The Physical and Mental Survival Guide
COVID-19 is a serious thing. An official pandemic, as of this writing there have been travel bans, quaritines, general unease and light to not-so-light panic. It’s a strange time.. With uncertainty looming, inexorable and incalculable health and economic costs.
I’m not here to offer medical advice. There are plenty of excellent sources out there and I can only echo the appeals of the health authorities; Don’t panic but stay vigilant – do your part to keep yourself, your family, your community and your world safe. I have posted a selection of articles and resources which I’ve found to be the most helpful/insightful to date.
I also want to emphasize that while this is a global issue, this will impact you in a different way depending on where you live, your family and economic situation. Do the very best you can with what you have. Tweak the advice to your specific situation.
With medically preventative measures covered (keep washing your hands, stop touching your face (why is this so freaking hard?!) and keep social distance) I’m here to help you thrive from a fitness and health perspective. To galvanize you towards keeping yourself on track throughout this time of uncertainty.
A healthy mindset is the very first and perpetually most important entity – regardless of what is going on with the world. In essence, if you already have solid wiring for health-enhancing behaviors, it is simply easier and more intuitive to find ways to stay healthy. Regardless, this might be a perfect time to establish/re-establish some of those healthy habits. Here are some mindsets to adopt/continue during this time.
I start here as this transcends the realms of fitness and health. As people panic-buy and others try and gain financially through “retail arbitrage” (clearing shelves of items such as sanitizer, toilet paper and soap and jacking up the price in a resale market), I’m inviting you to buy only what you need and help others who are elderly, incapacitated or otherwise lack resources. Check on your neighbors, community and if you can lend a hand in even a small way, consider doing so.
I believe in practicing gratitude and as many of us become inconvenienced and suffer some financial losses, this is a perfect time to take stock of what you DO have. If you are reading this blog, it is safe to assume you have a roof over your head, access to clean water and you can access food and other necessities (with the exception of toilet paper).
Control what you can control
This is about doing what YOU can do to stay healthy, fit and fulfilled. Pandemic situations force certain constraints and limitations. Now, more than usual it is imperative to look at what you CAN control. And there are still a great deal of things you have agency over.
- You CAN continue to pursue health goals
- You CAN keep your immune system as health as possible by staying active, eating healthfully and getting adequate sleep.
- Practice vigilant hand-washing, personal hygiene and disinfecting.
- Get out into more isolated space to move
- Bike ride
- Use the space you live in for home workouts
- Cook healthy food
- Engage in personal growth and development
Progress/Adaptation/Opportunity state of mind
An internal locus of control is important and goes hand in hand with a mindset of progress/adaptation. Your continued results will hinge on your ability to adapt to the current situation. This is yet another curveball that life inevitably will throw at you. This may take a bit of reframing and work-around but this mentality is crucial.
You still GET to workout
You still CAN go to a grocery store and pick up healthy food.
Your situation IS stressful but you know that keeping active and taking care of your health WILL reduce your overall stress
You have OPPORTUNITIES to spend more time at home – either with loved ones or with your own thoughts/creativity.
You have an OPPORTUNITY to shape your home environment in such a way that you create a space to thrive in.
Being inside does NOT have to = “hibernation”. Do everything you can to quell your brain’s nudging towards a “woohoo Dorito’s and Netflix” mentality.
Enjoying your immediate people/surroundings
Regardless of your living/family situation, this is a perfect opportunity to either draw closer to the ones you love and/or explore your own passions you’ve been neglecting due to always being on the go. How often do we catch ourselves complaining about being so busy and all over the place? Right now we have a situation where life is forcing us to slow down. Don’t forget to fill your physical and emotional space with people, pets or projects you love.
Do whatever you can NOT let this time be dominated by electronics. Play board games, active games, do artwork, have a dance party. If you have young ones, set up an indoor camping situation (or an outdoor, backyard one if you are in a warm climate).
Now that you have a bulletproof mindset of agency, progress and productivity, let’s hammer out the specifics.
Situations vary here and are prone to changes. I’ve seen the grocery store situation change drastically in just the past 3 days – going from shelves being wiped clean of toilet paper and sanitary products to some stores being barren of produce and non-perishables. Depending on where you live your access and situation may vary but I will remind you of an earlier note – control what you can control.
On a basics front, keep your kitchen food inventory as well stocked as possible. You may find yourself making more trips than usual to replenish certain things that are out of stock. The following is a guide for general kitchen inventory but during this time, ensure you are picking up frozen fruits/veggies as well as some non-perishable canned goods (but don’t clear entire shelves out like a jackass).
During this time, I’m going to suggest something radical. Don’t buy ANY empty calorie foods (I know, put the pitchfork down and let me explain). The home environment is the easiest of environments to control. Why not take advantage of a more controlled environment by not having immediate access to less healthy snacks? Again opportunity mindset: This may be the ideal chance to see if you can dissociate screen entertainment from unhealthy snacking. This is the time to create new associations, new wiring and new habits.
Take this opportunity to engage the family in meal preparation, sit-down dinners together and trying new recipes.
If grocery delivery is an option, give this a go. Depending on where you live there may be a backlog with delivery service. Ensure you are ordering a week in advance whenever possible.
At this point if you are a member at a gym or take part in group classes or personal training out of a studio, there’s a good chance your facility might be closed down. Even if your commercial gym ISN’T closed, going to a crowded gym right now may not be warranted. But have no fear, you CAN still workout. Right in the comfort of your own home or in the safety of a nearby (non-crowded) park.
If you have a home gym – amazing!
If you have minimal equipment – we can work with that.
No equipment? We can work with that too.
If you CAN make a trip out to a fitness equipment store, no need to spend large sums on iron. Just grab a higher resistance band with handles, maybe a loop band, maybe a couple of dumbbells.
