 

DePaul women’s soccer player Blerina Saipi says planning a schedule ahead is the most efficient way to workout at home. 

“I usually plan my schedule in advance,” she said. “I try to workout first thing in the morning because I know it is really difficult to workout later in the day for me. If possible, I also make sure I workout with a fellow team mate of mine who lives next door, while keeping the norms of social distancing.

While all gyms and fitness centers are closed during the shutdown, athletes across the country have to find new ways to stay to workout. For Saipi, she has been working out at home and finding unique strategies to prepare herself for the 2020 soccer season.

“I try and look for innovative methods to workout while I’m at home,” Saipi said. “ If I’m training with weights, I fill up a backpack full of books to get the desired weight I require and workout with that. Most of the time, I keep myself by practicing drills and running inside my own garden and house. I also do some conditioning training which helps my mobility and flexibility.” 

Saipi also mentions that she is extremely thankful for Ryan Noask to keep the team motivated during the time of lockdown. While Noask is not required to provide the team with workouts, he has been suggesting them videos to watch different ways to stay in shape.

“Our coach, Ryan Nosak has been a real source of motivation during these times,” Saipi said “He records his workout videos and training drills at home and sends it in our group for all the athletes to get their daily dose of training. The videos certainly help a lot. He has also made sure to design a specific workout program for every individual athlete. So when you see someone putting this amount of effort for you, a lack of motivation is never an issue for the entire team.”

Saipi says she hasn’t really altered her diet as compared to before.

“I still follow the same diet in the lockdown,” she said. “But the only change is, during these times I take the liberty to cheat almost everyday. I have a big sweet tooth so I cheat on a regular basis these days.”

Saipi says that the lockdown shouldn’t be an excuse for anyone to let themselves go. Even if the gyms and training facilities are shut, people can still workout at home.

“The most important thing is to get moving,” she states. “Do not spend your lockdown sitting on the couch. Walk within your house. Even 30-45 minutes of workout everyday would be enough and help you stay active. There are plenty of videos on Youtube and Instagram on how to workout without any equipment. Bodyweight training is also  incredibly helpful. But most of all, keep yourself motivated.”

Saipi hopes to get back on the field as soon as possible. The season officially begins in August, but she states that she is still unsure on the status of the season and has yet to hear the board’s decision. 

Your Fitness Journey Isn’t On Lockdown

DePaul junior Jake Fuderer, who is part of the DePaul men’s soccer team, was in blazing hot form last season and was excited to continue the momentum in the following season. 

“Well, our preseason usually starts in the beginning of August and our first match is pretty much around the last week of August,” he said. “But with the current circumstances, it looks quite unlikely that the new season will start anytime soon.”

When asked about his training during the lockdown, he states that his approach is extremely simple. 

“I try and keep myself moving,” Fuderer said. “Keeping yourself active is the only way to not feel lethargic. I go for runs in my high school field which is right around the block. I pretty much run there everyday since it is empty right now. I also do a lot of bodyweight exercises to maintain my strength and muscle. Also since I do not have any weights with me — I guess bodyweight training is the way to go.”

Fuderer also highlights that his strength training coach Richard Kim has been a real savior for the team during these times. 

“My strength training coach Rich sends videos of workouts everyday to us,” he said. “The videos show us a wide range of exercises we can incorporate in our workout. It keeps the fun and excitement on and saves us from the same monotonous exercises we do while we are at home.”

Fuderer insists that staying fit and physically dynamic during the lockdown is essential to feel good about yourself. 

DePaul junior midfielder Bina Saipi celebrates with her teammates after scoring a goal against St. John’s at Wish Field on Oct. 7, 2019.

“I understand that not everyone has the novelty of a home gym where they can workout with the same intensity as they used to before,” he said. “But certain exercises like push ups and its variations such as wide or diamond pushups can be easily done in your home. It is indeed a great way to maintain your upper body strength. People can also practice yoga or do some stretchings at home to increase their mobility. Lockdown doesn’t necessarily mean that your fitness journey is also on lockdown.”

Doing Something Is Better than Nothing

John Gallagher, a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a professional bodybuilder and also works at the university gym as a personal trainer. His whole planning for competition has been derailed but John is still being optimistic about the situation. 

“I was preparing for a bodybuilding competition which was originally scheduled to be in November,” he said. “I have been waiting and planning for this event right from last fall. In order to increase your strength and gain adequate muscle mass, one needs to bulk up and eat a lot during the process — and I did the same thing. My plan was to bulk up till mid May and eventually lose all the excess fat I had gained during the course of my bulking. I was going to start cutting down from June so that it gave me ample time to get ready just in time for the competition.”

But now, without proper workouts and training, his ideal physique in mind looks like a dream to him.

“Since the gyms have been shut, I have lost around 3 kg of my body weight which is a lot for a professional bodybuilder,” Gallagher said. “I doubt that I will reach my goal by the end of my planning cycle and it bummed me off in the beginning. But I finally did come to terms with the fact that not everything is going to go as smoothly as I have planned in life. There are definitely going to be obstacles and rather than whining and being depressed — one should look out for ways to bounce back from the setback. It’s still doubtful that the committee is going forward with the event, but the fact that my hard work and sacrifices along the way is going to be in vain is really disappointing.”

When asked if Gallagher still works out at home, he had an incredibly candid answer.

“Well, not for the first two weeks,” he said.  “As I said, I was way too depressed to think about my hard work and commitment being taken for a toss. But when I started to realize that my muscles were beginning to flatten out, the inner Hercules finally spoke to me. I immediately started training at home. I have a couple of light weight dumbbells and a barbell. I use them and train with high volume so that I still put ample stress on my muscles to put them in a state of hypertrophy. 

“These days I have also started to fill up the suitcase till its brim and started to use it for bench pressing,” Gallagher said. “It is fun to take a break from the conventional training methods and explore new ways to push your limits. Apart from that, I squat with the couch on my back and use the chairs to train my arms. My roommates aren’t too happy about it, but I’m sure they understand.” 

Gallagher is no longer worried about the future and says that he takes each day as it comes. His wasted sacrifice has only taught him to be stronger and more dedicated and vouches that he will bounce back stronger from this unavoidable hiatus.