My first workout for 2020 was 108 sun salutations next to the beautiful rooftop pool in a boutique hotel in Singapore, the sky that was lit up by fireworks 9 hours earlier just on my horizon.
Now, that feels like I’m describing a dream. I was in SE Asia? Just wandering the world? Doing whatever I felt like? This YEAR?
Counting those workouts is a thing, of course — and I’ve written a ton over the past four years of the impact of being in the “217 in 2017” etc support groups. I credit the group with a transformative shift from being a “person who works out and does fun fitness things” to being a person who moves my body, pretty much every day. In 2019, my last workout — a YWA for new beginnings, at 10 pm before going up on the roof for those aforementioned fireworks — was number 355. This year, I’m well poised to blow past 400.
But what does that mean, exactly?
I looked at a few of the photos in my camera that represent workouts 79 – 228. And I realized that this list of days and movement is one of those pandemic diaries historians have urged us to keep.
Workout 78 was the last time I did a class in a gym. I was ill for a few days after that (possibly mild covid?) , and the next workout was “nighttime walk, looking at all the closed shops and restaurants.”
Flicking through those March and early April workouts, I see how we were scrambling to make meaning. Dark nighttime walks — was it even okay to go out for a walk? Social distanced walks with a friend, prompting someone in the 2020 group to ask me if I thought that was okay to see anyone from outside my household. (Since I live alone, my answer was, yes, outside, and distanced. But her pouncing on me made me grumpy). I see a few runs that I felt anxious acknowledging because of the uncertainty about whether it was okay to exercise outside without a mask, and remember all the flurry of that one experiment about bikes and airborne particles that turned out to be not relevant. I see a walk I took on Good Friday on the Spit I didn’t post about publicly because people in my social media feed were shaming people who were “flaunting” their ability to to outside, making people who had to stay inside feel worse.
Against that, I also see resilience forming. Alex figuring out how to do meaningful, personalized classes via zoom, with bags of books and soup cans. Making thoughtful decisions about continuing to go outside but going quiet about it. Moving my body to keep myself from being washed over with stress, with the unease of uncertainty.
Then normalizing kicked in. The next slew of workouts in the list are rapidfire and consistent — Alex workouts, some YWA, runs, more long walks. Realizing how much I missed incidental movement, and adding skipping in the middle of my day, more short walks. Going after new physical challenges, like crow pose and freestanding handstands.
Then, with spring, more freedom. More runs and walks on the Spit and in the Don Valley, some woodsy hikes with Susan, a virtual 5K run, fundraising to replace a little bit of the money usually raised at the Pride and Remembrance run.
Somewhere in May, I also finally got my bike out (much later than usual), and rode on the Spit, around the city, out of the city, by myself, with Kim, with others. Turns out my bike is such a signal of autonomy, of personal strength, that once I got on it, my entire experience of the world changed. I started riding my folding bike to errands so I could swoop along like I was traveling somewhere. I squished in 30 km rides after a long day of zoom. Things shifted so much that even when I was out for a long ride with a friend and had a bad flat a couple of weeks ago, it was just … normal. He rode back to the car, I waited in a park, happy, social distanced, delighted with the world.
My notation in the FB group for #223 looks like this:
The flippancy, the intensity, the pure silliness of running in this kind of heat? This feels so far away from the defensiveness of acknowledging my runs or walks in March and April. And it makes me realize that I have written the story of this pandemic — so far — in my body. And my body is what’s let me ride out the experience so far.
Over the past four years, my 220 in 2020 — which has really translated into pretty much “every day in 2020” — has carved me into a person who can use my body as an instrument for navigating the world I find myself in. Pre-covid, I navigated quests and joy, like the feat of 108 sun salutations, deadlifting 200 lbs just before my 55th birthday. During covid, it’s given me a powerful means to experience, to feel, to make meaning, to process, to sweat out or fling off the anxiety of the world around me.
I’m not running around dripping with optimism or gushing about the Gift of The Great Pause — like most of the people I know, my life is harder. My work is just logistically harder, I worry about the world and especially the people I love in it, the people I care about in Uganda are suffering, my work horizon is uncertain, and I miss the dark intensity of spinning classes, the floating shared breath of yoga classes, the clang of heavy weights hitting the floor. I miss hugs.
But my habit of movement? It’s kept those things in perspective, given me a buffer that keeps the spirals of fretting or anxiety or irritability at the n-teenth zoom meeting at bay. It’s kept me present to the ground under my feet, the energy and persistence that are serving me well.
Right now, those feet are a little tender, with some nerve inflammation that got triggered in that silly hot run last Friday. But I know how to incorporate that tenderness into what I do — safely, carefully, with trust that things will shift. And in my body? Gratitude.
What story would your pandemic movement journal tell?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is frequently flinging herself upside down in Toronto.