By ZHOU LIJUN
NANJING — No matter when you walk into the Hopkins-Nanjing Center gym, you will always see some students working out there. For most students, working out in the gym has become an important part of their life at the HNC. The ultimate goal for most students who work out in the gym is to keep fit and build up strength, though people have different ways of achieving their goals. Some prefer to work out alone, while others prefer to work out in groups with their friends. Some prefer strenuous exercise, while others prefer lighter workouts. There are also a number of workout groups with various workout plans.
The frequency of working out varies from person to person. Some students exercise every day while others go to the gym twice a week. When students exercise alone, they seem to be more efficient, and usually rest for a short time during each exercise session. However, when it comes to people who work out in groups of friends, they usually do each session in turns and rest for relatively long periods of time during each session. In addition, they spend more time communicating with their friends. Therefore, it may take them longer to finish their workout. Although they spend more time working out, they seem to enjoy the process and the workout seems to be more interesting.
The gym is not just for the conventional workout. There exist many interesting ways of keeping fit. Last year, the Zumba dance group held weekly dance lessons for students. This year, a Korean pop dance group took the place of the Zumba group. Members learn the moves through online videos and practice together. Some students may learn faster than others; those quick learners help the rest of the group to catch up. In this process, students not only learn new things, but also learn more about other students.
Although most people work out to stay healthy, there are some exceptions. One of my interviewees, who used to be a sprinter, said that the reason he works out is because it is a habit that he has kept for years. For some students, working out is also a method to keep an attractive body shape.
Some students also practice Taiji sword forms in the gym. Compared to traditional workouts such as weight lifting, push-ups and so forth, this kind of exercise requires more mental concentration. People need to calm themselves and clear their minds before they can practice it. The interesting thing is that there are few Chinese students who practice Chinese kung fu. Instead, it appears international students are more interested in it. For Chinese students, Chinese kung fu is something they have been exposed to since they were very young. Moreover, Chinese students may hold some stereotypes of Chinese kung fu and people who practice it. Usually, the elderly enjoy doing martial arts in parks during the morning hours. Students who choose to practice Chinese kung fu are highly likely to follow a lifestyle that follows some Chinese traditions and ancient Chinese philosophy.
Another interesting phenomenon is that people are likely to work out when their friends begin to work out. I started working out at the end of last semester, hoping to relax and keep fit. When my friends heard that I worked out regularly, they expressed interest in joining, and they started bringing their friends to the gym as well. The reason for this phenomenon may be that students are shy and worried about being embarrassed when going to work out in the gym. But if they have some friends who work out there, they may try it out. After that, they will find out there are few students who have professional workout skills, and they can join them even if they do not have previous workout experience. They may keep coming to the gym and working out regularly. In my group, one student has worked out for a long time and he coaches the rest of us. Sometimes we follow online videos for new exercises as well.
The gym is not only a place to work out and keep fit, but also a place to make friends and communicate with other students. It is not only a place to work hard, but also a place to have fun. There are also some students who seek other ways to build up their strength. However, working out in the gym makes up an important part of student life in the Center.