Kildare Fitness: Making a safe connection through exercise during Covid-19 lockdown

Fitness with Newbridge physio Barry Kehoe

Kildare Fitness: Making a safe connection through exercise during Covid-19 lockdown

The Fit at Five club

We bought our house in Newbridge in 2005, not right at the height of the Celtic Tiger but close enough. We moved in in November 2006. This three-bed semi was to be our starter home before we moved on, and then Anglo-Irish bank collapsed along with everything else that happened and we were, and are, here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Our small circle of houses shares characteristics with the housing estates of the 80s and 90s, where so many of us grew up. A place of camaraderie, games and “are ya coming out?”

All the kids around us call for their friends. But not on the phone, no no. Good, old-fashioned ringing the doorbell, without knowing whether or not the person will be home. The kids leave the house not knowing who they'll find, but always come home after having a great time. But the play area is cordoned off — “don’t go past the corner or you’ll come in for the evening” warn parents.

The green is the dedicated meeting point. The focal point of all the activities and craic as the evenings lengthen and the weather gets better. Everyone has the same toys at the same time — tennis when Wimbledon is on, rollerblades, playing shop and even kerbs is making a comeback. It’s been Lansdowne Road , the Old Trafford and the Croke Park.

In their small world life revolves around the green. All the kids friends live 30 seconds away, and there’s no such thing as texting ahead before they call over. The only thing stopping them from camping out on the road is the small trickle of cars that pass through.

But now, withthe Covid-19 restrictions, they’re forced to chat to each through high fences in back gardens.

Evolution has fashioned us to be social creatures. From the time of infancy, we are aware and attuned to those around us, first our caregivers and later to our peers and larger community. Friends are good for us; those who have strong friendships experience less stress, recuperate more quickly from heart attacks and are likely to live longer than the companionless. They are even less vulnerable to the common cold.

So, other people can influence our immediate physiology as well as our ongoing health, because the company we keep has the power to affect our daily choices and so our well-being.

With this in mind the women of our circle organised an exercise class during the first week of the Covid-19 restrictions. An outdoor exercise class, that facilitated responsible social distancing with people exercising in their own driveway.

The Fit at Five group meets at five with their kitchen chairs, bottles of water — and even sweeping brushes have been used. We have themes for the workouts, we’ve had the Pub Quiz, the Kerb Crawler and Hit the bottle. I instruct(shout loudly at) them from the green at the centre of our circle for 40 minutes. We have a boss, we have a DJ (car radio), we must be official because we even have a WhatsApp group. We have the participants that spend more time chatting over their hedges, usually giving out about me and the exercises, thinking I can’t hear.

But we have fun, banter, craic and 40 minutes of near normality in an increasingly strange time. We are facing into an evolving pandemic and it reminds us that sometimes we take things for granted, Its reminds us that, what is important isn’t work or money or cars or even houses. Just like the for the kids it’s the “greens” of our communities that should be at the centre — helping each other and camaraderie.

As the Fit at Five group collectively suffer through the exercise in an effort to ”flatten our own curves ” and justify their evening glass of wine, it reminds us that after every struggle, even the one we now face, there will always eventually be comfort.

NOTE: Since increased Covid-19 restrictions came in last Friday — after the time of writing — the Fit At Five group members now exercise in their back gardens, connected online using the Zoom app.

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