Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) reports on what HBS students are doing to stay in shape and surf through Covid-19 rather than being crushed by it.
Sports is one vital part of our wellbeing that has been hit hard by Covid-19. We love sports—it keeps us sane and in shape, helps develop our team skills, and allows us to overcome anxiety by releasing endorphins.
With the winter getting closer, some questions arise as options to engage in sports are very limited. How are people going to maintain their exercise frequency? Why is the gym below SFP 2 still closed? Is it not better to reduce the number of people concentrating at Shad? Why are the indoor tennis courts closed? Why cannot we sign up for two consecutive blocks at Shad even if there are available spots?
A couple of HBSers told us about how they were handling it, and one EC in particular stood out—Sylvester Wee (MBA ’21) has built a functional training community from scratch, reaching over 100 affiliates, right here on our beloved campus. It is called “wee30.”
The workouts are very efficient given a typical HBS demanding schedule. They take place in OWA every weekday at 7:15 AM. Lasting only 30 minutes, the workouts allow participants to take a shower right before their discussion group (for RCs), allowing them to be ready to conquer the day with that extra energy that will last the whole day. Participants can even join through Zoom, so there is no need to brave the freezing Bostonian weather. Every HBS community member is welcome, from every level, since participants can go at their own pace; the group includes beginners and professionals as well as women who are pregnant.
The community is based on two simple but strong pillars: strive to maintain exercise streaks and hold each other accountable. These two pillars are based on Wee’s childhood work ethic, which drove him to great feats:
“My brothers and I grew up playing competitive tennis and initially struggled balancing between the sport and academics. We started holding each other accountable for our morning workouts and eventually outperformed our peers. I have experienced firsthand the power of peer accountability and want to bring that to the people around me.”
These two mantras are embodied in Wee’s wee30, especially around the following aspects:
- Gaming style: Participants can earn more than 12 different types of badges based on their exercise streak, and the leaderboard is on display in the homepage. There are two types of streaks, days in a row participants exercise and cumulative exercise days.
- Accountability: Participants tend to be ok disappointing themselves but not others, so those committing to wee30 are held accountable by the community.
This sounds like something catering to participants with a monastic level of discipline. How do you find the will to wake up every day at 7 AM (plus studying at HBS)? Well, Wee certainly seems to fit the profile, with him being the former number one tennis player in Singapore (at 15 years old) and his brother being the number two (talk about accountability).
Wee played the Davis cup and qualified for the Australian Open, training alongside Nishikori (ranked five in 2016) and being among the top prospects in Asian tennis. His usual day included waking up at 5 AM every morning and getting in four to five hours of training.
Even though tennis was a huge part of Wee’s life, academics were also very important. Singapore focuses highly on developing human capital, which is the country’s most important asset, since the country does not have an abundance of natural resources. After lengthy reflections and support from his parents, he decided on another path: he wanted to make an impact on his community, and he needed the tools for it.
His next move was the Military, sensing that he needed to hone his leadership skills. The bad news was that he had to drop the racket for two years. He had to face many challenges, including surviving in the jungle for ten days with only two days’ supply of food. But eventually, he got positive results: he was commissioned and had 200 men under his charge, which allowed him to outgrow his peers as a leader.
Afterwards, he decided to go to college, getting a scholarship from the Singaporean sovereign fund, which required him to go back for four years. He had six months to prepare for college tennis, but it was enough, since he reignited his training ethic and ended up playing for four years at division one for the University of Pennsylvania while also trying to excel in academics as a student.
After graduating from Penn, he worked for four years in Private Equity back in his hometown before deciding to come to HBS. HBS is another step towards his dream to make an impact.
At HBS, he kept his sports life busy by working out consistently at Shad. He worked out alone, until eventually Sadib (MBA ’21), a good friend of Wee joined him, with the goal of regaining his health and shedding some weight. After a few months with Wee, he dropped 20 pounds. Inspired by Sadib’s results and looking for more structure in her exercise routine, Rachel (MBA ’21) joined. They started going to parks as well as the gym, and they garnered a following of eight to ten people.
The breakthrough came after Covid-19, as they wondered how they could maintain the community’s wellness in such a challenging scenario, and they thought about sharing their healthy habits with the rest of their classmates. It had to be outdoors, engaging and efficient. They added more structure and locked down a schedule and a place. Word of mouth started spreading and the results have been notable. They usually have between 30 and 40 people participating in person or through Zoom.
Here are a few additional details on wee30 for people looking to join to get back in shape:
- HIIT format (45 seconds of high-intensity exercise, followed by 15 seconds of rest)
- Only body weight
- No masks, people stay six feet apart
- Remote or in-person
- Participants have the option to fill a personalized survey to share their goals with the community (and be held accountable by the community)
Wee also remains excited about future developments. In particular, SA reached out and wants to roll out wee30 HBS-wide, helping find indoor venues, hopefully in Shad basketball courts. Also, to motivate participants to stick to their exercise routine, participants will have a virtual tree which grows or dehydrates based on the number of days in a row that they exercise. Everybody will be able to see each other’s trees.
So how do you wake up at 7 AM?
“Don’t give your brain time to think, just jump out of bed. Stand up and go. Wash face. Brush teeth with your opposite hand. Drink a glass of water and come join us.”
Join wee30 at www.wee30.com.
Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) is a Chilean who previously worked in consulting and retail. He considers himself to be a lifelong musician and actor, and he is an avid fan of film and television. Having a laugh over a beer, getting in a challenging workout, and reading inspiring books are among his favorite pastimes. While he thinks sparkling water is the best beverage ever created, he is also currently the owner of the most luxurious home bar in SFP.