Rumspringa!


There is, apparently, a thing in Amish communities where some youth have a kind of gap year where they experience life in more mainstream environments, away from the constraints and expectations of their communities, called “rumspringa.” The loose translation of the german-derived word implies “running or hopping around.”

I’m not sure how much understanding I actually have of the Amish concept, but “unfettered running and hopping around” sure applies to what’s been happening in Toronto over the past couple of weeks. Finally freed of the longest consecutive lockdown in the world, rapidly vaccinating and releasing into perfect early summer weather, people are suddenly EVERYWHERE. On patios, on beaches, in parks, on their bikes.

Most of us still have a veil of COVID anxiety — is this REALLY okay? is this too many people? is this going to come back and bite us in the ass? — but it’s also just blissful, just delightful to see people moving their bodies outside of their homes and into the world. We’re still in Step 1 — no indoor dining, no hair, no pedis, limited shopping — but outside! Outside is OPEN!

Last week, I did yoga in the park, I did an early Saturday am spin class in the alley, I went for a long long bike ride in the country where I passed people just jammed onto beaches, like a beach blanket movies from the 1960s. I felt like oxygen and light were literally infusing my cells.

I also noticed a few post-lockdown consequences as I stretched into my skin like a little groundhog emerging from my hibernation den.

  1. Yup, many of my summer clothes don’t fit. Some of the bike jerseys are a little tight. And I’ve grown extremely impatient with any clothes that aren’t 100% soft and comfortable, so some things that do technically fit are just plain irritating. 16 months of COVID reshaped me a bit, all that anxiety and limited movement and comfort eating, and I’m relearning my body. But that’s okay — I’m strong, I’m sturdy, and I survived a pandemic. I’m an effing superhero.
  2. Buying the perfect pair of training-but-not-running shoes online is impossible. Pre-pandemic, I had a perfect pair of Nike somethings that worked for strength classes, supported walking around AND looked sporty but okay with business casual type clothes. And of course they stopped making them. I have ordered now 9 pairs of similar-looking shoes online, and all were truly terrible. I ended up with a pair of allbirds as a walking around compromise, but they don’t work for the days I want something while I’m deadlifting or skipping. THIS is something I need to go into an actual store for.
  3. Riding nearly 3000 km in zwift this winter on my bowflex kept me fit and mentally sound, but it doesn’t directly translate into fitness for outside riding — never underestimate the effort of paying attention to the road under your tires, the weight of the sun, and the energy of actually having to track the traffic around you. They are both good, but they are not the same.
  4. My face has aged more than the usual 16 month pace in COVID times. I am lined. My eyelids are drooping. I look older. That is okay too, but it takes a little getting used to. I see selfies and can’t fully recognize that person with the pandemic hair, the edged forehead, the softer jaw. I am still making her acquaintance.
  5. Finally, all of this working out on my own — running alone, zwifting alone, yoga and strength training in zoom — has erased a lot of my inhibitions. When I did yoga in the park last week, I heard myself making … noises. Ooof. Ummhp. Siiiiiigh. Owwww. Ooof. A little soundtrack of old person body moans. I suspect it’s not as endearing as I imagine it to be. It’s a good thing we’re still well-spaced while I relearn social norms. In workouts and other contexts.

There is a lot of relearning in this rumspringa time — remembering the absolute privilege and joy, for example, of being able to take myself out for dinner on a patio after a long work day, and eat a pizza and an interesting eggplant and capers thing someone else made. How to decide what I want to do outside in the world and what will stay in the comfort of my little nest. How to be among people.

I was talking about the joy and anxiety, the bubbling over of the social world with my yoga teacher when we were in the park. “Yeah,” she said, “though I was at a thing on the weekend where I thought, this is just waaaaay too many people.”

“If you were outside and not touching, it was probably okay,” I offered.

She lowered her voice and leaned forward. “There was a SLIP AND SLIDE.”

Okay, maybe don’t do that yet. But revel in moving your body outside.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is flexing her outdoor muscles in Toronto.

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