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While you may not be able to rush to the gym this January or plan out a race schedule, there’s still lots of health based goals that you can set your sights towards for 2021.
Embrace the outdoors. The outdoors is so good for you that doctors have started writing prescriptions for people to get outside. Simply getting outside can improve your mood. Add in some exercise, along with some social encounters and some vitamin D and it’s easy to see how much of a positive impact getting outside can have.
Embracing the winter is something that a lot of Calgarians could learn to do better. Other than some weekends on the hills, many Calgarians spend a lot of their winter inside. This is especially true now that more people are working from home and don’t have many activities to go to. Once you step outside though the snowy landscape and crisp cold air is generally worth it. While many items like snowshoes and cross country skis have become as hard to find as toilet paper, biking, walking and running can still be done most winter days. There’s also lots of outdoor rinks and sledding hills and currently lots of snow for playing in.
Goal: Aim to get outside every day or a certain number of times per week or month.
Catch more ZZs. For those working from home The pandemic is the perfect time to catch up on some sleep and try to fix any sleep habits holding you back from getting a good night’s rest. Getting enough sleep helps with physical recovery, immune function, memory, concentration, mood and more. While there isn’t a solution to make more hours in a day, there are some tips if you are someone that struggles to fall asleep. Some general tips for good sleep are having a schedule, getting outside in the morning, avoiding caffeine later in the day and avoiding blue light before going to sleep.
Goal: Aim to wind down or be in bed for a certain time or try following one of the tips above. While many watches and activity trackers claim to track your sleep, most of them are not that accurate.
Reduce Screen Time Not surprisingly, there’s been a big increase in screen time during the pandemic. While most of us probably need to be on screens for at least some portion of the day, most of us could probably reduce our screen time in some way. While some screen time is not bad, people are generally more sedentary during screen time. It can also be addicting and detrimental to your sleep patterns.
Goal: Once the pandemic is over, try and reduce your screen time, or aim to reduce your screen time by a few minutes each week. There are many apps that can track screen time and split it into Work/Personal use categories.
Cook The pandemic has turned everyone into cooks or at least sourdough bread bakers. While cooking your own food is generally healthier, cooking has some great mental health benefits regardless of what you cook. It can be both relaxing and stimulating and even during a pandemic is socially connecting.
Goal: Aim to cook a certain number of times in a week or month. While you may not be able to keep up the frequency of cooking post pandemic, it’s something that you should try to do at lest semi regularly.
Make time for connections and alone time The pandemic has taught everybody how important social connections are. If you have a busy schedule or are the type of person that never remembers to reply, make sure that you schedule time to connect with your loved ones regularly. Try to actually plan those get togethers with the people that you run into. On the opposite side, the social break during the pandemic has also been something that has been much needed by many people. All of us need a balance of the two so make sure to plan some alone time as well.
Goal: Try not to be the person that never returns phone calls or texts. Plan a few events or places or things that you want do and who you want to do them with once the pandemic is over. Make sure to plan enough alone time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Practice Gratitude It can be difficult to practice gratitude in tough times but the benefits to spending just a few minutes each day focusing on gratitude are worth it. Practicing gratitude can put improve people’s mood, improve sleep, help foster stronger social connections, increase resiliency and increase self esteem.
Goal: create a gratitude journal or jar and find something that you are grateful for each day. Send messages to those you love expressing your gratitude.
With restrictions on social gatherings and many places closed, entertaining the kids during Christmas break is even harder than usual. Here are some activities to keep kids moving and outside and some tips to keep the usual winter activities fun.
1)Ice skating Ice skating is always a popular winter activity and luckily in Calgary there are lots of outdoor ice rinks. Keep things interesting by trying out some new rinks. This is also a great strategy if the rink you go to is full. While team sports aren’t permitted, you can still have a mini game of hockey or ringette with the family. If there is lots of space you can also make an obstacle course. A list of some of the skating rinks is here, though there are still many that are not on the list.
