The restrictions are lifting. People can go to restaurants again. Even to the movies (I haven’t seen it yet but from everything I’m hearing, “In the Heights” is a must!). And you guys can start playing sports and dancing and…
Wait, what? You can’t run or floss? But I heard the rules were all…
All around me, I’m seeing person after person in physical pain. Not just old folks, or even middle-aged. I’m talking about teenagers with back problems, and children who need to lose the fifteen pounds they put on during lockdown.
This pandemic didn’t just hurt the health of those who caught the virus. It has resulted in a world of severely out-of-shape folks. In fact, from what I can see, it’s only the wealthy few who are still looking “Hollywood-Fit,” what with gym equipment in their homes or biking in mountains. But for the rest of you guys? It’s time for some help!
Oh, but wait – there’s another bunch who also look as fit as in 2019. Animals! The dogs and cats and antelopes lemurs all look just fine! Why is that?
Well, because our lifestyles didn’t change all that much. In fact, a lot of us pets found the lockdowns meant we got more walks and fun-time with our humans than before. But even those who didn’t have that luck are doing fine.
So what can we teach you guys about how to regain your fitness? Here are a few suggestions:
- Shift Positions
I’ve told you about my friend Aria, who suffered a lot before getting a great home, but still has to work to trust others the way I do? One other difference between us is that she is a better hunter than I. You see, I run around the yard, finding squirrels, birds, whatever, and barking at them while I chase them. She’s cooler than that. She finds a place to lie down and make herself almost invisible. And then she waits, still. For hours. Doesn’t worry about birds or lizards. And only jumps up when a squirrel comes close, and then explodes in speed after it. And so she catches them a lot more than I do!
But while she’s waiting, she still moves – just a very little. She’ll lie in one position for a half-hour or so, and then, making sure no one sees her, she’ll shift – maybe lie on her other side, or sit up a bit – just enough to change the way her body’s weight is held. This keeps her able to bounce up when she wants to.
But most of the humans I’ve seen have spent the last year doing all their work in front of a computer, seated in the same chair. And then, for entertainment… watched movies or shows or played games… in the same chair, on the same computer! And now you’re wondering why your spines are trashed? NOTHING in nature lives that way! And you’re not supposed to!
Whatever your job or interest is, don’t stay in one position. Move around. If you have to stay in front of a computer, have that chair, and also a ball you can sit on, and even stand for part of the day too. And if you don’t have to stay in one place, move around a lot. Keep your body in motion as much as you can.
Aria may be still for nine-tenths of the day, but her figure is perfect and she has no muscle aches. Be like her, at the least!
- Stretch More
You know what else you see us dogs, and cats, do all day? STRETCH! If you like doing yoga, that’s of course wonderful – and I wish I could get into some of those cooler positions I see yogis do! – but even if you’re not, stretch a LOT! Try to touch your toes, or even better, sit on the ground with your back against a wall and try to stretch your legs out. Bend to the side, bend back, pull your feet up behind you to stretch the fronts of your legs… all this is so good! Not just in the morning either – do it a few times every day. (And this doesn’t stop – I recommend this one till the day you come to meet us all in the great beyond!)
- Make Time
One big problem I saw before the pandemic was everyone being so stressed out and pushed for time. “I can’t talk, I’ll be late for work,” or “I can’t think about that, I have too much on my mind.” Or my biggest irritant, “I can’t walk you today, Shirelle, I have too many emails to respond to.”
Well if you want to know what takes a lot of time, try having a damaged back, or bad knees, from lack of fitness. Or a weak heart from lack of cardio exercise.
You HAVE the time. The problem is priorities. What CAN you give up to make sure you have a half-hour (or more) every day to take care of your body? Nothing is actually more important.
And here’s the funny part. Once you start taking care of yourself, you’ll find you have more energy and alertness, so your work goes more efficiently. And you’ll sleep better (more about that later). So making time for exercise will actually GIVE you time, over time!
- Choose Exercise You Enjoy
And here’s another area where we dogs are SO much smarter than you people! I don’t run around barking at every passing dog because I’m afraid they’re going to break through our fence and attack Handsome! And Aria doesn’t chase squirrels because she’s starving! We do these because they’re FUN!
