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Apr 28

I Cant Go To The Gym, So Im Lifting My Girlfriend – WBEZ

Daniel Zhou enjoyed working out and playing sports throughout childhood, but it wasnt until after graduating college in 2014 that he first started getting into competitive bodybuilding. But once he tried it, he was hooked. Over the last six years he and his twin brother Brian who shares his passion for the sport have participated in several regional competitions and one natural national competition. In 2017, they even placed first and second in their division.

Daniel said one of the reasons why he loves bodybuilding is because its a sport that requires a high level of discipline.

With bodybuilding, there really isnt an off-season, he said. You're constantly having to keep up with it.

These regular workouts have also become a way for him to blow off steam from work.

Its become therapeutic, he said. Going to the gym is a sort of sanctuary for me to de-stress.

Daniel is in between competitions right now, and said normally hed be spending this time trying to bulk up. This usually equates to going to the gym every day for an hour and a half and hitting up fast food restaurants to help him hit his daily goal of eating 3,500 to 4,000 calories. But with his gym closed because of the coronavirus, his usual routine is now out the door.

Instead of building size, the focus now for me is just to maintain, he said.

Daniel said he had to adjust his expectations to fit the realities of working out at home during quarantine.

It wasnt, What can I do to keep lifting like I did before? he said. It was What can I do now? And How can I change my mentality so I don't feel like Im disappointing my routine?

Daniel said he recently bought a pullup bar to help with back exercises, and does pull ups wearing a backpack filled with water bottles. For arm workouts, hes been using resistance bands that he had bought as a tool to prep for a past bodybuilding competition. To work different muscle groups, he changes the angle of the bands by attaching them to doors, sofa legs and other furniture in his apartment.

But he said the most unique adaptation hes made is enlisting his girlfriend Sandy to serve as a human weight. Sandy will straddle his shoulders during squats and calf raises, sit on his back for push ups and lie in his arms for bicep curls.

Daniel said the only drawback is that Sandy is about a hundred pounds lighter than most of the weights he lifts.

I would prefer her to be heavier, but she probably doesnt prefer that, he joked. Im going to have to think of other ways to make it harder for me over time.

Daniel also said that Sandy isnt just a tool, shes also his workout companion. On cardio days, he said the two initially tried running around their neighborhood in Skokie, but found it hard to stay socially distant from other people exercising. Now, theyve resorted to running laps in their apartment buildings parking lot.

The parking lot does get old and concrete is tough on the joints, he said.

The gym isnt just a place for lifting weights. One of the things hes missed the most the past two months, Daniel said, is the community at his gym. He said hes kept in touch with gym friends through a group chat on Instagram, but it doesnt replace the real thing.

What Ive learned is how much the setting of the gym actually motivates me, he said.

To pump himself up during workouts, hes started using his desktop computer monitor to play an hour-long video of bodybuilders working out at the gym together.

I look at the sweat, the iron, and [hear] the grunting and it evokes the gym mentality back into my workout, he said.

Daniel said hes trying to make the best of the situation, but cant help but feel anxious about losing muscle hes worked so hard to gain.

It doesnt feel too good, he said. There is a fear that youre going to lose your muscle. Ive sort of come to terms that Im going to lose some of it, [because] I know that once Im back in the gym eventually, its going to come back quickly.

Daniel said he hopes to get back into bodybuilding competitions in 2021, and intends to enter a more competitive division than hes been part of in the past. Until then, hes just looking forward to being back at the gym.

Going back to the gym is definitely going to re-motivate me, he said. Theres definitely going to be an aspect of being more appreciative of it than I was before.

Katherine Nagasawa is WBEZs audience engagement producer. Follow her@Kat_Nagasawa.

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I Cant Go To The Gym, So Im Lifting My Girlfriend - WBEZ

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