Exercise and nutrition are some of the most important things you can be doing to help you in the fight against COVID.
With no vaccine, we have to begin to prepare our bodies to fight as well as continue to practice all the social distancing and mask-wearing.
Physical preparedness is only one addition to the game, but mentally preparing yourself is something that is often overlooked when designing a plan against COVID.
The time right now is challenging for everyone. Even some of the coolest people I know have done complete personality 180’s to who they were in March. Being stuck at home with so much uncertainty about if life is going to return to normal is weighing heavily on people in ways that we never expected. Staying at home is not suitable for our mental states and contributes to the feeling of loneliness, but one of the most powerful therapeutic methods is activity.
We all need an outlet, a place to be ourselves, to have a release, and honestly to be with others. The times in my life when I have felt the worst or the loneliest, exercise, and sports have always been there for me.
To me, being lonely doesn’t mean that you are by yourself; it means that you are missing something or need to fill a void, having a feeling of emptiness.
I feel that many people right now are missing something, and it shows. One of the main things that are linked to chronic disease is inflammation found throughout the body. The feeling of loneliness causes stress on the body in the form of cortisol. Higher cortisol levels are at the root of many chronic diseases. Studies show that you are six times more likely to be hospitalized by COVID and twelve times more likely to die from COVID with common chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
Having a supportive community like ours and a place to retreat to for stress relief and congregation is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. Exercise not only helps you fight stress, but it releases mood-boosting endorphins at the same time. Combining an excellent workout with a good group of people seems like a great way to take a step forward.
A good group of people is those who are going to push you to be better. A place like BWCF will allow you to have real interactions in a positive way, instead of the online negativity commonly found on social media. It can give you the social interactions that we are missing in real-time rather than becoming the digital Leonidas. Studies show that we millennials are projected to die sooner than our Gen X counterparts, and many believe that it could be from our lack of real socialization. Depression and anxiety are some common traits in my age group and are both ones that have been linked to loneliness.
Working on mental strength is something that takes practice and honestly is not something that many people want to recognize. CrossFit is a program that can help those who struggle with this to learn how not to. In some early journal articles from CrossFit, I remember reading about Cognitive Diffusion, which is defined as letting thoughts come and go rather than holding on to them.
Through an exercise program like CrossFit, one’s ability to develop this technique is worked daily. When your physical exertion rises where you are mainly using your phosphagen and glycolytic metabolic pathways, the response that you usually have is a negative one. Think doing a couple of sets of twenty-second sprints on the air bike followed by forty seconds of thrusters. A great workout but usually will be a little painful and often will trigger some negative thoughts, but with proper coaching and guidance, we can get through the workout. Thoughts of hopelessness or feelings of being overwhelmed are beaten, and a sort of cognitive restructuring happens. You learn that if I keep going, I will finish, I will get through this, and the feeling of finishing is the greatest reward.
The CDC now has a page dedicated to the warning of mental health from COVID and what to expect. Most people refer to them when talking about COVID, and I think this should be a red flag to us all when they have an entire page dedicated to it. We need our interactions, but we need to do them safely and follow the guidelines set in place. We are doing everything we can to provide that space for our members. We have asked everyone to follow the instructions set in place at our facility and have implemented even more rigorous cleaning methods to ensure our member’s safety. But still working out at a gym might be something that you are not ready for, and that is ok, but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse, not to workout.
You do not need to “feel like” working out to work out, and I know many of us are motivated by going to the gym, but if you do not want to go to the gym yet, you have to stay on plan and get moving. Many times in my life, when I haven’t felt like working out, I know that all I need to do get started. Once I am in the middle of a workout or a run, I am happy to be there, and re-energized, and motived. So instead of kicking off your shoes and getting on the couch after work, put on your workout shoes and hit the road for a good sweat. Let the negative thoughts come and go, and stay on plan. (Cognitive Diffusion) If you need workout ideas, hit me up!
Fitness is more than just a way to build strength in your body, but it builds your mind as well. A challenging program like CrossFit will develop your mental fortitude more than you could ever expect; it most certainly has for me. But if you find the right place like BWCF, I promise you won’t feel lonely for long.
Lind E, Welch AS, and Ekkekakis P. Do “mind over muscle” strategies work? Examining the effects of attentional association and dissociation on exertional, affective and physiological responses to exercise. Sports Med., 39(9): 743-764, 2009.
Vecchiet L, Vecchiet J, Bellomo R, and Giamberardino, MA. Muscle pain from physical exercise. Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, 7(1): 43-53, 1999.