Running with Stage 2

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that Toronto could enter Stage 3 of “reopening”. Most of Ontario entered Stage 3 a couple weeks before that. Given Toronto’s population density, it took a bit longer for the numbers to be low enough to be “granted” this status. You’d think I’d be happy about this. After the early period of Stage 1, where it felt almost criminal to go out for a jog, and I was getting used to doing my Move fitness conditioning and strength classes in my living room, and ordering in take-out felt novel and was a glorious reprieve from cooking, Stage 2 was a breath of fresh air. Literally. I no longer felt devious going for a jog. Somewhere in Stage 2, Move started offering park workouts which I felt completely safe and comfortable enjoying, and LOVE doing. Gavin and I could go for long walks together. For most of Stage 1 we avoided walking together because it felt too hard to social distance properly with others on the sidewalk.

But I was feeling anxious about Stage 3. It is not hard for me to feel a bit anxious. One of my favourite ways to deal with anxiety is to practice avoidance (see driving on the highway). It works best to alleviate the pressure in my chest. So, I decided that I would stay in Stage 2. One of the things we can do in Stage 2, is eat on a patio (physically distanced). I haven’t even done that yet because it’s still enjoyable to get takeout and eat it on my own patio. And I typically love dining on patios. Eating, in general, in restaurants, and enjoying good food, is one of the highlights of my life, seriously. I remember vacations based on what I ate, where and when. But I digress. I decided I wasn’t ready to eat inside a restaurant any time soon. I have come to enjoy my virtual and park workouts, and continue to enjoy my outdoor running. I miss lifting heavy weights inside the gym. But I don’t feel comfortable yet going inside the gym, even with clearly defined precautions.

Nicole and gym mates jogging on the spot with a band secured to their hips and tied to a fence in the park.

I was repeatedly declaring to friends and family that I was happy to stay in Stage 2. Kind of a pre-warning that I would be the joy kill who would be saying no to certain things. I have good reason to feel this way, given that the greatest risk has been shown to be prolonged exposure to others, in close proximity, inside. It’s not only myself I am concerned for; I want numbers to stay low for everyone. For my ageing parents, for essential workers, to allow for safe circumstances for re-opening of schools. Selfishly, so that one day in the future, Gavin and I can reschedule our honeymoon.

Then I started feeling that perhaps I was being obnoxious. Should I feel guilty that I am comfortable in Stage 2? Was it my Jewish guilt rearing it’s head? Or, was I exhibiting my privilege, the privilege that allows me to be comfortable in Stage 2?

A cartoon (credit: Credit: Richard Jolley via CartoonStock) with “Pontius Pilates” washing his hands and saying “And wash those hands in slow easy movements…feel the guilt and stress flow away…

Throughout the pandemic, there has been data showing that Covid-19 was affecting lower income neighbourhoods and people of colour disproportionately. Some of the reasons that I’ve seen mentioned are that more people in these neighbourhoods tend to work in essential services (and have had more risk/exposure) and live in more densely populated areas where it is harder to social distance. When Toronto released a map showing Covid-19 numbers by postal code, it was clear that areas that were lower income, and that had a larger number of closely-situated apartment buildings, and less green space, had the highest numbers. And this article explains some of the reasons that Black people and other people of colour make up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto. I have privilege, white privilege, because these factors haven’t affected me the same way.

I have been thinking lately that I even like my new routine. Feels weird to think that, in such strange times. I miss close gatherings, hugs, travel, concerts, putting on pretty work attire and planning for the future without wondering if things will be possible. Yet, I have been fortunate to be able to work from home, and the company I work for has confirmed we will be working from home until January 1, 2021, at the earliest. I have been able to maintain my exercise routine. The spring and summer months have made getting outside, and not feeling too restricted, a joy, even without trips outside of the city. Both my husband and I are working and are not worried about finances. My “extroverted introverted” nature is a bit relieved not feeling as though we have to be making plans all the time. Thankfully, everyone I know has remained healthy (poo poo poo). But not everyone has been so lucky in Stage 2.

I feel for the small businesses. The gym I love that has had to “pivot’ and function in unplanned formats, that don’t allow for maximum attendance. The independent restaurants and cafes, that make up the fabric of the neighbourhood that I love so much, have also had to survive on much lower numbers, in an industry where it is well known that the margins are razor-thin. I think about the businesses in the PATH (an underground network of stores in Toronto that prevents you from having to go outside in the winter (or in the summer if you don’t like the heat) if you work in the Financial District). The PATH may never be the same, if businesses shift more to work-from-home indefinitely. I think about my friends who are naturopaths, physiotherapists, artists, etc., who have been greatly affected by not being able to operate normally. They NEED Stage 3. And Stage 3 may not even help them, given it is still restricted because of social distancing. I feel for parents who need their kids to go back to school for both their kids, and their own mental health, in a safe way.

So while I am comfortable, indefinitely, in my workout zones, rather than standing in quadrants, spaced at least 6 feet apart, indoors, where there may be more risk of sharing droplets, I am happy for my gym that they can offer these services again. I am happy for the friend that is an avid exerciser who is craving the motivation and community found inside the gym. I am happy for the local businesses that can fight for their livelihood and that I will continue to support in the ways that I can.

I will try to keep my contentedness more to myself. I don’t want to sound smug. I will continue to look for ways to support the vulnerable businesses in this pandemic. I will continue to look for ways, both immediately and in the future, to help those in vulnerable work or living situations, so that they are not as vulnerable, now and in the future.

Have a great workout wherever you choose to do it. Just be safe (and where a mask, on your mouth AND your nose, if inside and not far apart).

Nicole P. lives, works and works out, in Toronto with her husband and two dogs.
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