‘Friendly and gentle and sweet’: how Jonathan Van Ness became my quarantine coach

I’m a few days into coronavirus-sanctioned social distancing when I think, “How am I going to exercise?” I impress myself with this thought because fitness is not ordinarily an ardent concern of mine.

Moving my body will allegedly help with my continuing sanity, though, so I resolve to do some home workouts. The only person I can realistically tolerate instructing me to switch on my core is glorious bearded Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, who has a series of free exercise videos on the FitOn app. I just know he’s going to describe a hamstring stretch as “gorgeous” and it’s the only thing that makes yoga palatable to me.

So for the past week, I’ve had JVN as my quarantine coach. Each morning I get up, put on leggings and a sports bra and select one of his workout videos. To really maximise my JVN time, I also incorporate the sexy dance he does while preparing his coffee every day into my workout routine. He broadcasts this pre-caffeine choreography on his Instagram stories, so I simply open up my favourite voyeuristic app and dance around in the kitchen while my Moka pot bubbles up.

One day, JVN grooves to the theme song from Forrest Gump – a calm, sweet piano song by Ålan Silvestri – and so, too, do I. It’s hypnotic and I have a frankly delightful time. He often cradles his beloved cats while dancing, so I pick up my bemused dog, Bert, for a waltz. It is joyous and silly, which I’ve almost forgotten how to be recently.

Given the timing, I assume his song choice is a tribute to Tom Hanks, who contracted Covid-19 while filming on the Gold Coast. Another morning, JVN puts on that seminal hit Love Shack, much to my delight. The rest is mostly music by his friend Taylor Swift, which is absolutely, as they say, my jam.

Jonathan Van Ness leads a morning stretch workout on the Fit On App
Jonathan Van Ness leads a morning stretch workout on the Fit On App Photograph: Fit On App

After my kitchen boogie, I prop my phone up on an old box of dog food and switch on a workout vid. One of them is called “heart flow” and mostly involves placing your clasped hands at your heart, raising your face to the sky and waiting for self-acceptance. JVN asks you to repeat to yourself the words “I am enough” and it is honestly precisely what I need during this strange and frightening time.

In a six-minute video called “morning stretch”, JVN is joined by a lithe blonde as he demonstrates how to do some lovely, basic stretches. The 15-minute yoga sessions are deeply calming and comforting, reinforcing my strongly held belief that shavasana (the bit where you lie down on the floor and close your eyes) is the most important yoga position.

The seven-minute dance video gets me to work up a sweat but isn’t actually as good as Jonathan’s daily coffee boogie. They’re all extremely enjoyable, though if I’ll be honest, not particularly strenuous.

They’re not going to get you super-fit (or quarantoned, if you will). They are, however, the perfect balm for corona-induced anxiety. Each one requires you simply to show up, move your limbs, inhale, exhale, stretch and respect yourself. They are friendly and gentle and sweet, as is JVN.

They’re even funny, which makes exercise marginally more tolerable. So I have decided to keep Jonathan Van Ness on as my quarantine coach.

He is powerfully lovely company and he’s convinced me to schedule in a little bit of flexibility work – bless him. We could all do a lot worse than spend six to 15 minutes with JVN every morning, especially at this moment. And for the record, he does describe a hammy stretch as “gorgeous”.

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