Vietnamese improvise indoor fitness regime

By Phan Duong   April 9, 2020 | 06:00 am PT
Hanoians cooped up at home amid the Covid-19 lockdown are employing novel means to stay in shape.

Nguyen Tien Dat, a runner in Hanoi, noticed friends had been sharing on Facebook how bored they were after the stay-at-home orders took effect on April 1, preventing them from doing outdoor exercises as before.

"I started encouraging friends to run around the house as a way to follow social distancing and cheer everyone up," he recalled.

By example, Dat went to the rooftop of his apartment in O Cho Dua Ward in Dong Da District at 8 a.m. last Saturday morning to complete a marathon.

Nguyen Tien Dat running a marathon on his apartments rooftop in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Dat.

Nguyen Tien Dat completes a marathon on his apartment's rooftop in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tien Dat.

The rooftop has a length of 25 meters and is slippery due to rain water. Dat completed the 42.2 km distance in about six and a half hours at a slow pace to prevent himself from slipping.

But it was a walk in the park for a runner in his 30s with seven years’ experience. In the past, he used to have long runs by himself on Ham Lon Mountain, Soc Son District, about 40 km from Hanoi, and completed a 100 km run in Sa Pa in the northern highlands of Lao Cai Province. 

Because the terrace is only 25 meters, it took him 850 laps, or 1,700 head turns, to complete the marathon. 

"My knee started aching after so many turns. I couldn't stay focused in the first 10 km, which took me about 1.5 hours to complete. It would only have taken 50 minutes or so if I had been running on the flat ground," he said, admitting there were moments he felt very unmotivated.

A few kilometers later, he turned to an audio book and focused on its flow instead of counting the number of labs. After 6:22.11, Dat finished the marathon with a distance of 42.84 km, surpassing his intended goal.

He said the run proved once again exercise helped him become more patient, and that running along such a boring route required a "mettle spirit."

"By accomplishing the goal, I want to encourage people to actively and patiently implement social distancing."

Many other sport groups and clubs have been rolling out new challenges for people to participate during the 15 days of social distancing campaign.

Do Quoc An, 38, is one of the initiators of the indoor stair climbing movement, or the "Climbing Stairs to Kill Covid-19" challenge, which runs from April 1-15. The challenge is divided into categories: farmer, noble, duke, royal, emperor, and ruler. Farmer is the toughest level, having to climb 200 floors each day, followed by the noble with 150 floors etc.

Do Quoc An on his bike roler inside his appartment in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of An.

Do Quoc An straddles his bike roller inside his Hanoi apartment. Photo courtesy of Do Quoc An.

An started out with the noble class, climbing 150 floors each day. He climbed from the first floor to the 25th of his apartment building, then came back down, completing six laps up and down the stairs in about an hour.

"For those who have practiced sports for a while, the time going up and down the stairs are almost the same. Going down is even harder than going up because it is easy to fall," An noted.

By the morning of April 7, he had been climbing for a week continuously.

There was a time when he was really out of shape, weighing 90 kg. So in the past four years, An picked up running and cycling, leading him to participate in Ironman 70.3, the largest and most prestigious annual triathlon in Vietnam, in central Da Nang.

After the Lunar New Year, around the time the first wave of infections hit Vietnam, An started avoiding gathering with members of his weekly cycling club after each training session. Besides climbing stairs in the morning, he has been practicing indoor cycling since the beginning of April on his bike roller in the afternoons while his wife and children practice yoga daily via online video tutorials.

There are over 30 people, male and female, that have taken on this challenge.

One of them is Nguyen Tien Hung, a Tay Ho District resident, who is over 50 but registered to climb 200 floors each day. 

"It is not important how much stamina one has. The key here is perseverance to keep you on the journey," he said.

Hung's regular exercises include running, cycling and swimming. He opted for climbing stairs when he couldn't go outside because of rain. He started to feel tired after four to five laps when just starting out. After practicing a few more days, he could do nine laps up to his own 21st story apartment and felt he could even do more.

One of Nguyen Tien Hung staim climbing laps, as he sets goal to complete 200 floors each day. Photo courtesy of Hung. 

Nguyen Tien Hung set a goal to climb 200 floors each day. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tien Hung.

"After waking, I climb the stairs at 5:30 a.m. and complete my target at around 7 a.m. Once I get back after work, I opt for the stairs on my way to the highest floor where I live. This method not only helps me stay fit but also helps avoid contact with others," Hung shared.

Minh Thanh, 48, also from Hanoi, cycled 100 km indoors in two hours and 15 minutes, employing virtual track for inspiration. He normally cycles between 400-500 km. However, he said cycling indoor makes him feel less motivated and lonely without support of his teammates.

On Facebook, various groups have come up with challenges involving planking, push-ups and others to encourage people to stay healthy in the fight against Covid-19. 

Khuat Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, launched an "anti-Covid-19" training challenge on his personal page with a 19-day push-up challenge, starting from March 28 through April 15. Each day, participants perform at least 19 continuous push-ups per day, share videos on Facebook and have to challenge at least one more friend to join.

"The reward for each participant in the challenge is to come out healthier and happier," Hung wrote.

Nearly a hundred people participated in Hung's challenge to date.

Vietnam has confirmed 251 Covid-19 cases so far, of which 126 patients have recovered.

The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed more than 88,300 lives as it hit 209 countries and territories.

go to top