The Year of the Coronavirus
It is hard to understate the impact of a pandemic on the personal, professional, economic and political lives of a society, especially one that includes everyone across the globe. The sudden spread and fearful consequences of a what’s called ‘novel’ coronavirus – Covid-19 – has sequestered students at all levels of education from their classes, classmates and educators. It has taken customers from vendors, travelers from adventures and even spouses and other family members from each other in some dire cases. Finally, it has separated economic security and wealth from its benefactors – almost all of us, even the 1%-ers.
But what the world-wide ‘social distancing’ endeavors may do, with the best of intentions to preserve the healthcare systems’ abilities to treat those who do get the disease, is impact the health of individuals directly and indirectly affected by it.
When you can’t get to the gym or even the ski slopes, when you are unable to ambulate outside or even inside (as many hotels and retirement homes are banning access and usage of their gyms), you are negating a substantial part of society from achieving and maintaining health and fitness.
I know this sounds self-serving but hear me out.
Mantras from ‘motion is lotion’ to ‘move more, eat less’ to ‘use it or lose it’ have become integral commandments of modern society’s solution to advanced sedentary living. Those who have taken these to heart whether at a gym, with a trainer or on their own find themselves stuck at home, in their rooms, away from the benefits of movement and of socialization. This cannot portend well for their and society’s health, physical and mental/spiritual.
So this Fit Happens is dedicated to helping you find fitness in social distance, wellness in isolation and solace in seclusion. I can’t offer much in the way of mental health benefits as I believe human contact is critical in that arena. But nothing beats a good book or three, and the first step to mental health in the time of corona is turning off the TV. So read on….
Five STEPS to Solitary Fitness
There are five elements to modern concepts of metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness. While it’s possible to expand this into a multi-level marketing scheme of many micro- components, since you are likely reading this at home or in your office, unless you happen to have a lovely outdoor space in which to implement it, we’re going to bring it down to the basic five: aerobic, strength, flexibility, balance and function.
For aerobics, with or without any equipment, there are your feet and legs; start a walking program. For those with access and ability, get outside and find a park that affords you sufficient distance from fellow hikers. For those more limited or concerned, walk the hallways and, if able, stairs. Every 5-minute block counts and multiple blocks of 5 minutes throughout the day add up to maintained and even improved fitness. Speed is irrelevant.
For strength, pick three exercises to do each day and do them either in one ‘session’ or separately.
For example, curls (yes, soup cans work for some folks, others need more resistance; this is where exercise bands/tubes would help), heel raises, wall sits. On another day, do push ups (floor or kitchen counter), side leg raises, and lunges (free-style or holding a chair.) A ‘set’ is made up of a number of repetitions (or reps) that brings a mild (to severe for you athletic types) sense of challenge or even ‘pain’. Mixing it up may be more important than how many sets you do, for now.
For flexibility, sitting down while watch TV (not the news, please) or reading a book, straighten one leg and slide a hand down toward the ankle and hold that stretch for 5-15 seconds. Or slide your arm up the door jamb as high as possible on your way back to the kitchen for another cup of tea. Or while in bed, bring one knee to your chest, or put one leg over the side of the bed and let gravity stretch the hip flexors. There are many low-energy range of motion outputs that will sustain your ability to live a more active life once this pandemic abates.
For balance, stand with both feet together – near a solid, firm support – and turn your head to each side, holding that position for 10-15 seconds. Want to make it harder? Close eyes; put hands across the chest; put one foot behind the other; do it on one leg. Do this on the edge of your top step…just kidding. Please don’t do the latter.
Finally, for function, there’s the good ol’ American squat – every time you’re about to sit in a chair, go up and down 5 times. Slowly, with control. Or lunge down the hallway. Or mix a squat or lunge with a bicep curl or soup-can overhead press. Any multi-segment movement constitutes a functional exercise.
There are hundreds more options but pick a few, do a few each day and hang onto your fitness. The storm will calm, the doors will open and your friends and families will congregate again. Till then, at least stay healthy, stay fit, move more, and eat less.
