Since Covid-19 entered our lives I’ve kept a reasonably close eye on not only the science of it all, but also the psychology and sociology surrounding the situation. My observation is that our role as health enhancers has been marred by the collision of ideas, theories, half truths, mistruths and everything in between. Social media has been the butane amplifying the punditry, controversies and in the process diluting the science and getting the range of truth lost in the shuffle.
My industry seems especially vocal on this entire matter. And while this is admittedly an availability heuristic (I do have proportionately more fitness people in my circles), there is no shortage of greatly divergent opinions. Many of them… interesting.
There are two perspectives to the typical fitness contingent:
- The fit pro as a business owner
- The fit pro as an advocate for overall health and wellbeing.
The 2 are not mutually exclusive, of course. And let’s be real here – just about every fitness professional is affected by closures and restrictions to some capacity. Most of us have a vested interest in the policies and mandates handed down by our varying levels of government, which are directed by our medical advisors.
The first thing I will address here is this..
This situation SUCKS. No two ways about it.
I understand the fear, I understand the uncertainty, the frustration and I empathize with EVERYONE, in every walk of life whose lives are affected by the pandemic. I hear you, I see you and I feel it too. I also reflect on the fact that we are ALL prone to knee jerk reactions and shorthand abstractions when it comes to how we process times of uncertainty.
Unfortunately, these cognitive shortcuts are breeding grounds for conspiratorial ideation, magical thinking and what I would refer to as pseudo-rebellious attitudes.
Covid-19 and the Psychology of Belief
I will keep this brief as it is not meant to be the focal point of this post, however I want to address the cognitive inner workings that lead to this sort of thinking.
When times are uncertain we tend to grope for easier answers, explanations and yes, we need an enemy (or enemies).
We draw on our emotions as a means to process our worldview rather than rational arguments. Misconceptions are fueled by the messenger effect – which means that when it comes to message delivery, the messenGER can be as or more important than the message itself.
In keeping a close watch on the tsunami of fitness industry opinions, one thing has become clear: People who have adopted a narrative about Covid-19 are sticking to said narrative. And I will reiterate that I understand why. I’ve caught myself thinking what BS this pandemic is and “how dare they try and shut down my business” thought patterns. Again, this is scary stuff.
This is an unprecedented situation with no clear cut answers and I will go on record as saying I too question some of the decisions certain health authorities and governments have made when it comes to what can be open and what cannot be open. There is, however, a difference between questioning the details of certain policies and taking an overtly anti-science and selfish stance on the matter.
In other words, for the love of Pete don’t go full “Covidiot”.
How many times have you seen any variation of the following on social media?
“How many have died”
“Masks don’t work and they trap oxygen/don’t stop the virus”
“Numbers are exaggerated”
“99.7% survival rate”
“94% of deaths had comorbidities”
“70% of people who contract Covid were wearing masks”
“You’re living in fear”
“We need to do what Sweden is doing”
“It’s my right not to wear a mask”
“Open the economy”
“Mainstream media is hiding the truth”
If we were to play a drinking game where we did a shot every time someone posted some variation of the above I would have needed a new liver 6 months ago.
Please don’t be this person and please don’t give any credence to these misnomers, half-truths and context-free rhetorics. Our industry has enough credibility issues as it is, thank you very much.
The lesson here is think before you post. Fact check and source check. My opinion is such that fitness professionals should be evidence-based and it behooves us to act as such. It’s perfectly fine to have questions, have opinions and to be skeptical. You have skin in this game and your voice is an important one. Ultimately remember that your voice, your opinion and your shares carry weight. Do your best to think critically, source check and be open to being wrong on certain issues.
I fully admit to being a mask skeptic back in march. I changed my mind as evidence began to mount showing pretty overwhelmingly that masks help prevent spread. Being anti-mask right now is being anti-science.
How To Be Part Of The Solution
You are your clients’/followers’ health advocate first and foremost. Your primary concern should be to serve them – always – and especially during this time. Here are some of the roles you might be playing as coach:
- The go-to person for fitness and nutrition strategies: You may very well be the primary source of health-enhancing resources for your clients and followers. In a time where gyms may not be open or open in a limited capacity (and/or your clients/followers may not be comfortable going to a gym) you can provide guidance. Your circle may be stressed, stuck at home, anxiety-prone and a little wayward. They may need some strategies on better eating for their circumstances. Galvanize, encourage, inspire and empower your people to help them stay as healthy as possible during this time.
- Disseminator/Curator of information: Learn as much as you possibly can about Covid-19. Reading journals, seeking out medical opinions and sharing helpful and timely articles and other resources around the virus will help keep more people informed (don’t forget to fact check). Pay particular attention as to how your particular expertise can be applied. With all the controversy, contradictions and uncertainty, one thing almost universally agreed upon is this: keeping as healthy as possible will give people the best chance to prevent and fight a virus. Being fit is not a safeguard against Covid, but it is much better to be in a healthier state.
Don’t forget to stay in your lane! Unless you are also a legitimate medical professional (doctor or researcher), you and I (the fitness professionals) should not be considered an authority on a novel virus. Ever.
Put your time, energy and resources into helping guide people towards more movement and better food choices. THAT is your job. THAT is where your energy is best spent. THAT is how you can best help others. Here are some specifics on how you can help your clients and your audience.
- Create strategies on how your clients can manage their home environment so they can best leverage healthy habits
- Help with some healthy eating strategies including meal and snack ideas. (Perhaps some tips on alcohol consumption).
- Offer some home or otherwise minimalist workout tips that your audience can do from home or with minimal equipment.
- Post relevant, factual articles related to Covid-19 that your readership would find informative. This might include studies, tips & tricks or an informed opinion piece.
- Combat misinformation: Share legitimate-sourced pieces on some of the misconceptions around Covid-19.
- Be helpful
- Stay informed
- Stay in your lane
Above all else, offer to be there for your clients and extended audiences. And lastly, don’t forget to take good care of YOU.