Outside Fitness

2020: In Retrospect

11 min read

If 2020 has shown us anything is that we need to be adaptable in whatever we do. Nothing showed that better than when COVID hit and lockdowns began; a lot happened upon the implementation of lockdowns, but seeing as this is a fitness blog, I’ll focus on fitness in trying to emphasize the importance of adaptability.

Essentially, gyms closed and people lost their minds as if that was end of the world. But as we know, it wasn’t (if anything, the world will end not with a bang but a whimper). Coaches, clients, and fitness enthusiasts had to adapt. Whether that meant switching to bodyweight exercises, investing in home weights and equipment, getting creative with what you had available at home or nearby, or experimenting with online fitness classes, we, more or less, found a way. All the panic was overdone.

And it’s with that piece of retrospect that I wish to look at 2021 with. 2020 was a mixed bag: it treated a lot of us poorly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t individuals who experienced a good year, maybe even their best year since whenever – but for those of us who had a challenging year, the new year doesn’t mean we breathe a sigh of relief and assume things will get better now that 2020 is behind us.

Rather, we should move into the year with cautious enthusiasm: we saw what 2020 was like and we’ll be prepared to tackle whatever 2021 has to throw our way. COVID isn’t simply going to disappear because the calendar year has changed, but with vaccinations around it feels like we’re at the tail end of this business. If anything, 2021 looks so promising because we feel that it couldn’t be any worse than the last year.

Anyway, in an attempt to put a bit of light on the year gone, I actually wish to look away from the numerous negatives of 2020 and chronologically (and very subjectively) highlight 20 good things that came out of it. It should be noted that this list does not follow any category, style, or rhyme or reason, it just lists things that put a small bit of warmth in this man’s ice box.

20. Despite Lockdowns People Found Ways to Stay Fit

As eluded to in the opening paragraphs: gyms closed, people panicked, but we eventually found solutions. Where there is a will, there is a way. And while some found ways to remain active, others were even inspired to get up and do something. That’s beautiful.

All in all, I think this is worth celebrating because it’s an example of ingenuity, adaptability, and sheer human will.

19. Italian Residents Sang from Their Balconies

In another show of human will, alongside togetherness, Italian residents took to their windows and balconies to sing. This is just one example of communal togetherness as there are a lot more moments across the world where a community, or strangers, came together for an occasion, but this moment sticks as Italy was one of the first nations to impose a lockdown to combat the coronavirus.

18. Lockdown Introspection

If there is going to be a running theme about this list, it’s probably the global lockdown as it determined a lot of what we could/couldn’t do.

In its own way, the lockdown was a positive in that it allowed a chance for introspection. Life slowed down and that meant we could take a breather as we contemplated where we were, how we got there, and what we wanted for ourselves going forward.

17. Man Cheers Up Neighborhood Children as Spider-Man

In what could be viewed as a random act, a British jogger put on a Spider-Man costume for his jogs, and along his route he engaged and delighted children from their homes. His action and goodwill inspired others to do the same as they too got into costume and went about elevating the morale of shut-in children.

16. Final Fantasy VII: Remake Released

Full disclosure, I’m yet to play the remake (as I wish to let the other parts release), but the fact that we actually got Final Fantasy this year is a gaming highlight. This is especially true when you go on to remember how frustratingly long it takes Square Enix to release games (Kingdom Hearts III and FF Versus XIII – sorry – FFXV are the notorious examples).

15. Sweden Became Coal-Free

Becoming only the second European country after Belgium, and being closely followed by Austria only days after, Sweden has completely stopped using coal in a bid to switch to renewable energy. Other European countries are set to join the list before the target years of 2025 and 2030, and hopefully this will be a strong statement of intent toward fossil-heavy countries that the tide is indeed changing (looking at you, America, China, and India).

14. People Caught Up on Hobbies/Interests/Hustles

A lockdown means more time, and more time means more to do. Being in a lockdown meant we could finally turn our focus onto things we were ignoring or just didn’t have time for.

For some that was catching up on hobbies like gaming, binge-watching, or reading, for others it was an opportunity to brush up on skills like learning a language or cooking, and for others still, it was the perfect chance to dedicate time to that side hustle we’ve been carefully nurturing in our heads. For me, I fell in the camp that was intricately plotting out their hustle.

13. The Global Protest on Police Brutality

With the death of George Floyd being the straw that broke the camel’s back, a protest against police brutality in America was sparked and it encouraged a wider campaign against discrimination globally while bringing attention back on #blacklivesmatter.

This has been a long-overdue conversation that finally opened up some people’s eyes. Unfortunately, the focus of the matter was slightly lost as other issues were shoehorned and linked to the protesting, and the relevance and impact of things slightly lessened from the split attention.

Personally, I hope that the conversation on the treatment of people of color (specifically black people) continues to develop instead of it being a “fad” that garnered temporary support and attention just because it was a difficult and unavoidable topic at the time. This hardship is a lot of people’s realities and it can’t just be swept under the carpet and forgotten because a new event has grabbed media relevance.

12. AS Roma’s Missing Children Campaign

Although this began in 2019 and had already garnered noticeable success, it was only in 2020 when public audiences truly picked up on the football team’s social media campaign.

