The Coronavirus pandemic is making it a difficult and stressful time for all of us.  Parameters are changing daily and we are all trying to adjust and adapt, trying to do the right thing.

I thought it might be helpful to touch on two topics in this blog:

- What is the right thing regarding continuing our Nordic walking
- How as a club we can support each other.

Where are we on outdoor exercise?
Given that we’re an outdoor fitness club the most pertinent question for us is: what is the right thing regarding exercising outdoors through Nordic walking?  Much of me wants to avoid this question for fear of saying the wrong thing – but I’ve done as much research as possible and this is where I’m at:

Boris Johnson at his 5pm statement on coronavirus last Friday said: ‘As far as possible, we want you to stay at home, that’s how we can protect our NHS and save lives… the more effectively we follow the advice that we are given, the faster this country will stage both a medical and an economic recovery in full.’

At the same press conference, Jenny Harris, deputy chief medical officer for England answered a question about whether children can have playdates and go outside etc by saying ‘Our basic strand is social distancing, reducing the totality of our social interactions… 
There’s a balance there between maintaining our physical and mental wellbeing when we’re going through what will be for all of us quite a stressful time… 
We’re not saying don’t go outside but we are saying if you go outside go in a way which reduces your social contact… 
Exercising is fine but cut right down on your social connections.’*

My take-away from the above is that we can currently still go outside to exercise but that we should maintain this all important social distancing (2metres/6ft) from each other.  With regards to cutting right down on your social connections, we need to consider how many people we should be walking with at any one time.  This is why as a club we have stopped all our Nordic walks for the time being and not just reduced group sizes.  We just don’t want to do the wrong thing.

We also need to be careful on the travel point.  A couple of days ago I posted a map of a lovely rural walk near Bath which I thought people could do – but a couple of you pointed out that this contravened the ‘stop all unnecessary travel’ message that the PM made in his speech on Monday 16th March.  There is a valid point behind his message – travelling to new areas can potentially bring coronavirus to that area if you’re an unwitting carrier.  The Lake District along with other tourist areas such as Cornwall, Wales and Scotland, are experiencing an influx of travelling visitors and understandably locals are worried about the virus risks incomers bring with them.  The Scottish Mountain rescue took to Facebook to urge people to "stay local, stay safe".

In summary, my interpretation of current advice is that we can certainly go outdoors for a Nordic walk by ourselves to get our exercise.  Walking with others is more of a grey area.   Safe social distancing is crucial and in practice I think we’d find this difficult with anything other than a very small group.  There’s also the ‘cut right down on your social connections’ message.  Plus stay local.

I hope during this coming week more information will be given on outdoor exercise.  Humans need outdoor time and being in nature is important for our physical and mental wellbeing.  Earlier this week a group of nearly 50 academics and experts on public health and transport wrote an open letter to government urging ministers not to discourage walking and cycling amid the pandemic, noting their vital importance in the wider public health issue of combating inactivity.  You can read their letter here.

Supporting each other
Now that we are not meeting up together through our Nordic walking classes we need to think how else we can support each other and maintain contact during this coronavirus time.  Many of you are engaging through WhatsApp group chats and having virtual post walk cuppas via Zoom, an online video conferencing facility which adapts brilliantly for virtual social gatherings.  I used it yesterday with some of my walkers and we had a lot of fun firstly working out how Zoom works and then sharing ideas about things to do.  It was lovely to see people’s faces and have a laugh together.

I have also recorded a Nordic walking podcast for you to listen to on your walk.  I talk you through a warm-up and take you out Nordic walking as if it were a 1-2-1 coaching session.  It should be available in the next couple of days – please let me know what you think!  

I’m sure many more ideas will be bubbling to the surface in the coming days and weeks.  Please email us with any you may have.  For indoor inspiration, walkers have already directed me to the following:

A big thank you
Finally, on behalf of all of us instructors at Bristol and Bath Nordic Walking, Ros and I wanted to thank you for all your kind messages following our announcement last Wednesday that we would be suspending all classes from Friday.  Your messages of support, especially your concern for the financial wellbeing of our instructors and how you wanted to help with this, moved us greatly.  We want to assure you that we will look after our instructors and our office team during this time.  Thank you so much for your support which will help greatly with this. 


 * These statements are in line PM's latest address which I've just listened to this Sunday evening on 22nd March.