By Jane Marshall

There’s lots of confusion about what’s allowed (and what’s not) when heading outside. For outdoor lovers like us, it can be hard to know what to do.

When Edmonton schools closed down due to COVID-19, I figured, hey! I’ll handle it by dosing myself and my family with fresh air.

Yet as weeks wear on, restrictions increase. City of Edmonton and City of Calgary playgrounds are closed. Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have also closed services and roadways and are asking people to stay away.

“If you have plans to visit one of these areas in the coming days, and if a vehicle is required to access a park or public land, do not go. Please consider staying closer to home.” — Alberta Parks

Law enforcement personnel are patrolling to remind citizens about physical distancing.

The Alberta Parks website puts it like this: “Backcountry use has the potential to add unnecessary stress to the health care system, put public safety staff at risk, including to exposure to COVID-19, which could then impact resources to support search and rescue. This applies to all Alberta Parks’ backcountry areas.”

I’ve shed tears. Cancelled trips. I feel anxious. Our lives have drastically changed. So how do outdoor lovers like us stay sane and safe?

The Basics

Can We Go Outside?

  • Minister of Health Patty Hajdu says: “The best advice from a health perspective is to get outside to get fresh air if you are not ill.” (Canadian Press, March 25, 2020).

Here’s the full article:

Health minister encourages kindness, fresh air to manage COVID-19 stress

Rules on how to enjoy the outdoors:

It’s okay to be confused.

Global News published this article on March 31: Coronavirus: Can we go hiking? Canadians are getting mixed messages.

Moral of the story: Things keep changing. Check online before you go.

Take Care of Yourself

Anyone who’s been in an airplane knows you need to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. This is one of those times.

Here’s a message from the Canadian Medical Association about building resiliency through stressful times:

The next thing I want to say is, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. I spent a day crying and sometimes I feel absolutely awful and unmotivated. COVID-19 is unprecedented. No one has answers, no one really knows what to do. It’s okay to feel bad.

So what can we do?


As a yoga and meditation teacher, these are my recommendations during COVID-19 restrictions.

Try Pema Chodron’s free meditation class on dealing with difficult emotions.

You get to work directly with how you are feeling, even if it’s less than ideal.

Breathing Meditation

If your mind is going in circles, focus on your breath. Sit by a window and let the light shine on you. If it’s warm enough, sit outside.

Try this meditation called Living With Distress.

You’ll learn about breathing meditation and meditating with sound.

Walk / Run / Snowshoe / Nordic Ski

Our parks might be closed, but we can still go outside.

City of Edmonton trails are still open, but are being patrolled for safety.

City of Calgary parks remain open with restrictions.

  • Walk around your neighbourhood
    • Wave, smile, nod, or make eye contact to feel connected
  • Get creative! People in Rio Terrace in Edmonton had a ‘chalk your walk’ day where residents wrote encouraging messages on sidewalks
  • Limit yourself to one round of outdoor exercise per day
  • Try cross country skiing or snowshoeing at a local golf course (following their rules, of course)
    • Some ski paths are closed so know before you go

The social/physical distancing rules from Alberta Health Services:


Try Forest Bathing

  • If you can get to a ravine, valley, or a natural space with trees, safely immerse yourself in nature
  • If you are self-isolating, go in your yard and sit by a tree
    • Even this small act may help you feel happier

When you’re outside, think of it as ‘leave no trace’ (at the microscopic level!).

Organize Your Gear Closet

Here’s your chance. Dig through, label, re-organize, and wash your gear. When the parks reopen you’ll be ready to go.

Remember the power of Vitamin D from the sun (even if it’s absorbed from your deck!) Enjoy little things. Go slow. With extra time, we can see things in a whole new light.