Here in central Bavaria we are in another semi-lockdown because the daily new COVID-19 infection rates have skyrocketed to well over 175 new daily cases per 100k people on a 7-day average. This level of infection is astounding. For comparison, at the time of this writing (22-Nov), the United States has 49 new daily cases per 100k people on a 7-day average. This is terrible news for the US. But, despite the seemingly lower case count per day here in Germany, our numbers are also startling.
Ticking off my risk factors for a serious COVID-19 infection I almost run out of fingers:
- Over 50
- Former Smoker
- Generally Sedentary Lifestyle (even though we do amazing bike trips)
- High Case Rate in My Area
- Partner is a Hospital Doctor
My risk profile is a bit frightening, so I definitely don’t want to get COVID-19. So, I mainly isolate and stay out of the public space, with a few exceptions for the grocery store and outdoor walks and a few bike rides. But, the next best thing to help alleviate the effect of a COVID-19 infection is a fit body and a strong immune system.
In these I have some luck. My immune system is pretty good. I’m rarely ill and I feel relatively healthy. However, the situation with my fitness is, in a word, deplorable. If my body was an apartment building it would likely be condemned and ready to be demolished for the public’s safety.
A few weeks ago I had the random thought that I can certainly ride a bike 160km with no trouble (providing it isn’t up an Alp or 40-degrees outside or something nuts), but I don’t tolerate an easy 5km walk. I am tired and miserable and sore all over and it takes forever because I’m hurting and walking like I have a broken leg. Something isn’t right with these scenarios.
My cardio vascular ability is good, but my muscle tone is absent and I have too much fat in the middle. This all adds up to a serious problem if I caught COVID-19, and goes against a positive long-term health outlook. But, why now you ask? Why the ‘sudden’ realization that fitness is important? Well, it isn’t sudden, and that’s the problem.
Most overweight and unfit people definitely know they are too fat, and that they eat poorly, and drink too much alcohol or sugary drinks. The mind plays this game of ‘soon I will get fit’ or ‘I deserved this bag of cheeseburgers’ or whatever excuse that voice in your head comes up with. It’s normal to want to excuse this huge problem that sits on your hips because to get healthy and fit is a major undertaking. It requires a total life change and a new inner resolve to keep at it and accept that the ‘new life change’ is the new normal and that you aren’t missing out on anything by living a healthy life.
For me, changing my unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one is the same as quitting smoking – an addiction that needs to be broken. Eating or drinking too much, eating the wrong foods, eating at the wrong time of day, not exercising, and listening to that terrible inner voice that makes excuses is the addict behaviors that need breaking.
When I decided to quit smoking 2 years ago, after many years of my wife (who is a cancer doctor!) telling me I need to stop and it’s killing me yada yada blah blah, I couldn’t imagine how I could ever quit. Impossible! I said incredibly dumb things such as “I like to smoke”, “I like the social part of smoking, you get to meet people who are also smoking”, “Hey, I can still ride a bike and do a mountain hike, it’s not affecting me”, “Smoking is part of my personality”, and lots of other stupid things like that. What total nonsense.
When I stopped smoking I did it immediately, cold turkey as they say. I used an app on my phone where I entered my cravings and filled out a short form every time I had a craving or felt depressed or something like that which was a risk to the quitting program. I was skeptical about the app (my wife recommended it and now I am really thankful), but it turned out to be the best thing to help me successfully quit. After 2 years I am smoke-free, I never smoked again after that first quitting day, and I never have a craving to smoke (I actually get this repulsed feeling when I smell it in public).
They key to being successful was that I accepted I was addicted, and to break that addiction I had to agree to never, ever, from that moment, smoke another cigarette. The plan was literally do anything to get through the day without having a cigarette. Anything that distracted me or whatever, I would do to prevent myself from smoking. It worked.
So, I am going to take the same approach with weight loss and fitness. But, unlike putting a pack of cigarettes in the sink and stopping cold turkey, my fitness plan and meal program needs a bit more planning. Not extreme planning but some things need to be in order before fully committing to the program.
In the last week I completely gave up sugar-free cola. This was hard to do and I had a headache for almost a week. I would regularly drink 1,5 to 2 liters of Coke Zero every day. I drank it with almost every meal. I normally had a supply on hand and it was rare I didn’t have any in the house. The empty bottles were a Pfand explosion! (I realized it was like cigarettes in some way…as any smoker can tell you there are rules…never go to sleep unless you know you have a cigarette ready for the morning and never take a trip without smokes in your bag. Always check for a lighter or matches. Never assume a cigarette machine is going to work.)
The Coke Zero was replaced with tea. Lots and lots of hot, tasty tea of all kinds. For a week now I have had about 3 liters of tea every day, which sounds like a lot but really isn’t at all. I am well-hydrated and have broken free of the Coke Zero addiction. (Until this writing, drinking a cola hadn’t occurred to me for days.) I still have regular caffeinated coffee for breakfast, and I will probably switch at some point to decaf, but that’s low on my priority list. What was important was to stop filling myself with carbonated chemicals all day long, every day.
Next was to establish a time at night where I don’t eat any longer. Sometimes we have a late dinner due to my wife’s work schedule or because we are out doing something (not so much these pandemic days though), and we might eat around 20:00 (8pm). I think this is fine for now and if we do have an earlier meal, then that’s the last food for the night, whatever time it happens to be. This was hard this week. I found myself wandering around the kitchen wondering what to eat, then it occurred to me that I’m not doing that anymore. I then usually made a tea and my unconscious habit craving passed.
So, in the span of a week I quit a Coke Zero addiction and stopped nighttime eating. Super great! Now the hard part starts. Capitalizing on these small successes is the key to the next steps – actually doing the lifestyle change.
In the next 2 weeks the plan is to start a daily fitness activity, and it do it everyday without fail no matter what I feel like, or if it’s nasty weather outside, or I am too ‘busy’, or whatever. Every day do the activity. At this point in time I’m not too concerned about what it is, or if it’s aerobic, or 30 minutes or 60 minutes, just that I am getting my mind to commit to something every day. The addiction I need to break in this case is the addiction of inaction and excuses why not to exercise.
By early December I hope to have the daily routine fixed and I can then start to expand into more interesting activities, start to check my weight, begin to experiment with some tasty healthy recipes, and mostly start to feel like a healthy person.
Right now is the best time to become fit and change my lifestyle and choose a healthier way to live. In my case, I’m more or less locked down every day, have the time to focus on fitness, and I would be crazy not to use this opportunity to become more resilient to COVID-19 – plus I want to feel and look better for my life. I won’t let another winter pass and do nothing except moan and complain that it’s not spring.
I am going to document my fitness journey here at this blog and I invite you join in with me if you like. You can reach me on Twitter. I hope to be successful and I wish you success as well if you are going though the same kind of lifestyle change!