What was lockdown like for those whose daily routines required being outdoors, doing high intensity training, and interacting closely with others? How have our student athletes kept up their fitness during lockdown and what motivated them? Nady and Haneen are 21-year-old AUB scholar athletes who spoke to us about determination and frustration during lockdown, and the power of hope.
In his final semester before graduating with a BA in electrical and computer engineering and a minor in economics, Nady Hachem has been playing professional basketball in the Lebanese Basketball League since the age of 15 and represented Lebanon in several international tournaments. Along with his outstanding academic performance, he kept up a daily routine that included an average of five hours of practice, training three times a day during tournaments.
Lebanon’s first lockdown in spring 2020 was put in force at the peak of performance for Nady and the AUB team. He had returned from the Dubai International Tournament, finishing third with the Lebanese team, and started the Lebanese UniLeague university championship. The AUB team was training day and night, motivated by reaching the quarterfinals and having already won one out of two games required to win the championship. Suddenly, lockdown was put in place and everything was put on hold.
“That was the last time I stepped on an AUB court and there have been no practices until this day.”
From training on the courts and working out at the gym, to having the only option of training on his own at home, it was time to get creative and original. Nady sometimes worked out with his personal trainer over Zoom. At first, he used available objects for training, such as water bottles and gallons, and anything that could be used to provide needed weight resistance. But for a professional who did intensive training, it was soon time for an upgrade. By June, Nady’s list of equipment included: 10 kg and 20 kg plates; a 20 kg iron bar; a bench; 5 kg and 10 kg dumbbells; various elastic bands; a simple jump rope; and of course, mattresses.
“It was very hard to accept and adapt to the situation,” said Nady. “Yet I knew that my discipline and perseverance got me this far and doing less than my best was never an option.”
Nady will be graduating this year and has already secured a job in Dubai. He intends to put his basketball career on hold, but has a few more goals to achieve first: He is currently playing the 2021 Lebanese Basketball Championship for clubs and continues to focus on always being prepared for the next game. “I am determined to wrap up my basketball career on a high note and will do what I need to in order to remain in shape and give my best.”
For senior in nutrition and dietetics Haneen Tamim, football has been a passion for as far back as she can remember, and what she considers a key element in her mental and physical development. She has played with several teams: her school team; her former club, the Girls Football Academy (GFA); her current club, the Stars Association for Sports (SAS); AUB women’s futsal team, and the Lebanese National Team.
“It hasn’t been easy, lockdown has limited our abilities to practice or run or do any kind of sports as we would in gyms or fields,” said Haneen.
She added that she faced a particular challenge trying to stay on track with proper nutrition and diet during lockdown. “Staying at home has turned eating into a habit; many times, whenever we get bored we feel like there's nothing to do but eat.”
Haneen, however, confirms that there is a way despite these challenges. “It's all about the mentality,” she said. “When you're mentally tough, you will be able to cope with the hardships you're facing. So being in lockdown shouldn't stop you from training. You can still use minimal equipment to train at home, sometimes even just your body weight would do!”
After checking with her coach for some workouts, Haneen established a routine that consists of warmups (hip mobility, body weight squats, planks), circuit or endurance training (wall sits, squat jumps, pushups, sit ups, bicycle crunches, chair dips), and stretching. The workouts were approximately an hour long and were done three to four times a week. She also had 45-minute Zoom training sessions with her SAS fitness coach.
“Quarantine wasn't an excuse for me, it taught me how to cope with such a situation and stay on track so that I can stay fit and ready for any upcoming tournament,” said Haneen. “There's always room for improvement, and there's always room to do what you feel like doing. If you want to train and reach your dream, it won't be easy but it won't be impossible either.”