Take 10 mins to read a thoughtful, reflective and honest account of lockdown in Spain with our YNM friend Naomi that many of you have exercised or run Worthing parkrun with. This whole situation certainly puts things into perspective and makes one feel thankful.
Happy running Naomi
Mart, Em & your YNM friends.
I have lived in Madrid for 7 years, and one of its many qualities is the outdoor, active lifestyle that so many enjoy. The city is always buzzing with runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, walkers and many other types of athletes. There is never a time, day or night, when there is not some kind of activity in the parks and communal areas.
On Saturday 14th March 2020, Madrid was already closing down and there was a sense of dread hanging in the air because everyone knew this would be our last day of freedom.
We had been told the state of alarm was starting that day, and those of us enjoying our exercise in the park were gradually told to go home. As I left my favourite park, I saw the Police taping off the park entrance, the grass areas and the trees.
At this stage the length of time for lockdown was 2 weeks. The prospect of being in my flat alone for 2 weeks was incredibly hard for me. Two of my favourite things in life are people and being outside – both of which were now taken away. In Madrid, Lockdown meant absolutely no going outside except for buying food and going to the pharmacy.
In order to stop myself falling into absolute despair, I dedicated each day to a strict routine. I found a set of HIIT workouts on YouTube that I liked, so I did 3 of those a day. It took a week or so to get used to this type of exercise as it wasn’t something I would usually do so regularly, let alone 3 times a day. My family told me I was probably overdoing it, but in my state of mind then, I wasn’t listening to anyone.
The ‘funny’ Coronavirus memes started getting annoying, the ‘toilet roll hoarding’ jokes weren’t funny and the lockdown videos circulating around just got deleted straight away.
On a good day I would do my exercising, do some painting, keep up with my online Art lessons for school and generally keep a balanced mind. I would also manage a few catch ups with friends and family on screen.
On a bad day, I didn’t enjoy my exercising, I was fed up with having so little space to move around in. I live in a small flat with no outdoor space. I am very blessed to have my flat, and I know there are many who have much less than me, but I’m afraid I still resented every time I did sit ups and brushed my head against the sofa. On bad days I couldn’t cope with any online chat, especially as I dreaded calling someone who would be in their garden, or with other people. The ugly side of my character came out on those days, when I couldn’t bear hearing about people’s ‘lockdown’ experiences while living with others and getting to go outside or be in their garden. I’m not proud of it, but that’s where I was at.
It was around this time (on a good day) I decided to join some YNM online sessions because I needed a friendly familiar face, as well as a structured workout that would give me focus. I joined the Friday and Saturday morning sessions, and I found myself looking forward to them and using them as a positive start to the weekend. They’re challenging, and I craved the accountability and sense of community. I was exhausted with constantly having to motivate myself – whereas joining a session means I just had to follow the lead and work as hard as I could on each exercise.
Week after week came and went with no real indication of when things would improve. I gradually found there were no good and bad days any more, just ‘same old, same old’ days. If it wasn’t for my teaching online, I wouldn’t know or care what day it was. Through all this though, I remained determined to keep as active as I could.
It was around this stage where my body shape started to change, and I had become physically stronger in areas I hadn’t ever been before. I was able to double the amount of reps I could do a month ago. This was a massive encouragement to me; and made me more determined to keep it up. I started to think about the future and how the fitness I was maintaining and building up would benefit me when I can go outside again.
After about 8 weeks the virus cases started dropping, and one day completely out of the blue, there was an announcement that children would soon be allowed out for walks from the 27th April. Just this news caused waves of hope for everyone, and sure enough, a few days later the announcement came we had all been waiting 2 months for. Adults would be allowed out to exercise in a time slot each morning and evening from the 2nd May.
I went on my first run in 2 months this morning. When I went onto the main road, I felt the emotion of all the people cycling, running, walking and enjoying the open air. The sense of freedom isn’t hampered at all by the time limitations (we can be outside between 6am and 10am) because everyone is just so thankful to escape their homes for a short while and be outside.
I thought my knees might cave in from the thousands of lunges, squats, jumps and everything else I’d been pounding them with for the last however many weeks, but my legs carried me surprisingly well. I actually felt the benefit of all those exercises and felt strong.
As horrendous as the past 2 months have been, there are so many things I will take from it. I’ve learnt that we as humans are stronger than we may think, both mentally and physically. Back on the 14th March I would have said there is no way I could be in that situation for that long. I’ve also said that in races though – the amount of times I get halfway through and think I can’t do it. It’s like those long hills you can’t see the top of. In the midst of pain, it’s hard to imagine not being in it, and when it’s over we see it so differently. That’s where I am now.
I took it day by day, embraced the good days and allowed the bad. We are not out of the woods yet but having that small amount of freedom back has reminded me to never take anything for granted: Be thankful for my health, and always seek community and support not only in exercise, but all areas of life.