Since the close down of gyms and fitness facilities for these past weeks, many fitness enthusiasts have taken to the park, not only stay in shape, but also to stay sane.
Joggers donned their athletic gear and masks, hand gels in pockets, and ran while keeping social distance. CrossFitters and others called up their regular trainers and said, “See you at the park.”
The issue isn’t just to stay physically fit, but to also keep their mental health intact during these times of crisis.
Keeping sane in the parks
Lockdowns and restrictions are necessary during these times of crisis.
But for twenty-somethings office worker Palm Samanuhat, exercising in the park was a way of keeping up both her physical and mental health, even just for an hour a day.
“The park was literally the only thing that reminds me of a ‘normal life’,” she said.
Like many workers, from low-income to middle-class urban professionals, Palm had to accept a 90-day leave without pay. Outside of grocery trips, she now spends nearly 24 hours a day in a 33-sqm room, seven days a week. Going to the park was her only escape.
“As long as we practice responsible social distancing, I don’t see how this [working out in the park] differs from getting groceries,” said Johnny Ward, a 30-somethings blogger at onestep4ward.com, who took to the park when his gym closed its doors.
A workout at home may get your heart rate going and keep you physically fit, but it’s nothing like a workout outside in the park.
“It’s impossible for people to stay inside in a condo, in a box,” said Coach Junio, a 26-year-old trainer who specializes in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). He ran bootcamps at Benjakiti Park regularly, even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It will make people more stressed, absolutely 100%,” he said, adding, “Yoga at home to stretch isn’t the same as going to the park and exercise.”
Keeping sane without the parks
Exercise is a tool for physical, as well as mental, health.
Studies show that “exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”
Psychotherapist Dr. Scott Berry is working with multiple clients on mental health counseling due to isolations and restrictions because of COVID-19.
With park closures, Dr. Berry suggested a new strategy for keeping fit and sane. For example, use the fire-exits in your building as a workout space or find a quiet soi you can use for running, jogging and high intensity interval training.
Or, he explained, find a small space with green grass on it, take off your shoes and socks and feel the earth under your feet. Breathe the earth up through your feet and through your body, to “ground” yourself and keep yourself connected closely to nature.
“Treat yourself as if you’re coaching yourself for the Olympics, as if you’re an Olympic athlete,” said Dr. Berry.
“Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he explained the necessity of adapting to situations during the crisis and lockdown.
“In a marathon, you need new strategies every five kilometers — new techniques, mental games and affirmations — because it gets harder and harder on your body and your mind as you get closer to the finishing line.”