Playing out, need to spice up your daily walk, run or cycle?
At lunchtime today, I took my one form of outdoor exercise, I went for a run. I'm not a runner, I'm more like a border collie. I like to chase a ball and play games. So what if you're like me and following the latest official advice on social distancing that isn't an option right now?
Well there are some apps out there, that still allow you to be a little competitive, while exploring your neighbourhood, and keeping that physical distance.
Don't forget, that if your running, cycling or walking and you come across someone less mobile than you, that you cross the road, or step out the way to keep your distance. With a friendly wave and hello it feels very sociable.
Also take care to slow down and take a wide berth around corners, and remember to wash your hands when you get home.
Best for … children and young families
Street Tag is a bit like orienteering or geo-caching. Use the app to hunt down virtual tags and win points.
When you download the app, you'll be asked to join a leaderboard, this is because some areas have special curated prize leaderboards, but everyone can join in by entering the 'World' leaderboard and auto-generating tags across your local neighbourhood.
If you've got suggestions to improve the game, the designers are very responsive and always keen to hear your suggestions, they've even created new features in response to COVID-19
Best for … older children, board game geeks (me included here) and those with a competitive streak
This is what I did with my lunchtime run. Run An Empire is a bit like those computer games Civilization, Settlers, or Age of Empires. I discovered some beautiful quiet streets just minutes from my house. You claim territory and resources by running around the virtual map. Use these resources to build your empire, and once you get to Level 7, you can head out and conquer someone else's!
Of course right now, you shouldn't be going too far to expand your empire, but now is a perfect time to consolidate your power, and be ready to strike once restrictions are lifted… I'm coming for you RichR.
Best for… staying in touch with colleagues
I've not used Racefully, but my old colleagues at the House of Sport have been using this to keep in touch and keep active while working from home. Businesses can create special groups called "Tribes", which encourage employees to keep fit together through completing fun group challenges. They are offering 3 months free for businesses right now.
Best for … beginners
The biggest challenge in running are those first steps; knowing how and where to start. One You, Couch to 5K is an app from the NHS and Public Health England, that gradually works you up toward running 5 kilometres over a period of 9 weeks. It was developed by a new runner, Josh Clark who wanted something to help his 50-something mum get off the couch and start running too.
Best for … everyone
Remember when using these apps, to keep aware of the world around you, not only to follow social distancing guidelines but for traffic and other obstructions.
If you're not out for your daily exercise, please help others by being mindful while in your car. As people might step into the road to keep their distance, do keep in mind those 20mph residential roads are maximums not targets. And there are those who can't easily step down the curb, so try not to pavement park.
Getting to know my neighbourhood with physical activity and physical distancing
Last night, our neighbour Emma posted a note saying she had volunteered with the Oxford Hub as a street champion to co-ordinate a local response to COVID-19. This got my wife and me thinking, what could we offer?
Having moved to Oxford only in January, we were just starting to feel settled. We love the neighbourhood and its sense of community and we'd just started to get a regular list of activities, last week she started a new post-pregnancy pilates session, and I'd played my first game of ultimate Frisbee.
Luckily, I love to explore and so landing in a new city has been great for that, just the other day I found a blue plaque dedicated to one the Two Ronnies, and an outdoor gym in a nearby park.
Even if you've lived in the same place for years, it's amazing what new little treasure you can find if, rather than walking by on autopilot, you consciously take notice. With Spring on our doorstep, everyday our streets, parks and the grass verge outside our house look different. Tree blossoms bloom, while daffodils and crocuses unfurl with colour.
One trick to make your neighbourhood seem new and fresh is to throw an element of chance into your walk, write a list of random directions, '1st left, 3rd right, 2nd right, 1st left' and follow them – as far as it is safe to do so – making sure you still know how to get home!
As the World Urban Parks released in their statement on the COVID-19 response, "the value of the local park, the local street will provide moments of stress release and additional health benefits and these are all extremely important in maintaining the body's immune system."
The UK government advice, as of now, is that social distancing, is not isolation, and they are encouraging people to walk, cycle and exercise in a way that conforms to Public Health England guidance, such as maintaining a two-metre distance from others.
There's also nothing stopping you from throwing or kicking a ball around, flying a kite or playing a game of tag with your family and household – no matter what their age. More than ever we need to recognise that everybody needs to play to recharge and to maintain our emotional, physical and psychological well-being.
So, what did we decide? Well, one thing I plan to do is to help keep our neighbours active in body and mind with a series of local treasure hunts. With that in mind, one thing that everyone can do to help is think about pavement parking and how it might be avoided to ensure that pedestrians, including wheelchair users, people with baby buggies, the elderly, and the visually impaired, from being obstructed or forced into the road.