As I am writing this, we are working on Day 63 of this coronavirus quarantine with no clear picture of (the new) normal in sight.
In those 63 days, we have celebrated Easter and Mother’s Day as a nation. I’ve had a birthday and my family has also suffered a deep loss as my mother passed away from COVID on April 29th. The year 2020 will most definitely be one we will never forget as proms, concerts, sporting events, graduations, and so much more have been postponed or cancelled. States have started slowly opening up – phase one in North Carolina officially started on May 8th. This article isn’t about what states should be doing, whether we should or should not wear masks, or if gyms should be open or not. There is no hidden agenda here or political stance. So, just keep reading…
What We Can Control
There are so many things outside of our control now. Let’s be honest, it’s always that way, even if we try to fool ourselves into believing we are in control. The one way you can get through this without losing your sanity is to focus on all the things you can control – and if you are a believer like me, give the rest to God.
- Scheduling Time and Proper Planning
- Mental Health Practices
- Staying Engaged with Family and Friends
Scheduling Time and Proper Planning
Just remember the 6 P’s: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
I wrote an article a few weeks back about bettering yourself during this quarantine. There are a lot of things I have been working on both personally and professionally. It has been interesting – with a learning curve to be sure. It’s hard to remember what day it is sometimes! It has only been the last two or three weeks that I have really been able to dial it in and become efficient with my time.
What I have found is I need to write it down and not put it on my calendar in my phone. I have a sheet of paper where I write down everything I want to accomplish that day in a numbered fashion. As I complete a task, I mark it off the list. I write everything down! This includes my personal time of reading and my training. In order for this to be successful, you have to prepare in advance. On Sunday, I sit down and look at what I have that needs to get done for the week. This includes programming due that week for athletes, coaching obligations, podcasting, checking emails, writing articles, etc.
I then look at what I would like to accomplish that week and put it on lighter days when I might not have certain commitments. This includes professional development like watching roundtables, reading articles, or doing continuing education courses. I also have to look at things like making a run to the store or post office, getting Morgan’s school assignments ready each week, and any other item that might come up.
Here is an example of a common weekday.
- Fasted cardio (I try to do this three to five times a week)
- Read for 20 minutes (something spiritual or uplifting and not related to my profession)
- Online athlete video analysis
- Check emails
- Write programs for ‘x’ number of clients that day (I try to string those out over a few days depending on how many I have to write that week)
- Zoom practice with team (Travis and I do MWF team practice)
- Finish article
- **Transcripts and VA (as I am going back to get a second degree this fall – more to come in another article)
- Strength training (I still have a meet in 17 weeks!)
- Shoot videos for Mash Elite Exercise Library
- Professional development for 30 minutes
Some of those items are recurring and others are obviously one or two times depending. I was finding if I didn’t write down at the beginning of the week what I needed to accomplish on a daily basis, I would get to Sunday and have to work all day finishing up programs. That’s no fun! Keeping a schedule and planning in advance has helped to keep my stress level down and made me a lot more productive. Try writing everything down, including your personal time, and see how it works for you!
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If there was any time you have control over what you put in your mouth, it is now. This is the time to start forming better habits. Everything has slowed down and people are spending a lot more time at home. This means you can cook more and be mindful of what you are eating. If for no other reason – nutrition has an impact on your immunity. What you put into your body matters.
Protein is important for healing and recovery. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with immunity boosting properties. Beta carotene is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin C is found in red peppers, oranges, strawberries, mangoes, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E is found in spinach and broccoli as well as in nuts and seeds. Others to note are vitamin D (which is found in milk products and fortified cereals), and zinc 9which is found in nuts, pumpkins seeds, lentils, and beans). If you find you don’t eat a lot of these types of foods, you should seriously consider adding them to your meals. Or at the very least, start taking a good multivitamin and greens supplement.
Your body needs a minimum amount of calories for it to function with involuntary actions such as breathing, hormone production, etc. Add in any activity to include any type of movement and the body’s requirement increases. It is important for you to make sure you are getting enough calories every day. According to Scientific American, when you are sick, your body needs even more calories, saying “Fever is part of the immune system’s attempt to beat the bugs. It raises body temperature, which increases metabolism and results in more calories burned; for each degree of temperature rise, the energy demand increases further.” Staying hydrated by drinking water is also important and a natural way to boost immunity.
This pandemic is affecting people in different ways. For some, life has slowed down and gotten better. For others, it has been destructive mentally and financially. Wherever you are on this spectrum, take time to give yourself grace on a daily basis. With or without a pandemic, moderation is your best bet at sustainability when it comes to your eating habits. Guilt has no place here if you don’t eat healthy 100% of the time. I just want you to be aware of the benefits of eating healthy and make decisions based on information. More times than not, make healthy choices.
It was crazy how long it took me to get on a sleep schedule when this quarantine first started. When your daily routine gets distorted and obsolete, it takes some time to adjust. Sleep is important for so many reasons. Sleep can affect your overall quality of life!
This is the time when the body repairs, growth hormone is released, and the body is relaxed. The brain stays active while we sleep, so much so it is thought sleep plays a role in removing toxins from the brain that we build up while awake. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.” Needless to say, getting a good night’s sleep as often as possible is essential! Some strategies to providing an environment conducive to a good night’s sleep according to The Sleep Foundation are:
- Have a sleep schedule seven days a week. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. This allows your body to regulate.
- Have a bedtime ritual that helps you relax.
- If you are a napper and find it hard to fall asleep at night, remove those naps for a week and see if it helps.
- Exercise daily!