There’s a lot you can do with just body weight and a band that costs under $20. For a DIY program just try and hit all major movements:
- Up and down (as in squats/lunges/step-ups)
- Hinging (as in deadlift or kettlebell swing)
- Anti-rotation/rotation/core stability
You could easily break this into a single bigger workout, a 2-day, full body split or a 2-day body part split. But in essence here is an example of a 2-day full body split with only a band as additional equipment;
- Single arm band rows
- Stationary Lunges
- Side plank
- Single leg Romanian deadlifts
- Single arm wide grip band rows
- Single arm band shoulder press
- Side lunges
- Single leg hip bridge
Do 12-20 repetitions of each. 1-3 sets. 30-60 seconds on plank variations.
Here’s a video of a 6 minute workout possibility I created a couple of years ago.
Try and do some form of resistance training DAILY. For conditioning, running on the spot, burpees (sorry), speed skaters and jump squats will all do the trick to raise your heart rate.
Do get out as much as humanly possible in fields, trails and open parks. If you monitor your steps try and get at least 8,000 steps each day. Keep playing.
COVID-19 will affect all of us in some way. It’s hard to not get stressed out about the uncertainty of it all. Be sure you have a good support system. Draw closer to family, friends and those who matter most to you. This is the key to fulfilment regardless of circumstances. Practice mindfulness, prayer, meditation or other mind/body practices such as Yoga. Taking active steps towards keeping yourself as healthy as possible through not only proper nutrition and exercise but also through solid sleep and stress relief will go a long way.
When it comes to stress try and remember that stress itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but how we react to that stress can be. If we believe that stress is inherently bad, it will affect us negatively. If we view stress as a normal part of life and can frame it as a signal that something isn’t right and you are being prepared for action. Kelly McGonigal did a great TED talk on this.
Find support groups, find ways to help out your fellow human if you can. Use the downtime to have conversations, call someone, journal or read something uplifting.
And when all else fails..
Have a Good Laugh
Here are 20 of the funniest memes I’ve seen in the wake of COVID-19. Have a good laugh.
Read a Good Book
My Favorite Reads of 2019
As with previous years, this list is again largely in the categories of “Entrepreneurship/philosophy/human behavior/psychology”.
- Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: Lori Gottlieb
- The Coddling Of The American Mind: Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff
- This I Know: Terry O’Reilly
- Stillness Is The Key: Ryan Holliday
- Indistractable: Nir Eyal
- The Laws of Human Nature: Robert Greene
- The Formula: Albert-Lasszlo Barabasi
- Loonshots: Safi Bahcall
- Talking To Strangers: Malcolm Gladwell
- Everything’s Fucked: Mark Manson
How To Be Better At Almost Everything: Pat Flynn
Deep Work: Cal Newport
Digital Minimalism: Cal Newport
And if you haven’t had a chance I will plug my own book: Lean Minded: 50 Days to Mind and Body Transformation
Catch up on Film
Here are my top films of 2019.
Note: I have not seen “1917”, “Knives out”, “The Irishmen”, “Richard Jewel” or “Bombshell”.
- Jojo Rabbit: Riotous, sweet and richly immersive. Brilliant acting and Taika Waititi is a Kiwi blend of Wes Anderson and David Leitch.
- Parasite: Riveting, intense, abstract and beautifully shot. This could easily be the best film of the year. Could be best picture and best foreign film.
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: One of Tarantino’s best in a pretty long line of mostly game-changing films. A 3 hour film that didn’t feel long. Best ensemble cast of the year. The absolute beauty in which he captured that era was unparalleled – the sets, the frames, the clothing, the cars and the music – the freaking MUSIC.
- Joker: Disturbingly wonderful. Joaquin Phoenix is the best portrayal of the Joker. The mannerisms and subtleties – the depiction of madness.. As origin stories go, Phillips put a lot of artistry behind the macabre.
- Hors Normes (The Specials): Sweet, compelling, heart-rendering French film about 2 men who care for a group of severely autistic children.
- Booksmart: Olivia Wilde is a name to watch for in direction. An artistically rich hybrid of coming of age/late night comedy. All the endearment of “Ladybird” with what every Rebel Wilson/Bridesmaids clone could never quite reach. Wilde managed to take a somewhat clichéd storyline and transform it into a “Ghost World-esque” level of brilliance. All to the backdrop of an outstanding soundtrack.
- Us: Jordan Peele has a beautiful brain. This one left me reeling and rented space in my head for many days after.
- Brittany Runs a Marathon: A heartwarming and uproarious real life look at the layers of human struggle, resilience and hope. A nicely crafted memoir of finding identity, the influence of friends and healing. Jillian Bell is magic in this role. Think Amy Schumer but funny.
- Dolor Y Gloria (Pain and Glory): Almodovar is one of my all time favorite directors. The pace is a bit of crawl but the subtlety of the various scenes underscore why he is such a brilliant director. Antonio Banderas’ best role.
- Avengers: Endgame: As CGI-laden, superhero films go, they wrapped this one up in the best way possible. Was neither legendary, nor emotionally charged – just a fantastic action flick.
Marriage Story – was very good but Baumbach tends to leave me wanting just a little bit more.
Spiderman: Far from home – This was surprisingly excellent. Probably as good as Avengers: Endgame.
Between 2 Ferns – Funniest movie of the year.
If you take one thing from this article let it be this: Control what you CAN control. Give yourself, your neighbors, your community the best chance to fight this thing. Stay vigilant, take precautions but take the time to better yourself. Also, take this time to unite as a community and as a member of the human race. Be part of the reason people restore their faith in humanity.
I’m here if you need anything. Whether home workout tips, nutrition strategies or just to say hi.
Helpful/Insightful COVID-19 Articles: