The term self-isolation make me feel very uncomfortable. This isn’t because I do not think it is important… but it creates a sense that you do not have control of things in your life and that you need to limit yourself to regain that control. Now at this time, self-isolation is mandatory for anyone that is showing signs of illness or has been around someone who has. Please self-isolate if this is your situation right now. But prior to COVID-19, what did self-isolation mean? Were people doing it? Absolutely they were, it just wasn’t for the same reasons as they are now. Individuals have self-isolated when they are feeling depressed or suffering from anxiety. Men and women self-isolate when they are under a great deal of stress in their work or personal lives. Self-isolation can be seen as beneficial at times in your life and now could definitely be one of them. Or maybe it is not…
If you are healthy and not impacted by illness at this time, you may still be forced to work from home or in an office with a skeleton crew. If you are a child or youth, you currently have no sports team to be a part of, no classmates to play at recess with and you may find yourself sitting at home with nothing to do. One thing that has been clear through our current global situation is that it is still okay to be outside in nature. Take a walk, go for a run, hike in the river valley, pull out your snowshoes, ride a fat bike, go on a scavenger hunt in the ravine and of course, don’t forget to walk the dog! Trailing is more important now than ever! If you are able to get out and enjoy nature and fresh air, do so! You may be doing it on your own, but you are still doing it and that is important right now. With a lack of routine starting to creep into everyone’s lives and so much uncertainty about what will happen next in the world, it is important to keep some things going and the outdoors is a great place to be.
Get up every morning at the same time you normally would. Make your bed. A co-worker of mine told me that if you get up and make your bed, you have already completed two tasks for the day and that you are starting off on the right foot. Nice! I’m on the right track to my day now. If you are a morning runner or walker, keep this pattern up. If you prefer to go in the evenings then do so. It is very easy right now to get consumed by the information overload that is all around us and to forget about what makes us who we are on a daily basis. Stay in touch with family and friends. Put down your phone and finish that book you started. Watch a movie instead of the news. Listen to a podcast about the outdoors instead of to the radio. Play a board game with your kids. Immerse yourself in nature.
While most of the talk out in the world right now is about physical health, we cannot forget how important people’s mental health is in this current climate. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to disconnect and get active. This afternoon I ran home from work rather than take the bus and train. 16kms at the end of a long day seems like a lot but it sure was nice to pound out a tough day on the trails before getting home. I listen to a podcast called “The Ongoing History of New Music” by Alan Cross. It has so many great stories about bands and musicians that it interests me and also distracts me from my day. If it is cold outside and you would prefer to run on your treadmill in the basement though, so be it, you are still being active. I know my previous three runs have been in this state because I just got tired of winter and needed a break from the cold in the mornings. And it is hard to run for 10 or 12 kms on a treadmill. Maybe not physically, but mentally it can be draining. So I find some motivating YouTube shows by Billy Yang, The Ginger Runner and Run Steep, Get High. I love the images of races that I have never been to, of trails that look like so much fun to run down (not so much up!) and seeing the sense of normalcy in everyone on the screen. “Where Dreams Go to Die” is a great documentary by the Ginger Runner about Gary Robbins quest to finish the Barkley Marathons. Billy Yang’s “The Why” is so inspirational for anyone that has done, or is considering attempting an ultramarathon. And if you don’t want to go that route, pull out a classic running film like Prefontaine, Without Limits or McFarland. If running is not your thing, how about films about the outdoors such as “Into the Wild” or “A Walk in the Woods”, both of which are better books than movies, but still a good watch when you are working out indoors.
My son Eric, who I blog about regularly has still been running outside on a regular basis. Longer runs two days in a row this past weekend were spent in the ravine near our house, enjoying trails that are definitely not that busy most days but could be! Today he is meeting a friend from school for a run in the river valley. You can still run with a friend outside… maybe just no high fives right now (which stinks because I love a good high five – who doesn’t?). My wife is currently training for a couple of races this summer and she put in her longest run this year so far on Sunday. 14kms outside in a cold, icy wind. But she felt less stressed after her run and was able to come home and relax. My youngest son is still playing with the dog outside, spending some time on the backyard rink and spent part of the afternoon with me at the dog park on Sunday afternoon. The sun was out, it was a bit cool, but we all felt better having been out and away from all of the news.
So what I would say moving forward is keep trailing and keep a routine of being active if you are able to. Just because you may feel isolated from everyone, may not mean you have to stay in your living room the entire time in front of the television. If you are gearing up for summer and fall events, now is a great time to create those training plans and dive right in, because you have the time. Don’t let your physical and mental health slip if you are not currently impacted by illness. Complacency and an overload of news and social media will lead to other health issues, all of which can be avoided. Find a workout buddy that you can stay connected with over the phone or online. Or maybe you still workout with them outdoors and practice social distancing. Remember, no high fives right now! To my running friends, including Carl and Jason the Ironman who I have written about in past blog posts, I challenge you to continue your planning and training for the summer and fall. Check in weekly with me and lets talk about the highs and the lows right now. To my hiking buddies, I’m still planning on getting into the backcountry in late April. Are you? Start preparing by getting into the trails near your home when and if you are able.
One thing I can say with near certainty, is that you will feel better if you hit the trails. Trailing is amazing and don’t let what is going on in the world impact your love of the outdoors, of muddy trails and of too many hill reps. Well, you may not love the hill reps, but you know you will feel better having done them. So to everyone that can still get outdoors, do it and I will be sure to give out lots of “air” high fives. Stay active, stay safe and stay positive everyone. Do not isolate yourself if you don’t have to. Remember that the “new normal” is whatever you make it to be…