But number two is when the Covid-19 posts begin, with Cate wondering about a feminist response to the pandemic. (Was it even a pandemic then? I don’t remember. It’s all a blur.) Is there a feminist response to Covid19?
Today is her birthday. She’s turning 28 years old. That strikes me as unbelievable. Some days I still feel like I’m 28! I’ve written lots about making fitness part of my family life and Mallory is a big part of that story.
She does some things that have never really been part of my life–swimming and rock climbing, for example. Together we both love camping and cycling. She’s also an intrepid outdoor adventurer, having done lots of solo tramping, in New Zealand, and winter camping, here in Ontario. I’m in awe of those things.
Thanks to covid-19 we’re not together physically for her birthday. And we aren’t camping or biking or rock climbing or swimming. Instead, we are physically distancing. We’re doing our part to flatten the curve. We’ll save the real party for later but today we’ll chat on Zoom, and have cakes in separate houses and separate cities.
I’ve been annoyed lately at the all people posting about how what we are being asked to do is simple and easy, just stay home and watch Netflix. But being apart from your children–even if they’re adults–on birthdays isn’t easy. Even a few weeks ago we were all talking about going away together for the weekend.
These are pictures from just a few of our adventures together. There will be more.
What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.
Chapter 3 of McGonigal’s book is about Collective Joy, which it would be safe to say is in short supply these days. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
McGonigal tells stories that are likely familiar to many of us about the experiences of groups of people who are moving together. Some of them are moving in unison, like rowers or performing dancers. Others are moving at the same time, like yoga students. And, there are times when people are moving in their own ways for the same occasion, intentionally at the same place—like cyclists or kayakers or people dancing at a party.
What comes out of these collective movements? McGonigal describes the feelings in a bunch of ways:
Total attunement Collective effervescence Synchrony Kinesthetic of togetherness Muscular bonding
The idea is this: when we move together with others, we feel connected to them in a physical, visceral way—we have the physical sensation of being part of a larger whole. And these sensations do yummy things to our brains and bodies and psyches. They make us feel good, naturally, but they also promote cooperation with others. They may even be protective– physically and psychologically. McGonigal uses great examples of the sounds of people marching in unison and musk oxen circling in response to wolves to illustrate the power of joining with others to create a larger, more powerful collective being.
There’s more (this was my favorite chapter so far and is definitely worth checking out), but: given that joining big groups and merging to become a unified whole is most definitely contraindicated now, is there anything for us to use here and now?
Yes, I think there is. McGonigal talks about virtual togetherness through apps and even jogging drone buddies. But I’d like to share with you my experience of virtual synchrony these days.
I’m doing zoom yoga classes three times a week now—there’s no barrier to me getting to class, as my yoga mat is in the living room. It continually surprises and pleases me how much I’m getting from these classes. Each instructor creates their own atmosphere, and I feel connected to them and also to the other students. We all chat a little before and after class, but that content isn’t the most important thing. It’s the reminder that we are all part of this studio, doing this yoga practice, at this time and in our shared virtual space.
Last Friday, during Flow and Meditate class, our teacher Alex commented that it seemed like half the class was in need of burning off some extra energy and the other half needed a nap. He could tell this from tuning into us on our screens, and he adjusted our session to give some extra movement options for those with jittery feelings, and then did a soothing restorative exercise at the end. I felt seen, accepted, connected to him and the other students, and part of a supportive whole.
I hope all of us can find some collective attunement, synchrony and even effervescence now. Reading this chapter reminded me that it’s accessible, which is just what I needed to hear.
This was a weird chapter to read in this time of social distancing and vague, pervasive sorrow but it did give me hope.
‘Collective Joy’ is all about how synchronized movement with a group brings us joy and builds our connection to one another. McGonigal moves through a variety of examples – everything from dancers to groups of joggers to army drills- to illustrate how moving in rhythm with others creates group cohesion and creates a sense of individual and collective well-being.
I was especially intrigued by how people described participating in these group activities, the sense that they weren’t just an individual participating but they were part of a greater whole – something bigger than themselves. Moving as a group gave them a sense of belonging and built trust within the group..
The descriptions resonated with my own experiences in Taekwondo and Nia and in leading action songs in Girl Guides. The scientific explanations for the specific type of connection and happiness that develops during these activities was very satisfying.
As I said above, it was a bit disconcerting to be reminded of all of the good feelings that those connections bring right now. It made me long to get back into the second row of black belts in my TKD class, with Mr. James to my right and Ms. Gathercole to my left and Mr. Power in front of me and work our way through our patterns under the direction of Master Downey or Master D.
This chapter has left me very thinky, wondering how to apply this new knowledge of movement, connection and community-building in the various contexts of my life. How can I help people find more of that joyful feeling? What can I add to my classes, my coaching, and my volunteer work to help people feel that sense of belonging?
