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Over the past few weeks I’ve had several friends express their frustration with people’s manners — or lack of — when out exercising.

Right now, with so many restrictions in place, the daily opportunity to get out and exercise in the fresh air is precious to many of us. And it is difficult when we feel uncomfortable due to the actions of others.

Obviously, we cannot change other people’s behaviour. However, we can practice exercise etiquette that will alleviate the negative effects of other people’s thoughtlessness or carelessness, and ensure that we are doing our part to be good community members.


Photo by Tom Wheatley on Unsplash

Take off your headphones

Music is a cherished companion for many of us while walking, running or cycling but right now, we should focus on being fully present. Removing the pleasant distraction of music (or podcasts, or talk radio) helps us stay alert to our surroundings, meaning we have time to anticipate people’s movements, maintain distance, and ensure we don’t accidentally encroach on anyone else’s space.

Stash your phone

Almost as frustrating as those people who veer too close on the path or pavement are those who stop dead in the middle of it to take a call or scroll through their messages. We are all guilty of letting phones creep into other activities. Let’s put the brakes on that, starting with exercise time. If you’re out for a run or a cycle, by all means take your phone in case of emergency, but don’t pull it out unless it really is an emergency.

Keep your distance — and then some

There has been a lot of discussion about how far you need to socially distance while riding a bike or running. One computer simulation study recommended keeping 4-5 metres vertical spacing if running, and 10-20 when cycling (though other experts felt the study wasn’t rigorous enough to justify changing behaviour). In any case, give people all the space you can. For your comfort, health and safety, and theirs. If need be, consider changing your exercise time or route so you can avoid morning or evening ‘rush hour’.

Exercise for the benefit of others

Performing actions for the benefit of others is based in Buddhism, and is something we can access through metta — loving-kindness — meditation.

Remember, yoga is meditation, breathing is meditation, and your daily exercise can be meditation. When you turn it into metta meditation you introduce the element of compassion for yourself, others and all living beings.

You can repeat the words of the meditation while you move:

May I feel protected and safe.
May my heart remain open.
May I awaken to the light of my true nature.
May I be healed, and be a source of healing for the world

If that seems like too much, simply choose one line to repeat. Or focus on a single word or mantra like peacehealing or om.

Let your exercise time become a sacred space to meditate on the fragility and beauty of life, and our shared connection as humans on this earth.

Share your thoughts and experiences of exercise etiquette in the comments!