Runner on Stewart Avenue

A runner on the Stewart Avenue Bridge. 

Knowing how many health clubs, yoga studios and other “traditional” exercise facilities are temporarily closed, I reached out to my friend Ian Golden to discuss the shifts this health crisis has brought to our community’s collective exercise habits and to ask him for his take on the alternatives to “traditional” exercise people are seeking. He said, in a Facebook message, “As I type this, my daughter and I are just getting back in the car after being asked to leave the skate park by the police. Does that count as having a tough time finding alternatives?”

I chose Golden as a resource knowing that he is plugged into a wide network of trail runners—for whom exercising in isolation is not a new concept—and that through his business (Finger Lakes Running Company) Ian is well-connected to many athletes.

“I look at a lot of posts in my ‘bubble,’ and a lot of my friends and teammates are used to running on trails with nobody on them, and now there are so many people that they actually make an effort to keep their distance,” Ian said. “It’s a reflection of where we’re at. It’s amazing.” 

Ian is relying on intel from his fellow trail runners because his own routine, like so many others, has changed a lot. He stated, “My wife and I are juggling childcare, as she is an essential worker and I am with the kids until about 3 p.m. Then, from 3 p.m. until midnight, or 2 a.m., I am filling internet orders. I just don’t have my normal window to work out.” 

While it may seem I implied that trail runners are by nature solitary creatures, that is not necessarily the case. They do enjoy training in groups—the after-race gatherings, the opportunity to be together, to align with a larger community of runners—but there are ways to do that and still be mindful of keeping one’s distance. He spoke of the “virtual last person standing race,” an online event that drew over 2,500 participants from 65 countries. Some ran solo, some ran on treadmills, and each participant, Ian explained, “Put in 4.16 miles per hour until there was one person standing.” Local runners Ellie Pell and Amelia Kaufman took part, and each ran about 42 miles over a 10-hour period. 

Ian and I agreed that we are fortunate to live in a time when what he called “virtual group workout models” are available. He stated, “I recently did a delivery to (local business) Blackbird Yoga, and they are doing virtual sessions, giving people the feeling of connection and motivation.” He added, “It’s incredible to see the athletic boom still there. People are running, biking, walking. They’re staying happy. Maybe it’s not possible to get to the gyms now, but it’s still possible for people to be working at one of the things they can still do.” 

Looking forward, Golden said, “It will be interesting to see how much of this sticks… Are people staying isolated because they need to be, or will they still choose it?” He added, “If we are following the line we are being served, we’ll be in it for some time. It makes me so much more aware of how much our lives are intertwined through concerts, events and gatherings. So much of our economy is based on monetizing these gatherings, and the virtual option only goes so far.” 

*** 

I would be grateful if readers would reach out and share how they are dealing with this new normal. Some are accustomed to playing in competitive sports leagues, some are gym rats, and with these options off the table, I am interested to learn how people are reinventing themselves. I am sensing that a series of columns could sprout from these submissions, and the fresh ideas that are put forth might inspire others to try something new. I see far too many social media posts about decreased activity, and the resulting “Quarantine 15,” and that saddens me. It’s springtime my friends! Let’s get up and go.

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