For those of us who love to be active, who walk rather than drive (given the option), who choose the stairs rather than take the lift, who run fast rather than stroll, Covid-19 presented huge challenges. Lockdown was particularly exigent, demanding that we remain indoors unless strictly necessary to leave home base and, in some countries, one had to be granted approval to take a trip outside to either supermarket, pharmacy, dog walking or exercise and restricted to three times a day. Fines were imposed if rules were not adhered to and all the time wearing masks. Sports centres were closed during the pandemic and local parks were not accessible to the public so, what DO you do?
Personally, I became creative and set up a ‘running station’ in my apartment and ran for at least an hour each day, picking up speed and getting my heart pumping and breaking a sweat, it was a great release from the tensions of having to remain indoors. Accompanied by some great music, it was exhilarating. Early morning, I began with my callisthenics routine, a healthy way to build great functional strength, it reduces stress on the joints and gives them a longer lifespan and most certainly helps reduce aches and pains. The origin of the word callisthenics is from the Greek word kallós, meaning beauty and sthenos, meaning strength, determination, both mental and physical. The various moves involve squatting, push-ups, arm circles, sit ups, planks and other variations with a huge plus being that no equipment is necessary. There is no doubt that physical exercise reduces anxiety and a tendency towards depression, most definitely lifting the spirit, while making way for more self-confidence and improved self-esteem. Better sleep inevitably follows regular exercise, so the bottom line is that there are major positive factors when it comes to taking the time to exercise and especially if it can be done outdoors.
Once the parks and walking trails were finally opened to the public, it was wonderful to note that many who did not ordinarily ride bicycles, power walk, jog or run were taking to the outdoors and enjoying the possibility of exercising. Before Covid- 19 struck, I would generally exercise on the local trail for up to 12 kms in the morning or late afternoon and I would only meet a select few on my route. However, during Covid, the numbers increased substantially. Obviously, a renewed appreciation for the outdoors had dawned and healthy attitudes followed. There was a sense of camaraderie as we passed each other at a distance, all of us experiencing the same pressures of the pandemic and immediately feeling the benefits both physically and mentally, acknowledging each other with warm greetings and knowing looks: ‘I know what you are going through, this too will pass!’
Apart from physical exercise, I found my time in the garden / terrace most cathartic, plucking out weeds and making way for new plants and bulbs and preparing seedlings to plant in the late Spring, it was very comforting and helped alleviate feelings of stress and uncertainty. Nature, in the silence, seemed much more alive and I valued the time spent in a less rushed mode. Many friends harvested their olive groves alone and it increased their coping mechanism, focusing on the task while at the same time it was a superb workout. Hiking expeditions have been embraced much more during the pandemic and I found it invigorating being able to get out of the city to hike the trails and, as we know, the best view comes after the hardest climb.