Reflections on COVID …

This year has been unusual. Difficult in many ways. The COVID pandemic has changed the world. It has changed how we interact, what we do, and where we go. We were told to stay in, and stay put. In some ways it has been difficult, but in others, beneficial. For me at least, there have been several positive, lasting changes that have improved my life. Changes that enable me to see & appreciate more, simplify my life, and help me train more effectively.

Let me give you a few examples.

I have always enjoyed walking, but since the start of COVID, I take the same walk in a local park every day. Its the same, but different every time. I live near a park at the top of a large hill, a “little mountain” really. Every day I walk up, and over this “mountain”, each day selecting a different route, or direction ending up in one of the nearby cafes for a coffee and muffin. The walk is 8-10 km depending on the route, and I do it rain or shine. And each day I document the walk on STRAVA with photos taken with my phone. Photos of things I have never seen before, despite living in the neighbourhood for over 30 years – rocks, benches, trees, flowers, doors, stairs, homes, and yes, selfies are my subjects. This interests me. Each day I discover something new. Each day the lighting changes, transforming the familiar into something new, something interesting. This walk has become a daily ritual. I walk alone. No music. No podcasts. No talk. Just self-talk. I’m alone, but never lonely. It’s as if I’m on an adventure, a holiday in a distant land, discovering new things, and exploring new thoughts. I intend to continue this ritual regardless.

I have always enjoyed cycling. You know that. If you follow this blog, you know each year I spend several months in the summer at my cottage cycling, and exploring the rural roads there. I couldn’t go this year because of COVID, but I certainly cycled. But differently. I didn’t venture far from the house. Instead, I selected 3-4 familiar routes. Loops I could complete out the backdoor that ranged in length, and difficulty. And, like Phil Gaimon, I began chasing STRAVA PR’s and KOM’s. I discovered there are several very difficult climbs, and challenging loops nearby. The mountain I walk every day, also became the mountain I cycled every day. Something I seldom did before. I would finish every ride, regardless of the route, with a loop around the park, or hill repeats up it’s steepest road. I became STRAVA’s “Local Legend” up this climb. And, I became the fastest, for my age group at least, up all of the nearby hills. My cycling became more focused, and more intense. According to STRAVA, my elevation gain in 2020 was twice that of 2019. Again, I intend to train this way going forward, making better use of STRAVA to meet other enthusiasts, and discover new challenges.

I have used YouTube for many years to learn new skills, particularly bike maintenance skills. Since the beginning of COVID, I have been using YouTube more, and not just for bike maintenance. I’ve discovered numerous entertaining and informative channels. I follow young couples living off-grid in the wilderness. I follow several architectural channels, particularly those about the tiny home movement, and living in small spaces. And, I have also discovered several channels that help me train better. I’ve learned the importance of the glutes, and how to train them more effectively. I’ve learned the benefit of dynamic stretching before workouts, and in the process have gained considerable mobility. I’ve learned better ways to train my core, and how to tailor barbell workouts with pauses, pulses, and increased time under tension. So YouTube is a daily habit that isn’t going away either.

In the cold, wet winter months, I usually train in a gym where I would spin, lift weights, and stretch regularly. Since COVID, I’m in no hurry to return to the gym. They are open, but I am not comfortable going back. Instead, I have purchased a few dumbbells, a smart trainer for my bike, and turned my room into a multifunctional space where I can read, write, watch TV, ride, and strength train. I don’t need more. In fact, because it is so convenient, I train more often. I train most days, and I certainly prefer the smart trainer to a spinning bike. It really is like cycling outside, particularly with apps using videos of real rides. So, despite all of the cold, wet weather we have been experiencing, I have been cycling most days. And, all over the world – France, Spain, Italy, US, and Canada – climbing up the local mountains, and in the Dolomites, Alps, and Pyrenees. I see why so many prefer indoor training, and this is certainly a habit I will continue.

I could go on. But, I won’t. You get the idea. I have formed new habits that keep me safe, and healthy. We were asked to stay in, and stay put. I have done that. And, expect to do the same this year.

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