Redefining the outdoors

Written by: Catherine Bouchard

Exercise has always been a form of stress relief for me. From the weekend trips to the Pure Gym opposite my work in Manchester to the (very occasional) post lecture visit to the Stevie, working out is one of the few times in my life I can actually switch off, blast music and burn some excess anxiety. I know it’s probably just the side-effect of endorphins, but when I leave the gym I always feel more grounded, and relish the opportunity to recontextualise my life and reflect on how, after working out, my problems appear far more trivial than they had previously.

Prior to going back home to St. Andrews, I had even fallen into a regular routine of going to the Thursday and Sunday spin classes at Revolve following encouragement from a friend. I will however, never make that 8am spin class. It finally felt like I was beginning to get my life on track and make healthier choices, which is a hard balance to find at university. However, when the gyms shut and the country entered lockdown I was left at a loss. I know this closure is nowhere near the biggest problem that people are currently facing, but nonetheless, for me it represented a loss of control and progress. Despite this, such a change to my routine has helped me to turn to the outdoors to find a new space for exercise.

When we are forced to remain inside our house, outside takes on a new meaning. It represents freedom: a change of scenery and pace. I’ve always loved walking, whether it’s the 25 minutes on the way to work to prepare my headspace for the day or wandering around a new city and falling in love with places I’d never heard of – from discovering Delirium in Belgium or finding the Strandbar Mitte in Berlin. This has got me in trouble at times, and on reflection my decision as a First Year to walk past the botanics on my way home to halls from Firewater in the middle of the Scottish Winter perhaps does not rank highly amongst the wisest of walks that I’ve gone on at University. 

That being said, I’ve never been the type to walk at home for fun – until lockdown. Trapped inside, I turned to walking as a source of discovery and adventure. I’ve lived in St. Andrews for two years and my family has for five, yet recently I’ve discovered places in St. Andrews that I’ve never been to, from the forest river walk to the Hallowhill duck pond. I even managed to make it to see the famous Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course (even if I had to google it to check its real name – shockingly not called “the old golf bridge”). 

Perhaps most surprisingly to me, is my decision to start running. Although I am definitely not a runner, I made it to the sixth week of the “Couch 2 5K” programme before giving up following a twisted knee. I’m proud I lasted for so long, and running the 2.6 challenge with the G-You team was something I never thought I’d be able to do, and doubt I would have attempted before lockdown. Additionally, I’ve been able to move my workouts from the gym to the garden at home, enticed by the opportunity to regain the tan I lost after leaving school in Thailand. 

One of the opportunities lockdown provides is the chance to take a break, and the free time to make serious lifestyle changes. Even doing half an hour of weight and resistance band exercises has helped me feel healthier and more proactive in making better lifestyle choices, giving me the opportunity to implement a routine that I am able to carry on when I return to university. 

It’s important to remember the severity of the crisis we currently face. We’ve never seen such uncertain times, and this can be overwhelming and terrifying for some people. It’s okay to move at your own pace, now more than ever. Whether you take the chance to get more active, or relax, it’s important to look after yourself. Lockdown has given me the chance to get more active and I know that when it is ultimately lifted, I won’t be able to wait to get back to university, forcing myself to go to that 5pm spin class in the Stevie.

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