A Pandemic exercise in neighbourliness

PHOTO: The exercise group marked their third year with a healthy celebratory breakfast

By Martha Bowers

Three years ago, we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were feeling lonely, isolated and a little fearful. Tired of the isolation and missing the friendly drop-in visits for a cup of tea, a group of Glebe women began meeting in the morning in September 2020 to walk around the block, keeping the required distance, chatting to catch up on the local news and arriving at the nearby park to do some easy exercises. We realized the importance of social contact and keeping fit, and this was a great solution during such a difficult time.

Every weekday morning, throughout the seasons, in sunshine and in rain, in wind, snow or ice, we continued to meet. After months of online fitness classes, we were so happy to get together in person, sometimes wearing masks but with enough space between us to feel safe. With no qualified fitness instructor, each of us contributed an exercise. Starting with warmups, we did stretching, some aerobics and eventually added weights to our routine. As winter arrived and the snow got deeper, we each tamped down a space where we could move more easily; on hot, humid summer days, we appreciated the shade from the beautiful trees around us. When the conditions were too icy or too wet, we quickly adapted, gathering on someone’s driveway or on a porch or in a garage with the door wide open.

Our trustworthy counter, Heather, kept us on track as we became engrossed in a wide range of conversations about world issues, health, families, books, music and jokes. The group was a fountain of information – what to do about those pesky squirrels eating the birdseed, who can recommend a handyperson for a small job, does anyone have a good recipe for such and such, have you seen a great movie (online of course) lately?

After more than a year, we decided to seek some suggestions from a professional. Who better to ask than that dynamo of fitness, Mary Tsai! On a bitterly cold winter morning, she came by to teach us some other exercises to change things up. Not so easy when you’re wearing layers, boots, mitts and tuques, but we did our best.

Although we are mostly women, membership is open, and one man joins us on a regular basis. We are a small group but not exclusive. Sometimes ten show up, sometimes there are only two.

We are quite a sight to the kids walking by on their way to school who see us doing balance exercises. Some have remarked that we are trying to do the moon walk!

We recently added some technology to our program, starting our warmups with music. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is a great song to get us moving on a chilly morning!

Now that pandemic restrictions are no longer in place, we continue to meet. And on a lovely morning this September, after finishing our exercises, we held our third-year anniversary breakfast in the park to celebrate our endurance, commitment and friendship. Congratulations to us!

Martha Bowers is a member of the neighbourhood exercise group.


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