by Ben Culpin, photos by Guki Giunashvili
SICK project is a training community for anyone who wants to participate. Every Sunday at 11 o’clock in locations across Aarhus, hundreds of people meet to exercise and have fun. There is no cost, no paperwork, no obligations, no signup – the entire project is free and run purely for the enjoyment of its users.
It is the brainchild of Tor Kristensen Fabian-Jessing who each week, clad in colourful outfits and wealding a megaphone to address the crowds, leads every training session. He has done this every Sunday in the 3 years since the foundation of SICK Project in Aarhus. From humble beginnings, attracting small crowds of 10-20 people, the scheme has grown exponentially, with each SICK project now bringing in well over 100 people each session, thanks entirely to word-of-mouth and social media spreading the news.
He aims to bring laughter and light-heartedness to each workout, instead of the sometimes serious nature associated with fitness classes in a gym. Inspired by the memories of school playtimes, when it was a fun, engaging activity to run around, jump and play – the SICK project wants to re-ignite a passion and enjoyment of outdoor exercise in all its’ participants.
The concept of SICK is strongly inspired by the November Project, which started in Boston in the United States, and which has also become so popular through social media, that up to 1500 people train together at the same time.
“The basic idea of November Project and SICK are the same; It’s good to work together and be inclusive so everyone can join in. SICK-Project is a mix of strength training with one’s own body weight, cardio, running and most importantly play, “says Tor Fabian.
There has been a global trend in recent years which show a decrease in membership of private sports clubs, with an increase in people purchasing memberships to gyms or participating in runs or walks to exercise. SICK project fits this trend perfectly as it creates a social, friendly community, similar to a sports club, but a non-binding one which demands no financial input and requires just an hour each week. Participants have total flexibility in when they choose to take part, with no obligation or concern about the loss of membership if they do not join in every session.
“Regardless of if you’ve been to SICK project once or 10 times, we’re ready to welcome you with open arms” says Tor Kristensen Fabian-Jessing.
The all-inclusive nature of SICK project means that anyone and everyone can take part, without feeling they don’t have the right level of fitness or strength to keep up. The ages of those participating each Sunday range from tiny toddlers to those in their 70s, with people of all shapes and sizes joining to laugh and have fun without feeling judged or stigmatised. Lycra-clad couples turn up on a regular basis, bringing the children, grandparents, aunties, uncles, second cousins – anyone who wants to spend an hour of their Sunday outside having fun and getting fit.
Although the sessions are entirely in Danish there is a growing number of internationals attending every week. For some new arrivals in Denmark, there is a worry that it is hard to meet Danish people, engage and make friends with them. The SICK project provides a way not only to improve understanding and speaking of the language through the workout instructions but to meet, laugh, play and socialise with Danes outside of a work or education environment, which so often are the only means for internationals to encounter native Danes.
Jutland Station spoke to some international participants who have been joining the project for the past few months:
“SICK is so worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning. The atmosphere is amazing, you get to work out while having a great time, and the best part is it’s accessible to everyone – you just do what you can and have fun in the process. It’s also great for internationals in Aarhus to hang out with Danes and experience first-hand the Danish love of fitness and the outdoors.” – Eleanor McCausland,
“What I like about SICK is that it’s so easy to join, it doesn’t matter how trained you are, or how good or bad your Danish is. The atmosphere is always “hygge” and since the exercises vary, it’s very fun but still challenging for all levels.” – Danny Fish.
Satisfied customers have so far given SICK project over 5700 followers on Facebook, with more joining every week. Since its inception, the project has been a huge success in spreading Tor Kristensen Fabian-Jessing’s goals to spread the joys of outdoor exercise to the people of Aarhus.
You can follow the project on Facebook to keep up-to-date with what is going on, see amazing photos from the previous events and find out where the next session will take place – locations include Dokk1, Musikhuset, Godsbanen and Aarhus University. If you can spare an hour of your time this Sunday why not spend it laughing and exercising with others?