If you’ve found that, over the past year, you’ve been miserable attending classes on Zoom, and then doing online homework, but then sooo happy to play Minecraft for hours, what’s the difference? Your Enjoyment! Right?
So why do I see people spending all their exercise time on things they hate – Sit-Ups or Weights or whatever? While others are joyously keeping just as fit by swimming or playing golf or… Hello?!… walking their dogs! And if there’s nothing that really suits you that makes you sweat? Then find the way to make it fun. Go to a gym that has stationary bikes in front of a television, while there’s a show you like on. Or listen to a podcast you love while running.
My goal is for you to find something you enjoy so much that you look forward to it all day. Or perhaps that you love the way you feel afterwards so much that you bounce out of bed in the morning so you can get to it and feel great as your day begins.
Whatever it is, from the moment puppies and kittens and babies are born, we all love to play, using our bodies. Find that in yourself again, however works for you.
- Find Other Sweetness
You want to know who’s done well in the pandemic? Sure everyone talks about Zoom and Netflix and such. But I’ll bet you the sugar producers have had their best year ever too! Everyone seems to have had a sweeter and sweeter diet, with more and more snacking. And guess what excess sugar does to you – besides rotting your teeth and possibly causing diabetes? It inflames your muscles and ligaments! Yes, that pain you’re in isn’t just because your spine is shrinking and you can’t sit up anymore. It’s also because parts of you that are working well simply hurt now! So start cutting back on that candy and those soft drinks, and you’ll find things improve right away
- Lose the Pandemic Diet
“Wait,” you say. “Didn’t she just talk about eating?” Sure I did, but only about sweets. Your next job is to change the bad eating habits you fell into during the lockdown. Maybe before this, you used to have three meals a day and one afternoon snack. I’m betting that changed! Now there’s a morning snack and three afternoon ones and then a couple after supper? Right?
Funny, we dogs didn’t get that change! We’re still eating the way we did before the lockdown (well, with maybe a few extra treats since you’re around us more). And so we’re looking fine, while you have to lose your new tummies!
Maybe you’ve been able to keep a healthy food regimen through this time, but even if so, now it’s time to cut back on the snacks. And if your food has also gotten junkier, then it’s definitely time to improve that.
And one more note on that: Worldwide, one of the biggest effects of the lockdown has been people increasing their amount of mind-altering substances. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, anything like this. I’m not going to tell you whether or not you need to stop them completely (though I have an enormous respect for anyone who does), but if you’re using them more than you were a year and a half ago, your FIRST JOB is to cut way back on them now! You’ve probably built up tolerance for them, which means that using enough to feel good is now being rougher on your liver and lungs than before. And the police who arrest people for their blood-alcohol content don’t care a bit about the fact that you can tolerate more than you could two years ago.
So cut back on all. And life will get better and better and better. I guarantee it!
- Keep the Sleep
My final recommendation isn’t about changing back to the way you were before the lockdown. It’s the opposite.
Sleep deprivation used to be one of our greatest health problems. But during the pandemic, everyone started sleeping in more. Don’t need to drive the kids to school in the morning? Great, that’s a half hour! Don’t need to go to work yourself, or even dress up for it? Greater, that’s another hour! Can take a nap in the afternoon because school ended early? Heaven!
So while everybody got a little shorter and a little chubbier, they also started sleeping as much as they needed for the first time in decades!
Once again, I’ll say – look to your pets. We sleep through the night with you, but also take lots of naps through the day. What can you do to help yourself keep sleeping enough? Can you give yourself a nap? Can you turn off your electronics at a decent hour to make up for having to get up earlier again?
And if you remember, I pointed out earlier that getting exercise will help you sleep better. You know what else will? Changing positions, stretching, exercising, eating less junk, and especially reducing mind-altering substances. In other words, everything I talked about here!
So maybe you’ll find that you can still sleep enough, while sleeping a little bit less! But it’s the “enough” that matters to me. And will, in the long run, matter to you.
Maybe some of these suggestions aren’t what you need right now. But I’m betting that, as life begins to get social and crowded again, some of these will help you.
But really, all I’m suggesting is that you do what you need so that this next year can be the happiest of your life.
Because you guys have earned it!!!