March 25, 2020
As a health care executive, I'm smack in the middle of an all-out, seven-days-a-week battle with moment-to-moment developments. I'm washing my hands at every turn and using my elbow to greet colleagues and press elevator buttons. Writing this article is one of my few respites, although I keep an eye on the clock so as not to expend too much time.
Such is life in the course of the coronavirus pandemic; difficult, daunting and disturbing, but never disheartening.
Beneath the plight that's engulfed our nation, our region, my hospital and my family, I'm sensing an extraordinary level of grit. There's a human bond, perhaps born from a common enemy, but equally, I believe, from an element of humanity that lies within us all despite the cynicism and ugliness that has penetrated our culture.
The disruption of life as we know it can spur a deeper perspective on what’s important, and inspire us to find ways to cope. For those like me who were shaken by the thought of the gym closing, I believe that advice centered on our health and wellbeing are among the leading examples of American adaptation to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus.
Closures of gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, and other exercise venues have certainly put a cramp in our workout routines. The good news is that the internet is flooded with social distancing alternatives that provide home-based options, whatever your choice. Planet Fitness (my gym) is offering free, at-home workout classes via livestream to anyone, even non-members.
Medical experts have cleared running outdoors, so long as you maintain your distance from others. The National Recreation and Park Association recommends that you don’t use parks or trails if you’re showing symptoms, practice good hygiene and observe the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from another person.
Building on the NRPA recommendations, others have stressed the need to stay active during what could be a prolonged period at home. According to Lee Murphy, a senior lecturer on nutrition at the University of Tennessee who is a registered dietitian and certified fitness professional, "It’s super important to not forget physical activity because sedentary activities will be increasing."
A number of people I’ve talked to sing the praises of burpees as a great workout that doesn’t require a gym or any special equipment. The combination of jumping jack and push-up (there are various versions of it) can really get your heart rate up and give you the good sweat you’re looking for. Certified personal trainer Bryan Goldberg recommends starting with a set of burpees that will be challenging but doable based on your fitness level, suggesting that five to 10 is a good starting point. Follow that up with the same number of push-ups, squats and mountain climbers and repeat several times for an easy, total body workout, says Goldberg.
While I miss my gym and the equipment, I’ve been able to maintain my pre-workout stretching followed by my run. After the run, I typically do some push-ups, burpees and then a plank to work my abs. As soon as I get a chance to check out some videos, I plan on expanding my portfolio. Since creating a new routine takes time, give yourself reasonable leeway to build up your new home-based program.
Sticking with your workout – albeit a variation on your norm – is a great way to stay healthy and cope with the stress of the pandemic. But what about your social connections, and the balance and motivation they provide to our lifestyles? Regular readers know the importance I place on our social relationships as a cornerstone of inspiration for healthy behavior.
According to the American Psychological Association, maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. You can maintain these connections without increasing your risk of getting the virus by talking on the phone, texting or chatting with people on social media.
Fortunately, the same technology that enables us to partake in virtual workouts also provides a wide range of communication for social engagement. Platforms like Webex, Skype and Zoom, while often used in business, can also serve social needs. Common social platforms like Facebook and Instagram take on added importance during these stressful times.
I’m just happy that I can listen to the news when I run because my park has public Wi-Fi. Yes, it’s the little things that count the most. They help us sustain our sense of normalcy when our world is anything but routine. Find your new normal, and your health and well-being will follow.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."