Eating in the Time of Corona
As our lives are severely disrupted, it’s easy to fall into despair and resort to comfort foods. While stores are depleted of toilet paper and other non-perishable goods like rice and frozen foods, this might be a good time to try out some recipes you’ve had in the past that may or may not even fit into the category of healthy. But almost anything you prepare from scratch is better for you than processed foods and ice cream, and will occupy alone-time, too.
Like with exercise, there are your basic five elements of a healthy diet: proteins, fats, carbs, fiber and hydration.
There are high-fat and low-fat proteins, meat and non-meat versions, etc. Ultimately, while you while away your time away from restaurants and country club venues, get enough protein, especially if you’re over 60 years old – those of you most at risk for CoVid. So try to get at least 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. It will preserve muscle, and bone, mass, which you’ll need when this is all over.
Next, there are ‘bad’, ‘good’ and ‘very good’ fats from which to choose. Easy snacking on nuts meets your protein and fat demands but could easily lead to more calories than you need as you go into a sedentary state. But mixing healthy fats like avocados, made into guacamole, with raw veggies, like carrots or celery, meets three of your dietary needs: fats, carbs and fiber. And crunchy tastes, too.
Carbs also come in a variety of options, but let’s make it simple: avoid or minimize simple carbs. These are processed starches and sugars that often cause sugar spikes that might lend themselves to excess eating once blood sugar drops or, worse still, emotional descents that may be compounded by isolation.
Fiber. Yes, the toilet paper scarcity might cause hesitation on this front but it’s still healthier and safer to consume decent amounts of fiber – 25-30 grams/day. Especially if you’re being less active, which helps gastrointestinal activity, fiber will help keep you regular during these times of constipated living. You may be stuck at home but that doesn’t mean you should be stuck elsewhere, too.
Finally, hydration is crucial. As with any cold, flu or respiratory illness, staying hydrated is critical; it keeps your mouth, bronchi and lungs lubricated. So while water, unsweetened coffee or tea are preferred, by all means make sure you’re getting enough fluids.
In times like these, where uncertainty trumps customary and usual, it’s important to keep some things the same and, to the extent possible, even improve upon them. This may be the time to try new foods, new recipes, and new flavors, to break the boredom and feed the spirit.
What We Do to Keep Folks Safe
Last week I sent out a mass email describing what we’re doing here at the gym to keep clients and trainers safe in the face of Covid. Since personal fitness training is personal, obviously we are in relatively close contact with each other although personal space has expanded in light of the fears that abound. But good hygiene has always been a mantra here even if trainers, at times, fail to hew closely to the party line.
By way of summary, let me share what STEPS has been doing to keep you safe as possible while improving your fitness.
- We have always had a plethora of spray bottles with a cleaning solution that trainers can use to clean a vinyl surface or rubber handle. For each of the 9 sections of the gym there are at least 2 and in some cases 4 of these bottles of Simple Green.
- We have always had hand sanitizer pumps around the gym but have added several more when this contagion began.
- Our cleaning staff has always tried to ensure the floors, mirrors and locker rooms are as clean as possible but now they are going around the gym with a 50% bleach solution and wiping down handles on cardio and resistance machines.
- And we’ve added spray bottles with 100% isopropyl alcohol – not the 60% solution that’s recommended – so that clients and trainers can spray their hands every so often and allow them to air dry. This has been recommended as the single best artificial means of disinfecting after washing hands with soap and water frequently.
- And with all these cleansing products around, we’ve placed hand lotion bottles around so that your skin doesn’t crack and provide entry for viruses.
Now, however, since Nashville’s Mayor Cooper has closed exercise facilities and imposed a ‘shelter-in-place’ order, it’s a brand new ballgame. I am conflicted between health and fitness vs disease management. We want folks to get and stay fit, and sedentariness, especially in isolation, is dangerous in the long term. But we are a health-based facility, and that comes first.
So if you wish to continue some version of training, STEPS trainers are offering their services virtually, by phone or computer, with live sessions in the comfort of your home.
Furthermore, go to YouTube and type “Dr Irv’s Perfect exercise minute” in the search bar for a compilation of exercises you can do at home with minimal equipment, and create your own program.
And when the time is right, we’ll be here in the gym, with protective cleanliness all around you.