- Take a look at the room you sleep in. Make sure the room is at a proper temperature and not too hot (ideally 60-67 degrees). Make sure the room is dark and distractions are minimal or not present.
- Consider reading an actual book before bed rather than using electronics or watching TV. This has a calming effect and you might find it easier to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and heavy meals close to bedtime. I would also avoid drinking any fluids close to bedtime as it can disrupt sleep having to go to the bathroom.
This is not an end-all be-all list. I would just recommend if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you might want to try to implement some or all of these strategies and see if it helps. As far how much uninterrupted sleep you should get a night, it varies. Studies show teens and children need more sleep than adults, and the average adult thrives best on seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.
For the sake of this article, I’m not talking about clinical diagnoses or medication. That is way beyond my area of expertise. I am simply talking about strategies you can use on a daily basis to put you in a right frame of mind. There is so much going on right now and it is scary. Learning how to cope with the daily stresses of the unknown by using some simple tools can go a long way. I reached out to our good friend Gabriel Villarreal, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and we had a great chat about some strategies. I told him what I have been doing each morning and he put a name to it. Here are the four things he gave me to do:
- Practice mindfulness. This just means anything done in a particular way in the present moment, on purpose. This is something I have started doing each morning. I wake up, shower, come downstairs, and make a cup of coffee. As the weather is warming up, I take a book outside, set a timer for 20 minutes, and focus only on reading for that time. I am finishing up week two of this and it has been a game changer for my mental health. I look forward to it every morning. I just finished the first book, Shaken by Tim Tebow, and I highly recommend it. I started a new book this morning, F*ck Your Feelings by Ryan Munsey. I will let you know how it is when I finish. This 20 minutes in the morning will be filled with books for my own personal development. I have allotted time later in the day to work of professional development.
- Focus only on what is three feet in front of you. Rock climbers do this. They call it “three-feet world.” While climbing, they don’t look at the big picture of getting to the top. Instead, they focus on the steps immediately in front of them. As they move forward, they shift focus onto the next obstacle as they make their way to the top. Morgan and I used to do this when Wayne would deploy. Instead of looking at the entire year and how long it was, we would break it up into segments. This could be holidays or special days coming up or trips we had planned. It helped, especially with a young child, to focus on something much closer, get through it, and then shift our focus to the next thing coming up. This is definitely helpful in times like this to not look so far ahead, but to focus on the more immediate.
- Read the Serenity Prayer often, realizing we are not in control and being ok with it and finding peace.
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”
- Control your breathing. Mark Divine, creator of SealFit, sums it up nicely. “Awareness of our breath, and control of it, is the best tool to bring initial control over our mind. Breath control will bring a present moment awareness absent of fear or future unknowns. We are just present when we practice breath control, and our minds begin to focus and able to tap into greater energy.”
Learning to utilize one or all of these tools on a daily basis will have a huge impact on your mental health as we all continue to find our way through this pandemic.
Exercise has major benefits during a time like this (and all the time). For one, moderate intensity exercise has been associated with improved immune function. Exercise also plays a part of the reduction of stress and anxiety!
Unfortunately, gyms are still closed in a lot of areas. Don’t use that as an excuse not to get or stay active. For competitive athletes such as weightlifters and powerlifters, not having access to gym equipment will have negative effects on them in relation to their specific sport. Frequency of the competition movements is crucial to get better in their sport, but they can still find benefit in daily physical activity until they can return to the gym. We have created some programs through our bronze level for just this purpose. Here is what the American College of Sports Medicine recommends:
Two and a half to five hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.
- Walk, run, bike, or row
- Circuit training with bodyweight movements
- Gardening or yard work
Two sessions per week minimum of resistance training.
- For those with equipment, hit the weights!
- Bands, backpacks, suitcases, and isometric holds are great when you have minimal equipment.
The way you can train in this moment might not be your ideal way to train, nor will it help you reach specific goals if you are a competitor. I know that is tough. Just realize there is still so much benefit to your physical and mental health when you move daily!
MAXIMIZE YOUR STRENGTH...
EVEN WITHOUT EQUIPMENT
These new programs from Coach Travis Mash are designed to strategically and creatively make the best use of limited equipment (or even no equipment). These programs aren't just generic bodyweight exercises - these are programs specifically geared toward the strength needs of weightlifters, powerlifters, or field athletes.
Staying Engaged With Family and Friends
I definitely think this ties in closely with mental health as well. This holds especially true for people who live alone. While I love my family dearly and we have enjoyed having this time together, I get excited to interact with people outside of my nuclear family. I equate this to a new stay-at-home mom who craves adult conversation. We are social human beings and social distancing is the opposite of that. Zoom calls, FaceTime, etc are not the same as an in person interaction, but it can do a person good! I love coaching our athletes in person so much more, but there is something to be said seeing their faces three days a week even if it is through a computer screen!
What I want you to take away from this article is to focus on the things you can control. Believe me, I know it is easier said than done. This pandemic has affected people in different ways, some positive and some negative. There are those who have lost jobs, lost family members, and are having a rough time. I empathize with you, especially losing a family member. My hope is that if you will implement self care into your daily routine by using the strategies and activities discussed in this article, you will come out of this a healthier and more resilient you.
About Crystal: Crystal is Travis’ right hand person! She is a USA Weightlifting National Coach and holds her NSCA – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification. She is an RN with a Masters degree in Nurse Education. She also holds multiple other certifications to include CFL2, USATF, Precision Nutrition, and Flex Diet. She is also an international elite ranked powerlifter.