At weekends I go to a bootcamp. The trainer started going AWOL a few months ago, first occasionally then frequently, giving vague explanations whenever he reappeared about being “very busy at the moment”. So three of us who have been going for years and know the ropes offered to take over for a while, promising to step aside for him the moment he returned.
He took us up on the offer and promptly dropped off the radar. (Every now and then he resurfaces on our Whatsapp group to thank us for keeping it going while he’s “very busy” and to promise he’ll be back soon, but it’s been several months now and, to be honest, we’re doing absolutely fine without him.)
I had a slight cold and at bootcamp that weekend when I took out a tissue to blow my nose one guy made a half-joking comment about the fact that I work with Italians and was I going to spread coronavirus around? At this point there were a few cases in the UK but I don’t think anyone really expected it to blow up here the way it had blown up in northern Italy. We could still be flippant about it.
I remember the first awkward moment I had when I arrived at bootcamp and said hello to a friend but didn’t approach too close, and she came up to give me a hug. People were starting to talk about “social distancing” at that point, but it wasn’t official policy yet, and I didn’t feel I could refuse to hug her back, but I was very uneasy about it.
At a running group I go to, numbers were only slightly dented that week. The trainer started the session by saying “So, numbers are down a bit because of coronavirus. None of us have it, so don’t worry” [I was impressed at how confidently he said that] “but, you know, the virus is about, guys, so be careful.” Upon which everybody launched into the warm-up run in a tight pack, like a Tour de France peleton.
We kept bootcamp going for a couple of weeks, although we stopped doing pair exercises and constantly reminded each other not to get too cosy. It’s oddly difficult to have a conversation with someone with two metres of empty space between you, and every time people started chatting during the water breaks, they kept drifting closer to each other.
We got about 10 people a time, which was not much below the usual number for this time of year.
The Whatsapp group was a madhouse, though, with half the people imploring everyone not to get swept away by the hysteria and the other half duly going hysterical. At one point a French guy posted a petition requesting that Parliament implement a lockdown. An Irish guy replied saying that each of us has our own political views — that he, for example, was not in favour of a lockdown — and this was not the place for political point-scoring. (Incidentally, after a lockdown was implemented and we couldn’t go out in groups unless those groups consisted of family members, the French guy proudly posted on the group “My family and I still go out walking every day with our neighbours — we’ll just tell the police we’re cousins!”)
Eventually, of course, it became clear that we were going to have to suspend bootcamp. The government hadn’t introduced restrictions on groups yet (although, to be fair, they were pretty slow off the mark on that count) but people kept forgetting to maintain appropriate distances and we realised it was wisest just not to gather in the first place.
Read about the bootcamp-that-wasn’t in this post.