2)Sledding Similar to the skating rinks, keep things fun and safe by exploring some new sledding hills. Bring a shovel to make a few jumps if you have more daring kids. Older kids can also experiment with things like cardboard, baking trays and plastic lids for some homemade sleds to change it up. While there are official hills for sledding, you are generally welcome to use any hill.
3)Biking If you haven’t done any winter biking before, now is a perfect time to try it. Most city pathways are generally navigable with a mountain bike once they’ve been cleared. It’s a great time to see the city covered in snow or see the rivers frozen up. For those that want to really embrace the snow, fatbikes can be rented at BowCycle though kids ones are not available. New this year is ice biking at Bowness Park. Kids and adult ice bikes are available to rent.
4)Night Walks Calgarians have taken decorating to a new level this year with Covid. Go for a walk and check out some light displays. Check out some of the best light displays here and here or just park in any neighborhood and go explore.
5) Snow Ice Cream Grab some fresh snow and mix it with some vanilla, sugar and milk for snow ice cream. For some extra fun add in some sprinkles or food coloring. While it may not be as good as Made by Marcus or Village Ice cream, it’s an easy dessert you can make with ingredients that you probably have in your house. Recipe 1 Recipe 2
6) Snow Sculptures If making a snowman has gotten old, take out your sand castle kits or bring out some kitchen supplies for some different shapes. They also sell some specific snow molds if you prefer to use them. Older kids they can try to compress snow into a large bucket or garbage can and then shave it into a shape.
7) Snow Painting Paint your snow sculpture or just use any white snow as a canvas. You can buy snow paint, or just make some yourself with food coloring and water. Corn starch can also be added if you want something thicker. Brushes, spray bottles and drip containers shampoo bottles all work great for coloring the snow. Once kids have used up all their artistic creativity, they can also play tic tac toe or pack down a track and make a board game.
8) Senior’s Centre Drop Offs Write some cards or make some arts and crafts and drop them off to your local senior’s centre. You can check out a map of them here. There is likely at least one within walking distance.
9) Frisbee Golf While the snow can make it slightly harder to find your disc, disc golf is still easily playable in winter. Head out to one of the City’s disc golf courses or make your own course in your yard or local park. All you need is a disc.
10) Snowball Fun So much fun can be had with just snowballs. There’s the classic snowball fight, some snow baseball and some snow target practice.
11) Mural Walks Since museums and art galleries aren’t open, get your art fix by looking at Calgary’s mural collection. Check out all the murals in the Beltline here, check out Sunnyside’s Garage murals here and some of the murals around the city here.
12)Outdoor Decorating If your kids want to do some more decorating, find a tree outside and put some ornaments on. It’s a great way to brighten up a neighborhood/area. Just remember to take the ornaments down after Christmas.
As we head back into school, work and another month of Covid, here are 7 new fun outdoor things to check out in Calgary.
1)Glenmore Dam Pathway Reopening
After 3 years, the Glenmore Dam Pathway has been reopened. It features the same great views it once had as well as some upgraded pathway and signs telling you about the dam improvements. You can follow the pathway around the whole reservoir or go down to Sandy Beach.
2) Pump Tracks
2 Paved pump tracks opened this summer. The South Glenmore Pump Track is right off the reservoir pathway and has been packed ever since it opened. there are kids on strider bikes and parents on bmx bikes, as well as all ages in between. The Fairview Pump track is also closeby in Fairview. With the South Glenmore Pump track opening it has been less busy though it also has very limited parking. In addition to bikes, the pump tracks can also be ridden on skateboards, rollerblades and scooters.
BUMP, The Beltline Urban Mural Project that’s been running since 2017 grew even bigger this year, even with the pandemic. 20 new murals were painted this summer and there are now over 50 murals in the Beltline. You can look at the locations on their website or follow one of 5 routes/tours that they have online.
4) Sunnyside Murals
Sunnyside has also continued to add more murals to its collection. This summer they added 8 new garage murals, 3 shipping container murals and 4 more murals on houses and fences. Check out this map with all of Sunnyside’s art to plan a route. You can also go look for the fairy house at Riley Park.
