Navigating the Outdoors in the Era of Social Distancing

By Shana Cesaire

Spring is upon us. The sun is coming out more and we’re seeing the weather creep up to consistent double digits.
Unfortunately, we’re also in the middle of a global health pandemic that is requiring us to practice social (or physical) distancing – meaning avoiding public gatherings, avoiding making non-essential trips, and forcing us to work from home, if possible. This can cause some serious cabin fever.
Although social distancing is necessary in order to flatten the curve and limit the number of people who become infected by COVID-19, all of these new guidelines seem discouraging and are proving to be disruptive to almost everyone’s regular routines. These new restrictions are especially difficult on people who live active lifestyles and are used to leaving their house to work out every day. However, Canadian health officials have confirmed that going out for a walk is permitted if you keep a 2-metre distance from any other people around you.
The fact that we’re still permitted to go outside is good news and gives people a few more options when it comes to keeping active. The bad news is that many trails, parks and other places for outdoor recreation in the region have been closed, including Gatineau Park. Closing parks was to help reinforce the recently imposed limits on social gatherings, which are restricted to 5 people in Ontario and 2 people in Quebec.
This may all seem discouraging, but now more than ever it’s important to prioritize our health. Prioritizing health includes physical activity, which is especially important when you’re home all day with a fridge full of food and an endless list of shows to watch on Netflix. Continuing with physical activity is also important in order to keep up with a routine that resembles normal. Despite the closures of many outdoor spaces, it is possible to remain physically active while still complying with the stay-at-home guidelines set out by the government.
The NCC says that, despite park closures, they are encouraging people to “enjoy the outdoors close to home — on foot or by bike — rather than driving to a destination further from home.”
For those who are used to going to a gym, it’s been a bigger transition adjusting to home workouts and making do without the usual equipment. There are plenty of virtual workouts available online. For example, the YMCA is offering free online workouts for everyone, not just members. Be sure to check out your local gym or studios to see if they are offering similar options. Even if you’re already used to doing virtual workout routines indoors, you might want to consider moving those routines to your backyard in order to also enjoy the fresh spring air.
Luckily, the transition isn’t as difficult for those who were already used to working out outdoors. For example, if you used to start your mornings off with a run in Gatineau Park, you should continue doing so, but around your neighbourhood. If you have a running partner who does not live with you, that’s fine and a great way to socialize, just be sure that you always remain at least 2 metres apart. Bike rides are even easier, as the bikes usually require you to keep your distance from your buddy anyways.
So, even though this new normal may seem tedious and dull, don’t be discouraged. We are to stay home as much as possible, but it is still encouraged to keep your muscles going as well as to breathe in fresh air when you can. Just be sure to keep your distance from others, and remember, every day is one day closer to freedom.
If you do go outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather, for the sake of our community, please continue to follow the public health guidelines and recommendations:
If you are walking your dog, please keep it on a leash
If possible, bring hand sanitizer with you when you leave your house
If you have recently returned to Canada from abroad, the law requires you to self-isolate for 14 days
If you or anyone in your household shows any symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days
To see park and trail closures, visit the NCC website: