(Note: there are many embedded links in this post. They’re there for a reason, I promise. Educate yourself. Find and stick to reputable online sources. PLEASE ignore sensationalism and clickbait, it’ll just make you more anxious than you want or need to be.)
March 19, 2020 – Last week, if you were to ask me what I’d be doing today, I probably would have responded, “Oh, you know, the usual – same ol’ same ol’… teach class, work with a client, blah blah blah” Well, here we are, one week later and the world has now turned completely inside out. COVID-19, the coronavirus, the pandemic – whatever the name, it has put a sudden stop to all of our lives.
“Shelter in place,” “self quarantine,” and “social distancing.” No toilet paper, no cleaning supplies, and no groceries available in some stores. How will we weather this financially, what about the stock market, and how long will this last? These are terms we find ourselves using, situations which have become reality, and questions we find ourselves asking almost every day now. What the hell happened? I’m going to leave that question to the scholars and academics to unravel in the coming weeks, months, and years. But for now…
Today, my job as a trainer and your fellow human being, is to encourage you to close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and then let it out for 10 seconds before opening your eyes again. Your health is your priority and yours alone. By assuming personal responsibility for your own health, not only will you allow yourself to perform optimally when necessary, but you will also help others remain healthy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the current pandemic, flu season, or normal everyday life. No one else can do your health for you. Not me, not another trainer, not a group exercise instructor, not your spouse, not your doctor, not your nutritionist, not your therapist, not your friend, and most certainly NOT the Google. YOU.
Wash your hands. YOU can keep the icky icky bad stuff (COVID-19, other viruses, bacteria, etc.) from getting into YOUR system.
Keep your hands away from your face. Do you have any idea where your hands have been? What have they touched? A door handle? A car door? A product at the store? A shopping cart or basket? Another person? An animal? Your phone? Your laptop? Icky icky bad stuff (and COVID-19) is EVERYWHERE. Keep that stuff out of YOU.
Sneeze/cough into your elbow or a tissue. YOU can keep the icky icky bad stuff (COVID-19, other viruses, bacteria, etc. which YOU may have) from getting to others.
For the time being, keep your distance from others and avoid congregating in groups, even small ones. YOU may be carrying icky icky bad stuff (and COVID-19) and not even know it. SOMEONE ELSE may be carrying icky icky bad stuff and not know it. Either way, keeping your distance from others reduces your risk as well as theirs.
Let’s say I’ve got COVID-19 but DON’T KNOW THAT I HAVE IT (there are currently a LOT of unknowns about this virus). I talk to two friends and I unwittingly pass the virus on to them. They each, in turn, go home and talk to their spouse and kid, their roomie and a friend. Suddenly, one person (me) is responsible for possibly directly infecting two others. Those two are then each responsible for possibly infecting another two. ONE infected person becomes THREE infected people. THREE infected people then become SEVEN infected people.
This is a very crude example of how easy it can be to pass along a virus (cold, flu, COVID-19, etc.) to others (and why I wash my hands obsessively during flu season and avoid sick people). Yes, some people have no reaction and others have very mild symptoms. But what happens if it’s an older person? Like mom or dad? Grandma or grandpa? Your cousin with heart disease? An uncle on kidney dialysis? Or your aunt with cancer? It is entirely possible that you have now made their lives much more complicated.
So what else can you do? I’m glad you asked.
REDUCE YOUR STRESS
Easier said than done, I know, but you’ve got to make every effort to take a conscious look at what’s going on in your life. Over the next few days, weeks, and months, there will be many things you can control and many other things over which you will have absolutely no control. My advice? Let go of those things over which you have no control.
We each have our own set of responsibilities to handle. You may be working from home, you may be a parent, you may be caring for a loved one, you may need to get groceries (or toilet paper), you may be trying to figure out how to make ends meet, you may be part of the massive medical response currently building up, the list goes on. One or some of these may fall into your lap along with some others. THESE are the things which you should be most concerned about.
Everyone else has their own set of responsibilities to take care of. From your kids, to your spouse, to your neighbors, to your friends, to your local officials, to your federal government. Let them be. Let them do. I get that your personality may interfere with your ability to let go. I also get that some of the things they may say or do may rub you the wrong way. Not only that, but everyone’s nerves are fried and the unknown is out there. During these days of COVID-19, you’ve got to try to let go. Unless there’s something which involves you directly and requires your immediate and undivided attention, avoid unnecessary stress and leave ’em be. Everyone has to live their lives… and so do you.
MAKE HEALTHIER CHOICES WHILE SHOPPING
It is well known in the medical and fitness communities that good nutrition choices can go a LONG way at keeping your body functioning properly and when necessary. Reduced blood pressure, improved heart function, reduced cancer risk, and so on. (Side note: contrary to popular belief, a 6 month supply of toilet paper will NOT help your body function properly.) Now is also NOT the time to be paying attention to nor buying from people who are suddenly selling the “best,” “anti-COVID-19,” “immune boosting,” etc etc etc diets, supplements, and other magic potions and pills. Focus. See through it and then see past it.
Instead, choose to spend your money on the fresh, available produce (organic or inorganic, I don’t care which). This includes dark, leafy greens, other brightly colored veggies, and the wide range of fruits currently in season and available. There won’t be any added sugar, preservatives, artificial colors, or other etceteras. And get your hands on some probiotics while you’re at it… kefir, kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc. These can have millions and BILLIONS of live bacteria cultures which help defend your body in your small intestine! Protect the outside by washing your hands, protect the inside with probiotics.
If you’re like many people, you may suddenly find you’ve recovered a sizable amount of your time during the day and week. Devote some to exercise. Go for a walk. Get a run in. Take a bike ride. Disappear on a hike. Get your blood pumping. Take your mind off the day’s bad news and avail yourself the opportunity (if even just for a moment) to enjoy your surroundings, the garden/yard, the neighborhood, the trees, the sky, the clouds. Some of you may scoff, but maybe this is your chance to slow down for just a minute or two “to smell the roses.”
SLOW YOUR ROLL
Find some exercises on YouTube or Instagram which don’t involve equipment. (I bet the TRX Suspension Trainer I talked about at Christmas-time is suddenly looking very appealing, isn’t it?) Whatever you do, if you encounter virtual trainers or anything similar, slow your roll! THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. Yes, there are some people with great intentions out there who went to help. Unfortunately, there are probably many others who are only looking to capitalize on the current crisis. Know EXACTLY what you’re getting yourself into before you sign anything and before you start typing your credit card number. I’m here to tell you there are a large number of exercises you can do on your own, at home, and without any equipment.
This should be a no-brainer. Rest. Your body needs to rest, recover, repair, and rebuild. It cannot do any of those things if you don’t properly rest. 7-8 hours of sleep, every night. Create a routine and then stick to it. Sleep at 9pm, wake up at 5am. Sleep at 11pm, wake up at 7am. You get the idea. Rest.
There are uncertain times ahead for every single human being on Earth, not just in our neighborhood, state, or country, but WORLDWIDE. Yes, the effects for most are relatively mild or even non-existent. That does not mean you should let your guard down. Think about what your actions, (especially an accidental one) might do to irreversibly change not just your life, but the life of someone else. The vigilance we pay and the sacrifices we make now will make us stronger, better people.
Wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, sneeze/cough into your elbow or tissue, keep your distance from others and groups. After that, I challenge you: mind your stress, eat healthier, get some exercise in, and rest. If you don’t feel like you’ve got more energy or a better outlook after only a few days, I want to know about it.
Until next time, take care of yourselves! And like my client Jonathan always used to say after our workouts, “Be well.”
Now if you’ll please excuse me, I need to try to find some toilet paper.