Connolly: How I’m using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to nourish my body and mind
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part column from Rod Connolly, exercise physiologist and owner of Dogma Athletic in Edwards. He discusses ways he will be holding himself to the highest health and wellness standards and invites readers to join him, formally or informally, in any way they feel comfortable.
These are uncertain times. Most of us have never experienced a pandemic or crisis that has disrupted our lives like the COVID-19 situation. Uncertainty leads to anxiety. Chronic anxiety leads to fear. Fear leads to poor decisions.
What if during this time you take a pause: you take stock of what is most important to you. What if you sharpened your focus on the most vital areas of your life?”
My work is as an exercise physiologist and fitness center owner. I share the anxious feelings most of us have. I have concerns for the health of this community. I care about the financial stability of our destination community when travel will be contracted. I believe I need to do better during this time. I am choosing to use the crisis as an impetus to take positive action on the areas of life I’ve deemed most essential, and I encourage you to join me.
I will share the areas I have deemed most vital to me and some actionable items I am taking for each respective area. If you chose to read this article you may find congruence with things that are important to you. Take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t.
We all need to strive to be healthy as possible now. Not only for ourselves, but also to mitigate contracting the virus and passing it on to others. I will bypass the obvious strategies most of us all know about thorough hand washing, abstaining from shaking hands etc… I will focus on ways to bolster my immune system, increase my energy and feel my best.
I enjoy eating healthy. I follow a time restricted eating/intermittent fasting regimen every day. For most people, that means setting an eating window, usually eight hours, and fasting the rest of the day. Many people eat from noon-8 p.m., or 1-9 p.m. Usually, I don’t eat a full meal until 1 p.m., and sometimes, I fast all day until dinner. But, if I am honest with myself, I often will cheat in little ways. Sometimes I will put a little something extra in my morning coffee or matcha tea. Sometimes I will have a handful or two of nuts before my designated eating window. Sometimes I will have an extra piece of dark chocolate later in the evening. I will have a glass of wine while making dinner on weekdays.
But not now. I will honor my discipline. For the next three weeks, I am following the eating pattern I know best improves my immune system and increases my vitality. I know it will affect my body in positive ways. What better time to do this than now? You can do this too: eliminate sugar, grains, dairy and alcohol, avoid eating too much fruit and you’ll feel like a million bucks. Perhaps even challenge yourself to eat vegetarian or vegan.
I will engage in a focused movement practice each day. I enjoy exercise. It’s part of who I am. But yes, like all of us, I can short change myself with saying I am too busy, or allowing myself to get distracted while training by my phone. I can sometimes procrastinate on beginning a session. During this three-week period, I am booking set times for me to engage in focused self-care exercise.
We have a stress stimulus (rather clear what it is right now), we have a stress response (anxiety, cortisol release), and as humans the most effective way to complete the cycle is intentional movement. We all know exercise benefits mental health and decreases stress: this is why. Movement completes the cycle in a healthy way.
I will make my sessions focused and intentional. I will have a stated goal for each session. I will put my phone away and eliminate potential distractions. I will immerse myself in the practice. This kind of consistent, intentional exercise is incredibly effective. I have experienced it myself, and when I coach others on this type of protocol for a set time period, they experience incredible results. They often exceed their goals. Dedication is key here.
A good night’s sleep is one of the best ways you can boost your immune system, stay healthy and live better days. I love a good night’s sleep. You’ve been there and so have I: I can fall into the trappings of looking at my phone or watch TV that won’t relax me. Or have some wine that impairs my deep sleep.
Not during these troubling times. I will shut off all devices two and half hours before bed. I will read my book and not my phone. I will stop eating or drinking three hours before bed. I will think of something I am grateful for as I get into bed.
Most of us are chronically sleep deprived. Not only will poor sleep impair your immune response if you are exposed to the virus, but you can’t handle stress and make your best decisions when you are chronically tired. That’s a familiar feeling we want to avoid.
Try this yourself
Dogma Athletica is launching a special three-week program called Operation Immune System. This is an immune-boosting program developed by myself, encompassing nutrition, exercise, supplementation and mindfulness to help your immune system be at your best during this crisis. This is a program you can do outside of Dogma Athletica’s physical space. To reserve a spot call 970-688-4433 and ask for the Dogma Athletica Operation Immune System program.
Additionally, Connolly will be hosting a Facebook LIVE stream at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19 for 20 Minutes to a Better Day. Follow Dogma Athletica on Facebook to access the stream.
As a parting note, I would like to share this quote with readers. It resonates with me, and I hope it resonates with you too.
“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” –Viktor Frankl
Rod Connolly is an exercise physiologist and owner of Dogma Athletica in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-688-4433.