At the end of this chapter, McGonigal says that some people have a ‘prosocial’ orientation to life and are more easily able to synchronize with others*. Judging by where my mind went with this information, I suspect that I am one of them.
*Even though I have written before about my challenges with coordination, I ‘tune in’ to other people’s simple movement patterns quite naturally. The trick for me to stop thinking about it and just let my body do its work.
This is my favourite chapter so far. But it was hard not to start mourning for hot yoga classes, Aikido classes, and group bikes rides.
I’ve had the most joy and done my best work in groups, whether that’s team time trials in the cycling world, being one of four people in a rowing scull, or playing defense in soccer. Cycling and rowing are the most alike. In both sports you match your cadence and effort to the people near you. I can always do more as part of a group. I am looking forward to getting back into group sporting events and training when we’re on the other side of this pandemic.
But it’s also made me realize why my Zoom and Zwift connections are so important. Community can take many forms. It’s not the same of course but riding in a group on Zwift is enough alike group riding in the real world of cycling that the time flies by.
I loved this chapter and I plan it read it again when we’re on the other side of the covid-19 pandemic.
I was hanging out recently in a virtual fitness world, chatting with strangers, as one does these days, when someone chimed in “No virus talk please.” This community is about fitness activity, not COVID-19. But of course COVID-19 is the reason many of us were there rather than outside. It struck me as odd not to talk about the very reason we were online rather than in person.
Yet, I understand the desire to take some time where we don’t think about the global pandemic of COVID-19. There have been evenings too where I’ve wanted a break from it all. But I would never insist that others give me that break. It’s my break to make.
Someone else chimed in and agreed with the “no virus talk” rule, adding that it was like the “no politics talk” rule that some groups have.
I get the “no politics” rule. There have been times when I haven’t wanted to know what someone’s politics are. I remember being part of a running group and being excited to find someone who ran at just my pace. While running we chatted about movies but I really didn’t want to have a political disagreement with my perfect running partner. I’m always reminded of Elaine on Seinfeld having a great new boyfriend and her dilemma about whether or not to find out his views about abortion.
I hate it when people run together matters of public health and politics. And I love that in Ontario our Conservative Premier said he’d listen to the public health authorities and that this isn’t a time for politics.
Back to the virtual fitness world.
A nurse followed up saying that she was hanging in this virtual world before a very stressful 12 hour shift and if she wanted to talk about the virus she would.
Next up were two people hanging out virtually while waiting for COVID-19 test results. They said the same. We’re self isolating and worried and we’ll talk about it if we need to.
Others chimed in and said they were worried about sick family members.
We’re all doing the best we can in very hard times.
As you know I’m not much of a fan of working from home. But I’m here along with most of you, doing it.
I appreciated Cate’s #wfh words of wisdom and advice. I was glad to hear that she doesn’t go with the standard advice of “dressing professionally” at home. For me, wearing comfy clothes makes it easier to get up and walk the dog or do a bit of at home yoga.
I’ve started taking pictures of my many and various t-shirts, tagging them #OOTD and #wfhlife, and sharing them on social media. See here.
I’m also not using much hair product (it’s pricey), wearing make up, or putting on jewelry. Who is this person and what have you done with Samantha?
Also, and this shocked even me, I worked out the other day in a sports bra! I know. Wild.
I wouldn’t ever ride outside in a sports bra because of sunscreen and fear of skin cancer. But I’ve never taken a spin class in just a sports bra either.
I’ve always said I didn’t do that for reasons other than body shame or caring about what others thought. And yet here I am, when there is no one around, Zwifting in a sports bra.
How has your #wfh look, if that’s a thing you’re doing, changed from your usual look? What do you wear to work out at home?
If you’ve been thinking about riding virtually, now is a great time to try it out. I’m not going to get into argument about the pros and cons of riding outside versus inside in these days of #StayingAtHome and #PhysicalDistancing. Probably during the pandemic and the associated restrictions on movement and activities, I’ll do a bit of both. But for me, right now, I’m saving far and fast for Zwift.
Recently as you might have imagined there have been record numbers of riders on Zwift. This is the month in Canada when most bike clubs start riding outside but all the bike club rides are cancelled. If you want to ride in a group, you’re going to need to find a virtual group. Lately I’ve been riding with the Swarm. See Sam goes SWARM-ing! . And I’ve been thinking about how much group rides there resemble group rides in the real world.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, what is Zwift? (from Wikipedia)
“Zwift is a massively multiplayer online cycling and runningvideogame and physical training program that enables users to interact, train and compete in a virtual world.…..Zwift allows players to ride their bicycles on stationary trainers while navigating through six virtual worlds (Watopia, Richmond, London, Innsbruck, Yorkshire, and New York – a seventh world, Bologna, is available for certain time trial events, and an eighth, Crit City, is available for short, criterium-style, races). Players may cycle freely around the game world and join organised group rides, races or workouts with other users. Zwift uses ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy technologies to transmit data that, in combination with athlete weight and equipment choices, is used to convert the athlete’s efforts as speed and power (watts). “Smart” trainers, which include a built-in power meter, permit accuracy in the measurement of watts as well as enabling an immersive technology experience, where resistance is applied or lessened to simulate the gradient encountered on the virtual course. Zwift estimates the power of users on conventional trainers via the user’s cadence and the power curve of a wide range of specified trainers.”
