Coronavirus: No pain, no grain for housebound Singapore athletes

Bags of rice, cat litter among innovative fitness equipment used to keep fitness levels up

Athletes Jasmine Ser (left) and Leon Kwek both keeping fit at home during the circuit breaker period. PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM/SER_JASMINE, LEONKWEK10

When shooter Jasmine Ser's gym session at Safra Yishun last Monday was cancelled, she turned to her kitchen - not to pig out but to search for household items that she could use to exercise at home.

The 28-year-old found what she was looking for in a 5kg bag of rice, which she used as a weight while doing squats. She also did bear crawl single-arm rows with a detergent bottle in place of a dumbbell.

Ser, who posted a video of her home workout on Instagram, is one of several national athletes who are finding creative ways to stay in shape while remaining indoors during the circuit breaker, which started last Tuesday.

National kayakers, including Brandon Ooi, opted to borrow equipment from the team and some even transported a Kayak Ergometer, an indoor paddle machine, to their homes.

Netballer Aqilah Andin meanwhile, has incorporated packets of rice and cat litter into her strength and conditioning sessions at home.

Basketball player Leon Kwek is on a quest to complete 10,000 push-ups by the end of the circuit breaker on May 4.

Two-time Olympian Ser said she wanted to go to Decathlon last weekend to buy equipment only to be told by teammate Martina Veloso that some products were sold out.

"I thought I was too late, then I realised I don't really have to buy anything because we have so many things at home that we can use," she added. "I thought it was good to let the public know that we actually have a lot of things that can be used as weights - we can do (these sessions) anywhere and be active."

For Aqilah, a defender on the Singapore netball team, these unusual drills are part of her training programme - the athletes sent photos of items they had at home to their strength and conditioning coach so he could advise them on what they could use as weights.

The 24-year-old did exercises such as weighted push-ups (using a backpack containing a 5kg pack of rice) and single-leg deadlifts with a duffel bag filled with four packets of cat litter, each weighing 10kg.

"My two cats knew it was their stuff, so they just looked at me and they were sniffing the bag because they knew the litter was inside," said Aqilah, adding she still preferred using conventional gear.

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She noted: "A dumbbell is more compact so it's easier to focus on the technique, whereas when you're holding something bigger like cat litter the weight can keep shifting and you're focused on trying to make sure the weight doesn't go all over the place.

"It's awkward at first and not easy at all, but after a while you get used to it."

Kwek said he came up with the challenge of doing 10,000 push-ups in 28 days after reflecting on how he could keep fit while at home. "Many people have the misconception that basketball players only need to focus on their lower-body strength," explained the 23-year-old, who plays for the Singapore Slingers.

"But (from) playing on the international stage, I realised that we were lacking in our upper-body strength instead, so I wanted to work on it."

His team feature in the Asean Basketball League which in March announced it was indefinitely suspending the competition.

Kwek has nominated nine other people to join him in his push-up contest and said: "It is heartwarming that so many people want to do this challenge and keep active, so I want to use this opportunity to show how they can keep fit."

• Additional reporting by Neo Yee Pung


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: No pain, no grain for housebound Singapore athletes. Subscribe