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Lockdown ponderings...

So, imagine a strong Geordie accent and say the words “day 28 in the Lockdown hoos”. Yep, that is when I have started writing this blog. Up until now I have been struggling for inspiration as to what to write about. Earlier this evening whilst lying in the bath, with water as otherwise that would be weird, I was contemplating what inspires me. Then it struck me, my blog inspiration is inspiration itself.

There is no getting away from the fact that lockdown has and is a horrible experience. As a species, our default is to be integral in our own familial and social networks, so any break from that norm will always therefore be a stressful one. That break may be home working tearing asunder the routine of going to work, come home, sleep repeat. It may be the separation from loved ones and friends due to the need to physically distance. Adjustments to work/life patterns set in stone for years have been required.

The monetary cost of Covid19 will be high, but secondary to the loss of life. Life that I am all too aware as outlined in my last blog can be delicate balance, without a worldwide pandemic thrown into the mix. It is ironic in the extreme that the current most valued members of society are the lowest paid (e.g. nurses, refuse collectors, post deliverers, shop workers – the list unfortunately feels endless).

I suspect that the financial reckoning when it comes will involve increases in taxation that I hope will at last include permanent requisite NHS funding and recognition of the other foundations of society such as the police and fire services. The NHS’ founder Aneurin Bevan must at last be settling proudly and contently in his grave rather than the turning he has no doubt been doing until now as the years of chronic underfunding threatened to destroy his creation.

I have moved off point slightly there although arguably the NHS is the greatest inspiration that we can all think of right now. My break from my routine has meant permanent homeworking as opposed to occasional, that beloved obstacle course races have been cancelled and that I cannot go to my gym. I know in the scheme of things this is small potatoes, however as I have explained previously, I find exercise to be a significant part of looking after my mental health as well as providing obvious physical benefit. Whilst I am fortunate to have a home that can easily provide a back-garden circuits gym, lockdown meant until recently I had lost my running mojo.

Part of this is I know that I cannot drive to and run through the hills and woods that surround Castle Combe – my happy place. The only available alternative therefore is running on the road, starting, and ending at my house. With no disrespect to those that love it, I view road running as a necessary evil rather than the joy of running on shady trails, through flowing streams and sunny copses (I was tempted to use babbling brooks but thought that a bit over the top, but you get the idea.). I love keeping and being fit but I recently started skipping runs and making excuses to myself. As a by Sarah sponsored athlete, the fact that I was doing this was starting to get to me.

Then out of nowhere, inspiration arrived. Some friends created the Lockdown Fitness Facebook group, its purpose being the provision of support and encouragement to those marooned at home whose only source of exercise is to go out the front door for a walk or run, irrespective of age, ability or fitness level.

Now there are elite athletes like Jonathan Albon (google him you will be surprised) that achieve astonishing things and ultra-runners that keep going over extraordinary distances, but to paraphrase Shania Twain, “That’ don’t inspire me much”. Why? Because what they do is so far outside my daily experience and compass that they might as well be on another planet. Also, because of the level they are at, whilst their next challenge may be achievable for them, it will be beyond countenance for the rest of us.

So, Shania, what does impress and inspire me is people dipping their toe in the exercise pool for the first time. Lockdown has led to a lot of that, and the Lockdown Fitness Facebook group has proved to be a focal point. From humble beginnings of a handful of local people, it now has a membership exceeding eight hundred. So, what makes it so special?

When I did my first obstacle course race six years ago, it was all about getting my own sense of satisfaction from what I could achieve. Since then my perspective has changed and I do not look up to those who are (or consider themselves to be) at the elite end of the spectrum, its those at the other end. It is a far greater challenge, and often much scarier, to run between a certain number of lampposts without stopping for the first time, to go from couch to 1k, 2k, 3k 4k and then 5k, to run a mile for the first time, to go under or at a certain pace for the first time than it will ever be to go from a 50km to say a 100km ultra.

If you consider yourself in that elite category, you compete against others – your aim is to be beat them. The camaraderie in the Lockdown Fitness Facebook group is very similar to that found in obstacle course racing. There is an accepted understanding that everyone needs encouragement, support, and guidance no matter what their aims are. That mutual understanding comes with unspoken agreement to provide backing and reinforcement in the form of selfies, likes and comments. If you were sceptical or suspicious of social media before, it is tough to argue against it in a lockdown environment. As the meme says, “No one supports your running more than a social media friend you’ve never met.”

There have been many exclamations of surprise at actually finding enjoyment in exercise, but my favourite has to be “2 x 16:30 walks and strength exercise. Also Joe Wicks seniors workout. Pleased with myself as 6 weeks ago I did none of this.” And that Shania, along with those who have tried runs, turbo training on bikes, walks, kettle bell sessions, outdoor bike rides, body pump, yoga etc for the first time certainly does impress me, muchly.

Everyone knows the physical worth of exercise, and I have regularly touched on mental benefit. However, the Lockdown Fitness Facebook group has clearly demonstrated that both are true no matter what personal aims may be. It has created a community that unconditionally supports without judging and encourages without patronising. Its founders are serving police officers and they have demonstrated their worth at their day job by being key factors in locating my motivation and finding my mojo, both in significant peril of being consumed by lockdown apathy.

The Lockdown Fitness Facebook group has helped me re-discover my enthusiasm for exercise, my life without it really would be as weird as sitting in a bath with no water. I am very grateful.

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