What’s to like, as a woman cyclist, is that it’s becoming relatively easy to find women to ride with. Also, it’s easy to find groups riding at just about every speed. If you’re a road cyclist on the slower side, don’t panic, there are lots of people riding in Zwift at your pace. There are groups for over 50s and groups for people just getting into riding and groups for people who want to learn how to race. It’s a little mind boggling how many options there are. That’s the advantage of connecting with thousands of riders all over the world. If it’s a thing that’s accessible to you financially, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Peleton might be the pandemic bike of choice for people who want a community of spin classes. But Zwift is the pandemic cycling option for people who want to join a community of cyclists.
When I ride on Zwift on my own, I tend to go fast (for me). I like the sprint segments. But for all sorts of reasons it’s good to go slow. In real life, I vary my speed by riding with different groups of cyclists. Now that I’ve discovered group rides on Zwift I can do that there too. I’m learning to moderate my pace and group ride virtually. Zwift is realistic enough that I have the same issues–zooming ahead downhill, for example. As in the real world, I’m learning not to wear myself spending too much time at the front. I’ve also just now learned how to play with Zwift’s interactive features–waving, giving fellow riders “ride-ons” and using the chat functionality. All of sudden, look, here’s me chatting with strangers on the internet. Weird. But there it is.
Do you ride in Zwift? Are there groups you like? Any social rides or training rides you recommend? Let us know.
And speaking of virtual communities and chatting with strangers on the internet, I also took part in an online, international book club this weekend, organized by my friend Todd Tyrtle. “Todd finds ways to connect with other humans – probably more than he was before the pandemic and organizes an international book club that you, too, can join.” Read Life Moves Online.
These are not easy times. That’s an understatement. We are living through a pandemic. I turn on Twitter and there are picture of makeshift morgues being erected in New York City. I read a story about an Italian priest giving his ventilator to a younger patient and dying.
As I write this the Canadian trajectory looks like Italy’s. Let’s hope our physical distancing will start to bring that curve down. Today the US surpassed China in terms of the total number of confirmed cases. And the true number of case in the US is likely much larger than what we’re hearing given the lack of testing.
I have friends in New York and in San Francisco and I’m scared.
I’m reading countless testimonials from doctors and nurses, staying away from their families, and working without protective equipment. I just made a financial gift to our hospital here in Guelph to help.
I’m angry that Canadas didn’t start testing and contact tracking earlier, that we didn’t shut things down sooner, and that some people are still out and about like nothing has changed.
I start crying.
But I have to go back to work. At home. Which is also stressful.
We’ve blogged here lots about it. See our covid-19 tag. Today was Catherine. Yesterday was Nicole. The day before was me. And then Cate. And Martha. I think it’s hard to write about anything else.
And we offer suggestions about working out at home but we are all struggling. It’s okay not to be okay.
Here are some stories I’ve read today about taking it easy on yourself. You don’t need a pandemic self-improvement goal.
“The most obvious problem with jokes about the “quarantine 15” or “the COVID 19” is that gaining weight is framed as an inherently bad thing — an idea that’s steeped in fatphobia. While there have certainly been waves of progress in body positivity (as well as body neutrality, or the idea that it’s okay if you just feel neutral about your body) in recent years, society is still poisoned by the idea that being fat (or gaining weight) is “bad” and losing weight is “good.” It’s a message that many of us are taught from a young age, and is reinforced throughout our lives via the media and pop culture. That harmful idea is the driving force behind these memes, and it sends a dangerous message that certain bodies are undesirable — which is simply untrue.”
“Self-care routines—not so much, honestly. I haven’t been live-streaming workouts and getting in the best shape of my life. I’ve actually been sitting on my butt all day. I’ve slacked off on my daily meditation. I have not been motivated to use the time saved not commuting to take up knitting or bread baking. I haven’t Marie Kondo’d my bedroom, or done quarintinis with friends over FaceTime. (I have been scrolling through Instagram watching other people doing these things, and wondering what’s wrong with me that I cannot.)”
“I was talking with a good friend recently and as he was describing this tension he was feeling, he pointed me towards an Instagram post by Haley Nahman that said, “You don’t have to “make the most” of a global pandemic.” These 11 words, though simple, were incredibly helpful for me. They put flesh around an idea that was tickling the back of my brain but I hadn’t been able to vocalize yet. If you feel this tension, here are a few other truths that will hopefully help you realize that it’s OK to not be superhuman during self-quarantine.”