5) East Village Art
In late July St Patrick’s Island got some fun art that helps promote social distancing. Its only here until the end of September so make sure you catch it while you can. They have also put together some (De)Tours for people to explore the area at their own pace.
6) Deerfoot City
Deerfoot City has an outdoor art installation that is great for any Instagrammers. They also have outdoor lawn games for people to play.
7) Inglewood Park Park
Inglewood has transformed one of their parking lots into a colorful gathering space. It includes picnic tables, a charging station, bike pump, little free library and a sometimes basketball net. It’s a great place to grab some photos, eat some lunch and then go shop. If you have kids Mills Park and Pearce Estate Park are also nearby.
If you’re looking for a fun outdoor volunteer opportunity, Silvera is looking for walking group and trishaw bike volunteers.
While many of the changes that we’ve had to put into place because of Covid 19 have been an inconvenience, there’s definitely some changes that we’d like to see stick around.
1.Flexible Cancellation Policies While sadly flexible cancellation policies already seems to be fading, we need to try and keep them. Nobody knows whether they will be sick 2-3 days in advance and making people pay full price for a missed appointment or class can cause someone to brush off mild symptoms that they may have just started getting. While dealing with cancellations is difficult, we managed to relax cancellation policies at the start of Covid and we should be able to keep them that way.
2. Not having to go out when you are sick. Pre-Pandemic it almost seemed like a badge of honor to push through normal life if you had a cold or flu. Now all workplaces are supposed to encourage their staff to stay home when they are sick, which is how it should be. I am sure we have all seen colds and flus spread through the workplace or at school, so it makes sense to try and get people to stay home instead of infecting everyone else.
3. Less crowded fitness classes While 3m of space may be a bit much, some studios were definitely packing in people to a point where it was difficult to move pre pandemic. It’s certainly nice not having people’s arms and legs hit you and not having to worry about hitting other people. As fitness classes are known to spread a lot of germs having some space for yourself should help keep people healthy all the time.
4. More active transportation. It has been great to see so many people out walking, biking and using other forms of active transportation on the streets and pathways. There’s been so many people out that the city closed off lanes and streets in certain neighborhoods to accomodate more people. If the temporary street and lane closures have helped you get around, make sure that you keep using them and let your councillor know so they can become permanent.
Now that people have bought Calgary out of bikes, I hope people keep biking throughout the year and that safe cycling and pedestrian friendly infrastructure becomes more of a priority. An active commute is one of the best things you can do for your health and also saves money.
5. Kids playing outside. I haven’t seen this many kids playing outside since I was a kid. It’s been great seeing kids outside and engaging in unstructured play. Outdoor play is an important part of development and physical activity and something that Canada has been failing at. This pandemic has shown us that kids will still play outside if we let them.
6. Automatic Handshakes and Hugs While I think everyone is missing some physical contact from people that aren’t in your bubble, not having to shake hands and hug everyone you meet can be a relief. As with fitness classes, handshakes are known to spread germs and many medical experts have been trying to end the handshake for years. The time spent trying to perfect the firm handshake can be put into how to properly wash your hands.
Hugs are also great for spreading germs and while hugs are great between friends with both people consenting, society is still realizing that not everyone wants to be hugged all the time.
If you haven’t heard by now, part of Highway 1A is closed to vehicles due to Covid. Luckily though, the highway is still open for all active forms of transportation and it’s way better than driving. You can get to all the great hikes and stops on the road, while getting some extra time to enjoy the scenic mountain views. You also get to stop wherever you want and the paths are less busy than they usually are.
For the easiest route that almost everyone can do, park at Castle Junction. From there it is 6km to Johnston Canyon with relatively little elevation so it’s perfect for walking, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding or scootering. Parking is limited at Castle Junction, so if you are going on a weekend make sure you come early.
