We’re all indoor cats now: movement and the great lockdown, part 2

(This is the second part of a post that went up this morning: part 1).

My cat Emmylou, luring me to lie down on my yoga mat instead of working out

I wrote this morning about four tendencies I observed in people’s relationship to movement during the pandemic: Adapting (mirroring typical routines and maybe even finding new joys); Redefining (focusing on movement as part of mental health and emotional equilibrium); Surviving (doing both adapting and redefining but finding it hard); and Discovering (finding new mindfulness in a new slowness). Someone I quoted commented that they had found it hard to see their comments categorized as “Surviving” — because it made them recognize how hard they were finding it.

The thing is — it IS hard. And if you’re finding it hard, that doesn’t make you weak, that makes you part of our highly fragile, vulnerable ecosystem.

I fussed about what to call these tendencies. They are not “types” and I would hesitate to label someone “an adapter.” This is one zone — movement — in an extraordinary time. I don’t think there’s much connection between this once-in-a-century experience and more typical times, and I don’t want to imply they’re any kind of essential trait. You might find it possible to adapt your physical movement pretty readily during lockdown, but it might be the only consistent thing in your life right now. You might be struggling more with just finding a baseline of movement, when in the Before Times you were full of energy and motivation. Or, like a few of the people in my life, you might be just “surviving” in the movement zone but rocking it at work, as a parent, in doing errands for people who need help.

How we respond right now is highly connected to things that are unique to this moment — like whether we’re parenting, how much outdoor space we safely have access to, our income, how many people are in our spaces, what old fears and traumas are being reinvigorated.

We’re all navigating an impossible array of unprecedented stresses, anxieties and new expectations. Some of us have work that translates easily to home, some of us are stretched beyond our limits in our work, and some of us have experienced our work — and incomes — completely disappearing. Parents are responsible for their children’s every minute in ways they haven’t since infancy. Those of us who usually weave an array of health supporters into our lives — chiro, osteo, massage, physio, accupuncture — are suddenly on our own, and our bodies are feeling it. No one is having the same experience — and this is happening when our usual ways of making meaning and finding comfort are upside down. Our “normal resilience” doesn’t apply here — most of us don’t have the things we rely on to support that resilience. (Like, say, HUGS).

It’s not part of being human to experience the outside world as inherently dangerous, to have to weigh whether going for a run is an irresponsible thing to do. It’s not normal to be deprived of human touch and contact, and to mediate everything through screens and a sense of fear. It’s a mistake to assume that our ordinary resilience and strength can be easily flexed right now in this extraordinary times. It’s like saying “I can easily run 5 k — how come I’m finding it hard to do that in bare feet over broken glass?”

Doesn’t my bread look pretty?

Because of this, I’ve had a serious eyebrow raised at suggestions that this is a time for “rediscovering simple pleasures” or learning new things or taking on new projects. I’m not baking bread because I’ve found a new goal as an artisanal baker, I’m baking bread because kneading the dough feels good when I’m deprived of human touch, and because it feels like something simple I can accomplish when everything else feels hard.

At the same time — at the same time! — I am a life/leadership coach, and I have found that my clients who are able to stay in touch with a greater purpose right now are thriving. And others are finding the slower pace and emptier space are creating invitations to reflect on what really matters to them, to face long-held fears, to name what’s most important. Intentionally or not, they are Discovering during this time. (Look at those clients teaching me things, again!)

That example of my clients evokes the same impulse to add a little bit more curiosity to my space right now. Not to pressure myself to Flourish, but to be a bit more present to what I’m experiencing. The people who are in Discovery space in my workout community also gave me some real insight. One friend laid it out beautifully:

If my body were my spouse/partner/GF/BF, here is what they have been trying to tell me for a long time that I might only be hearing now during the quietness of the COVID pause:

– “You basically ignore everything I say”
– “I cook every night and you never offer to clean”
– “We don’t spend quality time together”

She translates those voices as:

I need to slow down for more than 10 seconds at a time (outside of sleep) to listen to my body and let it recover
– I need to respect the act of stretching and self-care and not just as a ‘nice to do’, ‘if there is time’, or ‘if I feel like it’ – but treat it as equally important as the fun stuff
– I need to dedicate quality time for myself everyday. (I may need to dance hammer out what “quality” means but I think it’s along the lines of spending time away from people

For me, I know I am doing something right when I have energy in body and no gremlins in my head. That keeps me motivated enough to get up in the morning, pull the shorts on, roll the mat out and listen to some Deepak.

How has what matters shifted for me? OMG – this one. I think that I started to fall in love with the shape (the muscles) that I noticed developing and the strength I’ve began to notice in my body and mind. Now, I am starting to see the importance of allowing space and time for improving flexibility (of body and mind (stretching), recovery..the shift is going from a bit more surface level strong to deep deep flexibility

At first, I read this and was so glad for my friend, but it felt very far away from my experience. Then I thought about the solo long walks I’ve done, where I pause to look at the buds on the trees, at the heart shaped lights and encouraging signs my neighbours have put into the world. When I breathe deeply, I find presence in my body. And I’m going to try to channel just a little more of that.


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who, like Georgia, is tempted to hide under the blankets in Toronto.

4 thoughts on “We’re all indoor cats now: movement and the great lockdown, part 2

  1. “It’s not part of being human to experience the outside world as inherently dangerous, to have to weigh whether going for a run is an irresponsible thing to do.” I’ve seen a few people share this thought with the attached comment that now men know what it’s like to go for run as a woman. I think lots of us do think of the outside world as dangerous, even in the Before Times, for reasons of gendered violence. It’s complicated of course and both Home and the Outside can be scary for different reasons but I don’t have the sense that this feeling of doorstep apprehension and fear is brand new.

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