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HEALTH | 06.30.2020

Our post-COVID society: doing more and doing it outdoors

Ángel David Rodríguez

Ángel David Rodríguez

Let me introduce myself: I’m one of those athletes you don’t usually see on the city streets or down at the park. I feel most at home on the track, with all its accessories, starting blocks, hurdles and many other features. Owing to the lockdown and the slow easing of restrictions, I’ve returned to my childhood days and the origins of sport as play, training at home and running through streets and parks. Today, in this my first column, I want to tell you that I have scarcely enjoyed training so much in all my life.

First and foremost, this all started at home, and although it has still been possible to go out for a run, I’ve picked up an extra hobby — training at home. Truth be told, in spite of being a sportsman, this wasn’t something I was used to — I had a place where I’d go to train and I live in a small flat with my partner and baby. But thanks to technology, I can access physical exercise classes via any social network or website, and even on television, providing simple and fun training exercises that don’t require much equipment, some of which are very challenging. And it’s not just me training, there’s also the benefit of doing it with family and friends who live far away. This technology also brings us closer together around a kind of home entertainment/leisure activity, where we start off with some training and end up chatting and talking about our day. Exercise ultimately becomes a vehicle for maintaining personal relationships thanks to technology.

On the other hand, we’re all accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and in my case that means doing physical activity in a certain environment. And I can say that, based on what I am currently experiencing, my impression is that I can see now more than ever how physical exercise has come to the fore in society. I’ve taken part in multiple campaigns to encourage physical exercise, with different investments from various institutions, but I have never felt such a powerful immersion in sport. And as it turns out, having missed the freedom of being able to go out into the street for any kind of activity, the first thing we’ve come to yearn is to put on our shoes and enjoy a daily moment of freedom by heading out onto the streets to get some physical exercise, surrounded by people we don’t know doing the same thing, whatever their level. I get the sense that we’re giving each other hope, health and respect. These greetings and encouraging voices I’m encountering give a human aspect to my training, and whatever happens, I will continue to train in the street even when I can return to the track and the gym. I believe this will be one of the positive legacies of this sad time we have had to endure.

If you’ve felt something similar, you’ll know that going out to run, walk, cycle or exercise in the street is something we were not as accustomed to as a society, but which is now improving us as a collective. When I’m training in the street I like to stop along the way, take off my mask and breathe in the fresh air that I haven’t felt in a while. And whenever I stop, I take a moment to observe others and look at their faces, and the truth is that I don’t see feelings of suffering on the faces of my training peers out on the street — I see happiness.

Now for the really important part: I want to work hard and share what I feel and see so that this becomes a lasting way of life and our legacy for the future of our society, because it has many advantages for us all. First and foremost is our individual health. We can keep our spirits up, because this all serves as a way of ridding ourselves of anxiety and establishing social relationships with other physically active people. When it comes to returning to active life outdoors, we will soon be back in the forests, mountains and seas, enjoying nature. There are few things I miss as much as nature. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, physical activity helps us stay healthy, as taking part in physical exercise as a collective improves everyone’s health, which lightens the burden on the healthcare system.

The numbers reveal that approximately 52 percent of Spaniards are taking part in physical exercise following lockdown. Welcome, everybody, to a more active and healthy society. Let’s make the most of it.