Ashley discusses her thoughts on how to stay fit and motivated over quarantine in preparation for a socially distanced season.
Up until March 2020, seventeen-year-old Ashley Liang had spent her afternoons leading group stunts as co-captain of her drill team in her school gym. Ashley’s experience as a performer started out with ice skating at age 3, but her parents introduced her to ballet when she was 5 to correct her pigeon-toed feet and maintain her posture. She quit ice skating at age 6 “While it wasn’t my decision to start ballet, I quickly fell in love with it. I loved how much work went into everything to make the simplest movements seem effortless. The beautiful costumes we’d get each year for recitals weren’t a bad reason to continue either.” However, what drew Ashley to stay committed for so long was her ballet community. “The teachers, fellow dancers, and parents were all so supportive and encouraging.”
Unfortunately when Ashley moved school districts from Bothell to Bellevue and joined the dance/drill team at Interlake, she wasn’t able to fit time in for ballet. “My high school dance team was also wonderful, and I have made so many close friends through the team. From spending hundreds of hours at practices, football games, and competitions, my team has really been like a second family to me,” she says.
Throughout Ashley’s three years in drill, her team “has won various first and second place awards throughout the years and consistently made it to state.” Ashley herself has amassed eight individual awards for drill downs, which are solo performances, placing 1st for drill downs at the district competition and ending up as a state finalist her sophomore year. During her junior year in 2020, she’d been hoping for a top finish for both her team and her individual drill downs at the state competition, but was forced to alter her goals when COVID-19 shut schools down.
First team practices, then her districts and state competition were cancelled. Ashley and her teammates went from training inseparably into the evenings nearly every day of the week to having a check-in with their coach on Zoom from time to time. For the 2020-21 school year, “our season is getting cut down from 7 months to a few weeks in the spring. I understand and support this decision, as I believe that containing the spread of COVID-19 is of utmost importance right now, I am a bit disappointed at how uncertain my last year on the team will be, but I know it is for the best,” Ashley says.
We asked Ashley how she handled self-training in isolation. “Because drill is a team sport, there isn’t much we can do without having everyone together. For example, stunts and transitions can only be worked on in groups.” She has transitioned into working out while video calling friends to hold herself accountable and going on 2-mile runs. “I cross the street or jog around to avoid getting too close to people.” Social distancing measures aside, this routine actually doesn’t stray from her usual off-season conditioning (the drill season takes place in about an 8-month period from August to March). Quarantine has actually helped a lot with “staying in shape because I was able to have a lot of time to work out and go on runs.”
Although Ashley hasn’t been able to leave her neighborhood for the most part, quarantine also enabled her to spend time with a workout buddy usually absent during the school year: her older sister Amy, who returned home from medical school in March. Although Amy still had a full-time college schedule and had to study for tests, they got to talk every day because they hadn’t talked that frequently before when she was in med school, got to know her more intimately since previous phone calls were what she was just doing in the moment, so over quar she got more reacquainted with her sister’s day to day life.Over the summer Ashley and Amy, who also dances, did the 30 miles in 30 days fitness challenge, progressing to 60 miles in 60 days along with hikes to Colchuck Lake and High Rock Point. “Whenever my family goes hiking, we make sure to wear masks and bring hand sanitizer,” she says. Their team dance practices shifted to online workouts as a sibling duo with the SWEAT program.
Competitions have been on hold for over six months while the season has kept being postponed. “If we are able to have full team practices but are not able to compete in person, we will have virtual competitions,” Ashley says. Their first in-person practice since March took place on Friday, October 9th. “This year, our season is getting cut down from 7 months to a few weeks in the spring. I understand and support this decision as I believe that containing the spread of COVID-19 is of utmost importance right now. I am a bit disappointed at how uncertain my last year on the team will be, but I know it is for the best.”
Ashley has stayed in touch with her friends on the team, which is currently “planning to have weekly check-ins with current members and coaches to boost morale and grow closer as a team.” Weekly themes, activities, workouts, and stretches are being brainstormed to replicate the strenuous but fulfilling team practices Interlake Drill previously took part in.
We asked Ashley what she’s been making in her quarantine kitchen. Ashley used to detest oatmeal, but after her sister made her overnight oats she began to enjoy oats and is looking forward to making her own overnight oats now that her sister has left for the East Coast. “I’ve made a lot of healthy desserts with vegan substitutes like oatmeal bars and banana bread. We’ve used oats instead of flour, dates as a sugar substitute, and matcha for flavoring. We’ve also made Asian food, such as tang yuan and rose pastries.” I’ve also visited Ashley’s house over quarantine and got to try her mother’s peanut butter cheesecake myself. Working out with friends has really kept me accountable to working out everyday.
She suggests exercising with friends at a specific time of day, helping to keep everyone accountable for consistent workouts and some social interaction. “Setting challenges for yourself is also a good way to stay productive and fit over quarantine,” Ashley adds. “Even if you’re not exercising with your team, you don’t have to feel like you’re training alone. Exercising on a video call with friends is fun, and you can also listen to your favorite music.” We asked Ashley if she thought life would ever fully return to normal. “I think I’ll be more conscious about hygiene and a bit wary about going to crowded places for the next couple years but for the most part, I would say yes, definitely.”
Overall, quarantine has helped Ashley change her outlook on athletics: after all, a major component of drill is personal fitness, which in quarantine greatly surpasses competitive training. She’s learned to take care of herself with consistent exercise in an extended off-season that had no immediate certainties, and this commitment to exercise will last her beyond a high school sport.