Fitness in China!
Bridge Year China’s passion for fitness started on Day 1 of orientation at Princeton University! When Scott presented all the Bridge Year participants with a challenge to hash out some goals for our nine month adventure, every group focused on relationship building with the locals, full cultural immersion, and language acquisition. However, Team China was the only group that focused on the entire human experience: mind, body, and soul. We were therefore very proud of the fact that we were the only group that put “Being a physical beast” on our goal chart! Of course this is by no means our sole focus on this trip, but we fully acknowledge and embrace that a healthy body equals a healthy life which in turn leads to a happy and energy-filled spirit! It is also important to note that there are varying levels of commitment to this goal (not everyone can run seven miles like Luke can) but we are all committed to staying physically fit so that we can more fully experience beautiful China.
Our time at Princeton was a great foundational block of our fitness plan. Even though each day was jam packed with activities, many Team China members went to the campus gym at 6:30 AM to workout with the “Early Morning Regulars.” The camaraderie and supportive spirit felt in that gym as we grunted and gasped for air set a wonderful precedent for how we would support each other throughout our crazy adventure.
In China, we have been presented with many opportunities to challenge ourselves physically. In the mornings, often led by Michael, some of us go on beautiful walks. As a group, we hiked up Chang Chong Mountain which reminded us all, except for maybe Luke, that our cardio definitely needs some work! We also spent an hour and a half learning Jeet Kune Do from a master. Walking up and down the stairs to the Bao Xiang Temple was a total Thigh Destroyer and while staying at the temple the whole group adopted a vegetarian diet. We hiked through the Trail down to Shaxi for three and a half hours and though our knees took some damage, our bodies felt amazing and renewed! Finally on multiple occasions, some members of the group have woken up early in the morning to workout out near waterfalls and in the middle of Chinese alleyways. This has generated many interesting glances from locals passing by some foreigners intensely focused on maintaining wall squat!
My personal favorite fitness-related memory was when we got back late from a great night out in Dali. Luke and I still had a lot of energy, probably thanks to the Bubble Tea, and so we decided to workout with pushup supersets. This workout combines a high TUT pushup routine with varying plank sets. Our grunting and constant words of encouragement brought the hostel’s owners out and the husband and wife proceeded to join us in our quest for a great chest day! Connecting with these people through the art of a pushup was an experience that I’ll never forget! Then, since we didn’t have phones, Luke and I couldn’t time our 45 second planks and so instead we decided to sing parts of songs that would end up adding up to 45 seconds. I suggested 20 seconds of my favorite song of all time: “Go Cubs Go” and Luke suggested “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. Elizabeth then suggested that we sing the chorus from “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi! Thus in our ninth superset, I was so tired and my mind was telling me, screaming at me, to stop. However, I heard Luke’s beautiful voice behind me singing, panting, and gasping, “Youuuuu’rreeeee beau……tiful” and I knew that I still had the energy to continue my workout!
Luke’s resiliency and persistence reflects the entire group’s mentality that though we may be Princeton nerds, our body is a gift and if we can apply the same determination and perseverance we apply to academics to fitness-then we can truly become what we originally planned: Physical Beasts!
Watch out Mama, little Michal will be little no more 🙂