Run like you have nothing else to do: How movement has changed in times of isolation

Inspired by Paul Daley from The Guardian, I’ll be aiming to write regular entries about life during the coronavirus pandemic. By regular I mean once a fortnight, to allow room for other blog posts not related to the current situation. My perspective is no more special than the next and I certainly don’t have any profound insight into what’s occurring, though as a History major I do appreciate the power of a primary resource. This post is about what I usually do first thing in the morning – exercise.

Before isolation protocols came into play, every gym and fitness centre was business as usual. Filled with all the usual attendees and imposing equipment, going to the gym was one way to escape stress. Nowadays, the thought of sharing sweat, equipment and a closed space with several other people during a health crisis has become a cause for stress. With gyms closing their doors, people are having to look elsewhere for inspiration to get moving, if they want to get moving that is. Whether it’s apps on a smart phone, a YouTube channel, more time running, a workout in the park, or a home gym, people are actually spoiled for choice.

After my gym announced it closure, I quickly turned to the Nike Training Club app. It’s a free app which has a range of workouts that target your strength and endurance, all ranging in intensity and duration. I had used it before and knew it would provide me with what I needed. Though, after a few weeks of “Walkouts, for 30 seconds” and “Lunges, for 40 seconds” and the necessary beeps in between, I knew I was craving something more. With the minimal social contact that everyone is experiencing, I wanted to look at a real person, on a bigger screen. It was then I discovered the PopSugar YouTube channel. With hundreds of free workout videos, and enthusiastic instructors to boot, I was in aerobic haven. I’ve been doing roughly two to three PopSugar workouts a week and it’s probably the closest to feeling like I’m at that 6am class, which I’m enjoying.

Another form of movement I’ve been working on during this time is running. I live very close to a lake and doing a full lap gives you a solid 5 kms. I also live close to a small mountain (read: lookout because Australia doesn’t have real mountains in suburbia) and running around the base provides challenging inclines and a true immersion in nature. As Australia slowly heads into winter, my time for running would normally be limited, however as I’m currently working from home I can easily fit in a run in the middle of the day. I can make active hay while the sun shines, all while keeping a good pace.

Other exercises I’ve been able to carry on with as usual are long bike rides, walks around my suburb and the odd yoga and stretching session to unwind. Bike riding seems to have become very popular in the last few weeks, probably because you naturally distance yourself from the person you’re riding with, as oppose to walking which requires a bit more physical closeness if you’re doing it with a buddy.

I acknowledge that moving your body and having the time to move your body is a privilege. Some people are working long hours to keep people healthy, others are trying to survive and put food on the table, and some people may be living in a tiny house or no house at all. The thought of exercise during a stressful time may not appeal to everyone out there, though there are mental health benefits that come with getting your heart rate up.

I do wonder what the long term economic impacts will be on the fitness industry after we see our way through this pandemic. People may realise that they don’t need to fork out hundreds of dollars each year to keep active when they can do it all at home. Though, some gym junkies may be looking forward to returning to a separate space to sweat it out, as opposed to exercising in the lounge room, right next to where they just worked an 8 hour day from home. I have had mixed feelings about Instagram fitness gurus hijacking a time of uncertainty with messages about making the most of this free time to tone up and lose weight, all while saturating everyone’s feeds with at home workouts. It’s good for some inspiration though I can only take it in small doses.

In times like these, I think it’s important to keep your body and mind healthy, whatever that means for you. Increasing your devotion to fitness should not be an aspiration simply because you have ample free time, and decreasing it should not be cause for concern. Moving in a way that brings you joy will be the most sustainable thing you can do, all while nourishing it with nutritious foods and delightful treats.

Only time will tell how much longer we are in this situation, and until then I’ll be listening to the fitness instructors of the internet a few times a week, and most importantly my own mind and body. Rest is also important, and there’s plenty of time for that.


Featured Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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