As gyms remained largely closed throughout the pandemic, many have embraced outdoor exercise, especially running, for the many mental and physical health benefits it offers.
The winding road of Windhoek to Daan Viljoen is a well-worn track with runners from all shapes, sizes and fitness levels tackling distances, ranging from five to 25 kilometres or more.
Since gyms remain closed, as part of precautionary measures and many have become aware of the dangers their bulging waists hold, running and cycling have become more prominent on weekends as Windhoekers test their endurance and try to get fit.
A regular runner, Leslie Puriza, said he aims to keep himself healthy through fitness.
“I normally come here for a jog; last time, I did seven kilometres – and today, I am challenging myself to 10 kilometres,” he said.
He added that exercising could help boost the immune system, which is important, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Covid-19 symptoms can include severe breathing difficulties and several other health concerns.
Running provides physical and psychological challenges as well as solutions.
Journalist Denver Kisting is an avid runner for four years and credits it for his physical and mental health.
He said, “running continues to save my life. Initially, I started running to shed some weight and hopefully become fit. Soon did I realise that running offers way more than what a bathroom scale can gauge”.
“It’s the biggest metaphor for life: what you put in, you get out. And it’s all about the fundamentals: one step at a time, breathing throughout, resting when you need to, drinking water and, moreover, minding your own business by running your own race in your own lane.”
“I am eternally grateful for the mental clarity, the resilience, the tenacity and relentlessness. It’s by far the cheapest anti-depressant and mood stabiliser on the market. Yes, some days continue to be better than others. At times, it’s a mission to even go for a walk. You learn to embrace every moment that presents itself and meet yourself right there where you are.”
Clinical psychologist Dr Shaun Whittaker said when people exercise frequently, others are encouraged to join them.
He hopes this trend continues – even when the various stages of lockdown come to an end because of the many benefits of exercising.
“Ultimately, exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle: you sleep better, you begin to feel better, your appetite increases, concentration levels improve and it also strengthens the lungs,” he said.
Fitness enthusiast Shaun Gariseb said while walking and running, he met someone who taught him how to incorporate deep breathing exercises that supposedly can get air deep into the lungs and clear out secretions.
“He told us that we should intensively run-up and then do the breathing exercises – where we breathe through the nose and exhale through the mouth,” Gariseb explained.
He added that he is happy to see a lot of younger people also joining in the sessions.
Boxer Sebastianus Natanael added that running helps him get into shape and the key to his fitness routine is to exercise regularly.
Although running could be a cheap sport, where participants only need workout clothes and running shoes, it has gone high-tech.
For some, phones or specialised watches have become an integral part of their personal fitness journey.
A frequent runner Vatoorora Kaunazondunge told VIBEZ! about the existence of running apps that efficiently track progress if one wants to accurately keep track of their performance while exercising.
This year, the popular RÖssing Marathon was held virtually; Kaunazondunge was one of the participants who logged on to the running app and chose their own route.
“The organising team gave us a certain phone app, which can be linked to my Strava app, which is what I use and it enables tracking of times,” she said.
Another runner Cathy Tjitemisa indicated that for her and her sisters, staying active is important, adding that due to their job schedules, they can only go on walks and run on the weekends.
“While you are exercising, you are socialising; it is a whole new experience as well. The outdoor, nature and the feeling of being out there are just beautiful,” she said.