With every player transfer the Italian team was involved in, they put a missing child notice with the tweet to bring awareness and attention to current missing cases. To date, the campaign has successfully assisted in the rescue of numerous children since the initiative began.

11. Sports Resumed

Having been put on hold in March, it was a surreal experience having no major sport to watch until they each restarted in their own unique ways. A lot had to be done in order to realize this, such as creating virus free bubbles, enacting regular testing, removing fans from stadiums, and monitoring staff and players.

We’re in 2021 and live audiences haven’t been properly reintroduced into games so that we can fully return to what we all enjoy, but just having the luxury/privilege of having matches take place is a godsend and shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

10. Liverpool Won the Premier League

I’m by no means a Scouser but every dog deserves its break and I guess, after 30 years, Liverpool FC finally got theirs. Moving on …

9. Malawi had a Successful Re-election

Hailed as a victory for democracy, Malawi saw through a successful re-election after what was considered blatant election rigging in 2019. For those not familiar with politics, namely African politics, this re-election stood out for a number of reasons: it was largely peaceful, it was carried out without further tampering and dubious acts, it saw the challenging candidate win and the presidency change hand, and in a continent plagued with corrupt governments and leadership, it showed that the people’s will cannot be easily stomped out by a ruling minority.

8. A Plastic Eating Super Enzyme was Created

In 2016 a plastic-eating bug was discovered. In 2018 scientists engineered an enzyme from the bug that could breakdown plastics in days. And now, in 2020, a version of that has been upgraded to work six times faster than the original. From this discovery, the next step is to create something that can be put into commercial use within the next year or two.

7. Despite 2020’s Tone, Charitable Acts Increased from 2019

Arguably, 2020’s tone has been “doom and gloom”, but despite that prevailing feeling, charitable acts actually increased along the year. According to a report by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the first six months of 2020 saw a charitable increase of 7.5%. If you want to know more and get further breakdowns, give a look at Philanthropy News Digest, it’s an interesting read.

6. Donald Trump Lost the U.S. Election

I consider myself nonpartisan, and a spectator at best when it comes to politics. However, there are moments when I dip my toe into the swamp, because I do agree that man is a political animal; it’s our nature.

With that said, I’d like to make two things clear about Trump’s loss: firstly, I really don’t think Biden was the best candidate, but at this point, in my opinion, anyone is better than Trump. Secondly, the fact that Trump had 74M votes should not be dismissed: he was genuinely supported and those supporters should be respected and heard instead of dismissed by the victorious party.

But with all that said, I’d like to think a sense of normality, respect, and decorum will return to the US presidency from here on. I cannot advocate for a man that insults others, seeks the highest office for self-interest, and is egotistical to the point that it is a maniacal self-obsession, just to barely scratch the surface of issues.

5. The Xbox Series X & PS5 Launched

This year saw the launch of the next generation video game consoles, and so far, both consoles seem to be selling well, despite the scalpers and people failing to secure themselves a machine. I’m excited to see the games that will come out of these machines. So far, we’ve seen what the PS5 can do with the first party games it released and now we’re just waiting to see what the Xbox does with its first party titles.

4. Environmental Relief Emerged from COVID-19

At surface level, the lockdowns meant nature could catch a break from manmade problems: pollution and waste decreased drastically, wildlife was left alone and free to roam, and unnecessary travel was curtailed, just to name a few.

However, all this must be said with an asterisk because we can only assume that once life returns to normality, all of this will be undone by our current lifestyles, especially because of the requirement to travel to work. I can only hope that some countries or companies will take inspiration from the lockdown and encourage different ways of operating going forward, but I won’t hold my breath.

3. The Memes

Say what you want but some dank memes emerged from this year, from Karens, everything is cake, and the pallbearers to WW3 and entanglements.

There was always something going on, indicating that meme culture isn’t going to stop just yet for the time being.

2. The Low Cases of COVID Across Africa

At the time of writing: 20M+ confirmed cases in the US, 2M+ in the UK, 3M+ in Russia, 10M+ in India, 7M+ in Brazil, and 2M+ in Africa (1M when excluding South Africa). An entire continent with a population of over 1 billion people has less cases than individual countries, let that sink in (

I bring this up, firstly, as an African myself, and secondly, because of the continent’s economic disparity and how when COVID emerged analysts were predicting doom and gloom for the continent (I’m looking at you, WHO). As we have seen, that has not been the case and for whatever weird reason, South Africa really needs to sort itself out.

To the naysayers arguing about unreported or underreported cases, do you really think that’s not going on in other places with high numbers? Let me leave it there.

1. A New Year

To end this list, I finish with a bit of a cheeky one, but looking across social media and taking in how much people are breathing a sigh of relief, I just had to add this one. It’s 2021, let’s learn from the past and make a better year. Let me finish by borrowing a metaphor I saw on Twitter: the new year is a 365-page book, and each new day is a blank page for you to write your story.


A writer, gamer, geek, and gym rat all packaged into one. I'm a certified personal trainer who writes about the things he loves and I enjoy sharing them with others all on MXFitness.

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