SSIF, Stockholms Studenters Idrottsförening (Stockholm Students’ Sports Association), has been one of the most unexpected and best parts of my semester in Stockholm. When first coming to Stockholm, I did not plan on working out much while I was here. I just left the varsity volleyball team at my university in December, and I did not enjoy the relationship I had with working out; I always felt like I was doing it for the sake of the team and for the team’s improvements, never for myself. I knew I liked weight lifting and did not enjoy running, but I hadn’t experimented with many other forms of exercise. I am also on the Bhangra dance team at my university, and I always loved our practices as great sources of cardio. When I got to Sweden, I realized that my body has been so used to working out consistently for years that I get really antsy if I do not work out consistently. This semester has been a journey of rebuilding my relationship with exercise and working out, and SSIF has helped that in the best way. All of their classes were incredibly fun, and you can tell the instructors love what they do. As a student through DIS, we got a discount on the SSIF All-In pass, which allows you to choose up to 6 classes/week out of their 30+ class options for $50 for 5 months! It was 100% worth it and really shaped my time here in Stockholm. While it is targeted toward students, anyone can join, which made it a great way to meet many locals. Many of the students who are in SSIF are also international students, many of whom are pursuing their masters degree. Over the semester, I tried 13 of the different options, going for over 30 classes total, and I enjoyed them all!
In the spirit of trying new things, I went to a fencing class as well. While it was very fun to try and learn some of the terminology, I didn’t feel that I got as good of a workout, so I didn’t attend again. The class was also a lot smaller (5-10 people, compared to ~20-30 in most other classes), and I wanted to be in bigger classes that were faster paced. I also went to a volleyball class, which is not a new sport to me. An hour of the practice was focused on drills and skill refinement, and the second hour was game play. I really enjoyed the game play part, but I also realized that maybe it would be good for me to take a break from the sport for a bit. I wanted to try as many new classes as possible this semester, so I decided I would focus on those new experiences rather than playing volleyball every week.
SSIF has a collaboration with Les Mills, so they host many of the classes that company has created. These workouts offer a range of activities, and while you take these classes in a group, you can tailor them to your individual comfort! The instructors are really great about offering easier and harder options for certain exercises. My favorite Les Mills class is Body Pump. The class is 45-60 minutes of weightlifting to music, with lifts such as deadlifts, rows, bench press, back/front squats, and more. Everyone is free to choose whichever weights they are the most comfortable with, and everyone moves at the same pace with the music. This class was incredibly fun because it combined weights with music and a faster-paced environment. Body Pump does not focus on max reps, it more so combines strength and endurance training in the best way!
Some other Les Mills classes are Core, HIIT, Body Combat, Tone, and Sh’Bam. Les Mills Core is exactly what it sounds like: a focus on abs/core with dynamic and static movements. This class was really challenging and also set to fun music. It uses some light weights and resistance bands and involves mainly body weight exercises. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. These classes were structured with 30 seconds of an exercise, then 10 seconds rest. It would then progress to 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off. The class was only 30 minutes, but it was really fun and really got my heart rate up. Next up is Body Combat! This class was really fun as well, as it was set to music and the instructors were so energized just like every other class. Body Combat is focused on punches, kicks, and jumps set to music. This class definitely took a bit for me to adjust to because I haven’t done anything else like it before, but it was a great class to get out of my comfort zone. Les Mills Tone had a full-body focus, with mainly bodyweight exercises with some light weights and resistance bands. This class’s exercises felt similar to Core and HIIT. Last up for Les Mills classes is Sh’Bam! Sh’Bam is a dance workout, and it was super fun. I enjoyed the other dance classes I tried more, but this was still great.
The dance classes I tried were Contemporary Dance, Beginners Jazz, and Advanced Jazz. Out of these, Advanced Jazz was probably my favorite! The jazz classes were taught by the same instructor and had more thorough warm-ups. The jazz classes progressed from warm-ups, to technique practice, to choreography during the 60-minute classes. Contemporary Dance was also an hour long, yet most of it was a new set of choreography. I’m including a clip below from one of the classes I went to! Contemporary Dance had a more lyrical feel, whereas jazz expanded to higher and lower energy sections depending on the week. In jazz, we also did one piece of choreography for a few weeks and built more on it each week! Beginning Jazz had slower movements and easier technical practice than Advanced Jazz, as well as different choreography. I tried many different styles of dance as a kid, and I felt like a kid again in this class in the best way: it was so freeing and exciting to dance and move with so much support all while having fun. It was also really exciting because I could feel myself improving and getting more comfortable as the weeks went by. The instructor, Elin, is incredibly talented and kind; she studied at the Stockholm University of the Arts through the 5-year teachers program and has been teaching ever since! Currently working four jobs, she is incredibly busy, yet every class she brings the most energy, enthusiasm, and care to how she teaches. You can feel how much she loves dancing and teaching. At the end of this week’s Advanced class, everyone stayed back for a while to talk about how grateful they are for this class and to have Elin as the instructor. I really hope to keep finding places to dance the rest of my life – this class was one of my favorite parts of this semester.
Last up is another one of my favorites: Gymnastics. SSIF offers Beginners and Advanced gymnastics. Being the most inflexible person I know, I easily decided on Beginners. Gymnastics was the first SSIF class I attended, and I’ve been going with some of my DIS friends ever since! We’ve even recruited other to join. Gymnastics was wayyy out of my comfort zone, but I’m proud to say I can almost do a cartwheel now! We quickly became friends with many of the people in my class, and gymnastics is easily one of the strongest highlights of my semester in Stockholm. We sometimes took trips to Max (a fast food chain here) afterwards, and those are some of my favorite memories. The class starts with dynamic warm-ups and different exercises on the mats. We then set up the gym and it looks completely different from the empty room when you enter! There are different themes for each week, such as cartwheels, round-off’s, backflips, handsprings, jumping, and more! There are multiple stations, each with varying difficulties and a range of options for how to make the drill easier or harder. The class ends with conditioning, sometimes in the form of a competition! The class is two hours, and it always brightens my days. There has been many times where I am having a rough Thursday, then I go to gymnastics, and I leave feeling on top of the world. A large part of this has to do with the people. The class was so welcoming from the beginning, and I made so many new friends through it. The instructors, Yasmin and Axel, are incredible teachers, and you can tell how much they love gymnastics and teaching. Yasmin has been doing gymnastics since she was a little kid, and her love for the sport has continued through adulthood. She is one of the heads of SSIF, and she instructs other classes as well! She just had her 3-year anniversary at SSIF yesterday, which she shared during her Body Pump class. Both Yasmin and Axel give great feedback and draw people in. Axel is studying for a masters in theoretical physics, and he became an instructor after participating in SSIF gymnastics himself first! Gymnastics is so much fun because of the people; the other people taking the class and the instructors push you to try new things and help support you along the way.
Body Pump, Jazz, and Gymnastics ended up being my favorite classes this semester. Body Pump was what I was the most familiar with, and the environment was so much fun. Jazz and gymnastics always made my day better, and I met so many lovely people through the classes. Thank you to SSIF and everyone involved for making this an unforgettable semester. ❤ (https://www.ssif.nu/ and @ssif.nu on instagram)