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Don't wait for the pandemic to end to get started on living your best life

Don't wait for the pandemic to end to get started on living your best life

By Charlie Engle, Ultra-marathoner & Go Condition Ambassador

I’m not being political when I make the observation that the over-riding themes of the response to the global pandemic has been two-fold; 

  1. Kick the can down the road and hope that it resolves itself and that we can pay back the debts we incur in the process.
  2. Deny the effect/ effectiveness of personal intervention and responsibility.

Neither approach augurs well. While none of us is at fault for the pandemic, we all have a responsibility to prepare ourselves for its effects. Both financial and physical. I’ll leave the financial to the accountants and stick to the physical…which I know more about.

What is right approach to personally confronting the pandemic?

I think in this regard recovering addicts like me have a clear advantage over the general populace. We know to take not just one day at a time, but really one choice at a time and to focus on running the miles in front of us rather than replaying the miles behind and speculating about the miles that we may need to run tomorrow or the day after.

Reality says you can only run the miles that are in front of you today, so forget yesterday’s success or failure and let tomorrow worry for itself. 

What is my plan for today?

While there are still plenty of unknowns about the pandemic, we do at least have some pretty good indications on the best approach to dealing with Covid-19

  1. Don’t catch it (ideal but also not entirely in your control, although risk can clearly be minimized by social behavior, wearing of masks etc.)
  1. Be in the best shape you can be in the event you do catch the virus. (Entirely within your control)

The virus is of course essentially egalitarian…it wants everyone to catch it…and it will meet you where you are and treat you accordingly. If you are predisposed or weakened by prior conditions the virus will be merciless, as I have seen at first hand. 

If you are prepared, it will deem you a “bad host” and literally won’t “go viral” as a result of your encounter. This is where a public health crisis and personal responsibility meet head on and choose to either wrestle or dance. This is my personal three-step for dealing with Covid-19.

First Do No Harm.

The famous hippocratic oath is as relevant today as it has ever been. Hippocrates who was known as the “Father of Medicine” and is perhaps even more famous for saying “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. This quote, though thousands of years old, acknowledges the importance of healthy eating and how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties. I am convinced that one of the reasons the US has been hit so hard by the coronavirus is because our eating habits have exposed us to an even greater risk of inflammation and disease. Our nation’s extreme rate of obesity and excess weight literally has made us sitting ducks for the virus. 

I’ll spare you the polemic on how and why this has become the case (Big Food), but simply state that we as individuals need to adopt Michael Pollan’s Haiku “Eat Food. Not Much. Mostly Plants”.

This approach will ensure we have the nutrition our bodies are designed for and that they crave to build, grow, energize and recover from any and all of our activities, including warding off viruses and other threats.

Get Active. Outdoors. 

I use running and biking for meditation, relaxation, conditioning and to create the kind of intentional stress that my body will respond to positively. My diet fuels my activity and my activity sustains me mentally, emotionally and physically. 

The benefits of any exercise are of course well researched, documented and proven…but crucially I think exercising in the outdoors is manifestly superior to exercising indoors. Exercising outdoors invites unpredictability, cold, wet, wind, heat and sound and smells and the full engagement of every sense. For so much of our lives we have become conditioned to expect and demand comfort. Running, biking, hiking, swimming outdoors all throw out the illusion of comfort and control and train us to be alert, engaged and to forget ourselves, our cares and our comforts.

Yes, you’ll get bitten and stung occasionally, but you’ll feel alive and in touch with the earth and its wonders…plus you’ll get all the Vitamin D your immune system needs to be at its best should this or any other virus pay a visit.

Prioritize Sleep

For so much of my life sleep has had a bad name. No more. New research shows the benefits of sleep for all areas of your health, including immunity are irrefutable. The more I get, the better I feel. Sleep is the ultimate anti-inflammatory and recovery prescription.

When and how much?

Pretty much every big mistake I made in my life, I made after 9pm. In my experience nothing good happens after 9pm, unless you are in bed. You know it’s true. So make it your goal to be in bed when the clock has a 9 in it and commit to staying there until dawn wakes you. I guarantee you you’ll be getting most of what you need and you’ll arrive at the new day emboldened to make more of the right choices for your health and the health of those around you.

So, there you have it, eat foods without “best before” dates, exercise mindfully daily in the outdoors and get to bed by 9.

Good things will happen, and if bad things visit you’ll be well armed for the fight.