For those that want a longer ride or can’t find parking, Johnston Canyon is roughly 26km from the town of Banff. There is parking 9km closer where the road closure starts, but this also fills quickly. Fenland Recreation Centre and the train/bus station have plenty of parking and are right beside the pathway which will take you to the 1A. If you take this route there are some great photo opps by the Banff sign at Fenlands, Vermillion Lakes and the welcome sign at the 1A. While there is some elevation, it’s similar to what is on a lot of Calgary pathways.
The cafe at Johnston Canyon is open if you want to fuel up before your hike or bike back. There are also bathrooms and a water refill station. Remember to bring a lock if you want to hike the Canyon. While the bike racks can get pretty full there are plenty of trees and poles you can lock your bike to. Also while the crowds at Johnston Canyon are smaller than previous years, it still gets very busy so you may want to bring a mask.
If you still have energy, you can carry on further down the highway though it does open back up to cars after Castle Junction. Baker Creek is another 20km away and has some great chairs for a rest and a bistro if you want to stop for a meal. Lake Louise is another 12km away and if you don’t want to ride all the way back, you can take the bus back to Banff with your bike. Be aware that spaces on the bus for bikes are limited due to Covid so you may have to split up if you are in a group.
The highway has just been freshly paved so it’s great for almost all wheels. You do still have to pay some attention to the road as Parks vehicles will occasionally drive by. As with most places in Banff, bear spray is recommended.
After you’ve biked the highway, consider filling out this survey, there may be a chance that the road closure wouldn’t be a once in a pandemic thing.
Around the world gyms and studios have been closed due to Covid. While Alberta’s plans to open gyms are still at least a few weeks off, here’s some of the ways that your gym or studio experience might look different when you return.
No dressing/changing rooms Almost across the board, dressing rooms have not been included in gym reopenings. With the close quarters, many high touch surfaces and sweaty clothes going everywhere, it’s not hard to see why. For those that go to work before or after the gym though, it’s going to be an inconvenience. It might also be a good idea to stock up on some car air freshener.
No water fountains For anyone that relies on the water fountain for their workout hydration, water fountains likely wouldn’t be in commission for awhile. While gyms and studios will likely start selling bottled water, it’s probably worth it to buy a water bottle or two if you don’t have one.
Bring Your Own Equipment You likely wouldn’t be able to walk into a studio empty handed. While many studios had equipment you could use for free or pay a fee to use, you’re probably going to have to bring your own now. If you haven’t bought a yoga mat, blocks, dumbells or whatever you usually use in class, you may as well buy them now and have them for your at home workout until things open up.
6-10 Feet of Spacing You will not have to worry about accidentally hitting the person beside you, nor will you have to worry about anyone hitting you. Fitness classes will have a lot more space to move around in and could also potentially have markers telling you where to stand. Cramped gyms may have to move out some of their equipment. There also wouldn’t be any more giant charity classes with the energy of a 100 people.
Gym Scheduling With the reduced capacity, gyms may require you to book a time slot before coming. For those with changing schedule, this could be difficult but it’s a good way to deal with capacity issues.
No Contact There will be no more high fives or sweaty hugs. There also wouldn’t be any hands on adjustments from yoga teachers. For those that like to lift heavy, spotting may no longer be available.
Fans/AC There’s many gyms in Calgary that rely on fans or small AC units to cool things off in the summer. Unfortunately with the concerns about droplet spread, your gym or studio workout may get a little hotter.
Gloves and Masks Gloves, masks or both may be required for your workout. While masks are uncomfortable, particularly when exercising, they may be deemed necessary in many public places if more evidence emerges on their effectiveness.
Group Circuit Training Circuit training classes and gyms have taken off in the last few years. Large adjustments will have to be made to these classes. Instead of rotating people through people will have to stay in the same spot and you’ll no longer be able to switch on and off equipment.
For anyone that’s eager to head to the gym or studio right away, it’s important to know that things are going to be different. If a few or many of these things make you uncomfortable it might be worth looking at online options or buying more equipment for your home to keep up your home workout.
Resources to learn more:
Alberta Reopening Plan
Interviews with Large Gym Owners