O’Sullivan: Staying active, at home and six feet apart

  • Rebecca (left) and Clark Killinger play paddle ball in their Concord driveway. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/4/2020 5:10:26 PM

Staying active and in shape can be tough even when you don’t have to stay at home, keep six feet away from each other and worry about a pandemic. When you do have all that altering your life, it’s easy to push staying fit to the bottom of the to-do list.

But the Center for Disease Control and other healthcare organizations across the globe believe regular exercise is important as we battle the novel coronavirus pandemic. Moderate physical activity can help boost the immune system and reduce stress and anxiety, and who doesn’t want benefits like that right about now? Those health organizations even think it’s okay to go outside and exercise, as long as it’s allowed by your local government … and as long as you stay six feet away from each other.

To find out how people are getting their sweat and steps in during this time, I went to the source – social media. Since I’m a dad in my 40’s, that meant Facebook.

Let’s start with being outside. Several friends said they’ve noticed an increase in people exercising in the fresh air. That’s great, as long as they are not infected with COVID-19 and as long as they are … staying six feet away from each other. Yes, that’s the third time you’ve read that in the first four paragraphs. It’s that important.

Unfortunately, the observations have been mixed about people practicing social distancing while exercising. My friend Tony said he noticed, “people giving a wide berth when passing each other walking or running.” But NayNay said, “Walking to the grocery store the other day I saw lots people out running and most were not really giving more than a foot of distance while passing people walking. It’s really disheartening.”

A sure way to avoid crowded sidewalks is hiking or running on a woods trail. It’s such a great idea that too many people are having it at the same time. My friend John T., a former colleague at the Monitor, said last week, “Maybe include somewhere in there for people to NOT head to the mountains. We are seeing an insane number of people thinking they’ll just go for a fun hike. Tuckerman’s Ravine had over 400 people in it yesterday.”

So, if you go to a hiking trail and the parking lot is overflowing with cars, it’s probably wise to like for another spot. New Hampshire is 81 percent forest and loaded with trails, you should be able to find one without a crowd. If you need help, there are free trail-finding apps like ViewRanger, AllTrails and Gaia GPS, or if you are willing to pay a fee for some extra features you can try Cairn (which is safety-oriented), onX Hunt (emphasis on hunting, but still good for hiking) and GPS Tracks. Or you can hike along dirt roads, through seldom-used town forests or near power lines or train tracks.

“I’m looking forward to getting back into trail running since Concord really is lucky to have unbelievable trails - social distancing of course,” my friend David said.

Exercising with an instructor at a gym or studio, either in a group or one-on-one, is not an option right now, but online sessions can provide a nice alternative. There were so many responses about practicing online yoga, in fact, that it needed its own story.

My friend Erica had been working out at Rockstar Fitness in Concord for the last five years with trainer Jake Cheney. When the gym was forced to close, Cheney made sure his clients had a new option.

“He quickly pivoted to online and we didn’t miss a beat,” Erica said of Cheney, who you can find on Facebook or on YouTube at the RckstarFitness account. “He also put together a discount with a supplier and a package for his clients to purchase what we need at home.”

Battle Crossfit in Epsom was limiting its hours and the number of people it allowed in its gym at a time to create ample social distancing space. When remaining open was no longer an option, it also began to offer online classes, which my buddy Dave has enjoyed.

Supporting local gyms, especially if you’re already a member, is important if you want those businesses to stay afloat now and still be operating when the pandemic ends. But one advantage of online instruction is that you can get it from anywhere in the world.

My friend Cara has been going to Dynamics Fitness in Portland, Me., for the last 10 years, but for the last few weeks she shifted to their just-added online bootcamp classes on Zoom. You can find a link to that Zoom meeting on the Instagram account @dynamicsfitness. If you want to exercise with your kids, check out Joe Wicks on YouTube. Wicks streams kid-friendly workouts every morning from his home in London.

Some online exercise options have extra benefits like socializing … and avoiding phlegm.

“I have my bike on the trainer doing virtual group rides in Zwift to combine social and cardio in one,” my childhood friend Rob said. “Ordinarily I’d be out biking in the real world by this time of year, but this seems like the pragmatic approach. I mean, nobody wants to have to dodge a 25 m.p.h. snot rocket from the guy in front of them in this climate.”

Missing snot rockets is good, but missing exercise equipment is a different story. With weights and machines now stuck behind closed gym doors, many people are turning to bodyweight exercises like pushups, sit-ups and lunges. An online search will give you a variety of workouts.

People have also been getting creative with their workout routines. Tony has been shadow boxing and shadow wrestling. My friends Rebecca and Clark are playing paddle ball in their driveway. David’s wife Seraphim wanted to be sure, “to add that add we do a lot of dancing around the house.” NayNay has also been doing some dancing and said, “I’ve benefited greatly from livestreaming. Check out the account @dancing.alone.together. They showcase some incredible people and include all sorts of mostly contemporary dance. The charisma and the community feeling are amazing in live-streams and I can say honestly that I’ve been working out more than I would be pre-quarantine.”

She’s not the only one who is working out more now. My cousin Jane said she’s been walking so much (about 9.5 miles per day) that she just had to buy new shoes. My friend Joelle, who owns a clothing store, said the added time at home gives her more time to exercise, which gives her something else to focus on other than the virus, and “I’m afraid of the outcome if I don’t (exercise).” Courtney, my first yoga teacher, has been running about two miles every morning with her 13-year-old daughter, who had never gone for a jog and hated up getting up early, but now seems to have the energy and time for both.

Parents and children are also staying in shape together at my friend Steve’s house. They are having a “quarantine challenge” by keeping track of who can do the most pushups, situps, pullups and lunges and who runs and bikes the longest.

My pal Elliot is experiencing his own version of the family challenge. He’s trying to make up for canceled basketball games by riding his bike and doing some bodyweight exercises (including a crunch I taught him when we were both freshmen in college), but he is also being tempted by a constant production of freshly baked desserts from his wife, who writes a food blog (westoftheloop.com). Last week’s temptations included black and white cookies, madeleines and lemon bars.

“Dessert and exercise are definitely counterweights,” Elliot said. “Each one improves our mental health in some ways ... but one comes at the cost of the other.”


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