“I truly believe that being active & making an effort to be outside, to do an activity of some kind, will be key for us to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
When it comes to high-performance athletes, engaging in physical activity comes naturally and frequently. But after the days of competing are done and daily life starts throwing you curveballs, squeezing in time to move your body can sometimes feel overwhelming – especially if you’re a single working parent navigating life through a global pandemic.
However, for two-time Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater and mom of two Catriona Le May Doan, getting active with her kids and leading by example is the key to maintaining both her physical and mental health. Her commitment to the power of sport and physical activity is exemplified through her work with Sport Calgary, supporting the growth of sport in her province,
“We were always in various sports growing up and we never specialized early on,” Catriona explained to ParticipACTION. “We also played sports regardless of if we were excelling at them or not, and then as I got older the focus for me became high-performance sports and speed skating.”
“I think we have to get out of our mindset that physical activity is just organized sport – it’s about leading an active life.
“I’ve continued to live that active lifestyle with my children. Whether it’s participating in what I call ‘old lady hockey/old lady ringette’, cross-country skiing, going on walks, going to the gym, my kids are active with me. I try to be an example of that for them and in my work with Sport Calgary, helping introduce sport and activity to the community as well.”
Despite all her amazing work in community and time spent getting active with her family, Catriona is feeling the mental health effects of spending more time indoors being sedentary. Just like for thousands of other Canadians, life can be hectic and stressful.
“As soon I’m busy and stressed, I start letting go. I’m not myself,” said Catriona. “People just assume that getting active is second nature for me, but I’m a single mom trying to work and keep a household going and I’m stressed about everything around me.”
“I know that as soon as I’m not active, I struggle. It’s easy to push it aside and say, ‘I’ll do something tomorrow’ instead of saying, ‘I’ve got 10 minutes, so I’ll go walk around the block’. That’s what it takes, a little bit every day can really help.”
The impacts of the pandemic on Canadians’ health are very real. Over the past year we’ve all naturally spent less time moving around in the ways we are used to, but things are getting better. Physical activity and sport will be key in helping Canadians of all walks of life and abilities get back to normal, in both body and mind.
“I think we have to get out of our mindset that physical activity is just organized sport – it’s about leading an active life,” said Catriona.
“I’ve had people say to me ‘I’m not a sport person’, well, do you garden? Do you go for walks? Then you’re active. I truly believe that being active and engaged and making an effort to be outside, to do an activity of some kind will be key for us to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
“Most of us understand the physical benefits of sport, but the pandemic has shown how much we are missing the social and mental health side of it, and how important those benefits will be in moving forward from all this”
The best part of physical activity and sport? Everyone can soak up the amazing physical and mental health benefits of moving your body, like getting better sleep, having more energy, and reduced anxiety. As Catriona points out, it’s better to get started than never try at all.
“Regardless of your age or ability, it’s okay to try and fail. Because it’s okay to try something new and struggle,” Catriona said. “As I mentioned before lock down with ‘old lady hockey/ringette’, while I’m fast to get to the puck, what I do with it after is not pretty.
“Everyone assumes that because I was really good at the international level at one sport that I will be great at these other ones – but it’s humbling and I’m okay to not be very good at stuff. So, I just want people to understand that it’s okay to fail. It’s better to try it even once than to not try it at all. Give yourself a chance.”