TL;DR: Wellness experiences during COVID19 lockdown and few takeaways from new normal!
- By Anand Natarajan
3 years ago, while crossing a road, I lost my balance, and fell from a road divider, and broke a bone in my feet. After that accident, It was a miracle that I could get up, gather myself, and cross the road again, without getting run over by vehicles. Avoided surgery, and I was immobilized with a cast for several weeks.
Moved around with a walker, and took more than 2 months to get back on my feet. Shattered by the injury, I wanted my normal life back and also had a desire to get better than I was!
“Broken Bone Grows Stronger” is a popular myth, and has no scientific basis, however, it did inspire me. Inspiration to pursue running!
I was new to running, but my neighborhood amateur runners group took me in, and we started to practice together. People out there supported me every step of the way and introduced me to running events around my city.
Finished my first 10K run after 6 months of a fracture in my feet. The timing was not great, but I was happy to finish a run in an event.
Continued to improve my pace and after 18 months finished a Half Marathon under 2 hours and had a podium finish in a 10K run (in 50 mins). My kids cheered me up when I went on the stage to collect my medal. It was a great feeling! Did many runs across many cities in multiple countries. I was quite enjoying my running and accomplishing my fitness goals along the way.
When things started falling in place around my wellness goals, the COVID19 pandemic struck and everything started falling apart. I started 2020 (last year) with a goal to improve my speed and extend my running distance, and everything came to a halt when COVID19 started in early March.
My Fitness mantra is to “Let the enthusiasm and energy of the group be my fuel”.
With Pandemic, Group events stopped and Fitness Centres in my city were closed for more than 200 days in 2020.
I am based in Bangalore. The last 18 months have changed the way we live and work, and the impact will be felt for many more years to come. The strict lockdown came into effect and everyone hit a roadblock! Although the circumstances have varied between individuals and countries, we all lived through the same experience.
The New Normal was not EASY. Spaces for fitness activities, socializing with people, and spiritual purposes were all closed. My wellness support system collapsed with lockdown,
My wellness world is an outcome of initiatives across Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual Health, and Work-Life Balance through lifestyle choices. As mentioned by Bryan Dyson, Ex CEO of Coca-Cola, Life is a game of balancing work, family, health, friends, and spirit. With the new normal my wellness routine was badly impacted.
Dealing with Pandemic
With Pandemic, I went through a full range of emotions from
Negotiating with it
Feeling low at times and
Finally accepting it.
I begin to realize
“Ships don’t sink because of water around them, but because of water inside”
Let me share some of my experience, on How I tackled it?
Adopt and Get a routine
I was Anxious, but a cure for anxiety is not a certainty but accepting of uncertainty.
So I accepted the reality of once a century pandemic is all around me.
As Work From Home (WFH) was quickly adopted by companies, I started adopting – Got up early & had meals on time, though there was no travel or an office to go to.
The predictability of a routine made me feel in control, It’s all “Here and Now” and trying to live in the present.
We all need to put on our Oxygen Mask before helping others.
Self-care is a must, and self-love and self-compassion, are also needed.
Getting daily “me time” to reflect & recharge was vital.
Avoided constant negative vibes by cutting down on sources that feed to negativity – kept a Growth mindset!
6-7 hours of sleep every night helped a lot.
We all got stuck with our family (friends or alone) for a very long duration.
With no outdoor activity, played our first 100 games of Ludo in 86 days.
Continued to celebrate festivals during the lockdown and dressed up to show within the family and virtually – all efforts to ring in positivity!
Against all odds
Lockdown had a couple of hours of relaxation to let people buy essentials.
I used that window to do my daily Walk/Run – Did a few runs with a grocery bag!
Completed over 40 runs in 2020 – Against all odds.
My Focus moved away from improving timing, to keep going and maintaining a streak!
Social interactions are key to Stay Positive.
Stayed connected through regular Video calls with friends and extended family.
Played online games and to caught with old friends and Alumni virtually.
Changed from a Beer Person to a Scotch Person, as shops were shut for a long time and my beer stocks ran out.
Measure and Manage
What is not measured cannot be managed or improved
Used combination of smartwatch, cell phone, and apps to track various wellness parameters, from Number of steps to hours of sleep, Every exercise from Zumba to Yoga, To average heartbeat to running cadence, and more.
Measurement of daily steps
The tracker helped me to manage my streak over the years and enabled me to grow even during pandemic years – 2020 and 2021
June 2018 dip is when I broke my Feet!
Though there were some challenges during the lockdown, like an overdose of closed circle interaction, lack of live sports and not having answers to many pandemic-related questions.
I stayed afloat!
When I was coming to terms with the lockdown lifestyle, one of my neighbors got tested COVID19 Positive, and Authorities locked entry and exit to our lane.
Previous months of lockdown was an open prison and now came solitary confinement. We got locked inside the house, things moved from bad to worse. I did manage to 10,000 steps, every day, during the initial 3 months-long lockdowns, but that could not continue in a Containment Zone,
Being in the Containment zone for weeks without knowing an exit date, made me dig deeper, to get through.
Look Back Look Ahead
“Look back and be grateful” is a powerful positive emotion and I felt it and benefited from it.
Played back Travel videos from the past, photos of celebrations, and Facebook memories to myself and my kids. – It all helps!
Post-traumatic stress is common but post-traumatic growth is also real – I had increased my daily walking steps by 21% in 2020 over 2019.
Writing Journal helped to connect the dots, from past and present to face the unforeseen future.
Writing is a key part of digging deeper, for surviving in a containment zone.
Wrote 50 articles in 100 days!
Writing facilitates thinking through a complex problem and thoughts get organized better, even helps in social skills.
Listening to many inspiring podcasts worked wonders.
Favorite songs on loop and music – brings happiness, besides giving company during my walks.
Singing along with chants and hymns gave perspective and peace.
During the containment, there were more needy people in my neighborhood, they wanted someone to talk to.
As a volunteer and an office bearer to an RWA – which manages over 300 families, I had to speak to many anxious people, especially “senior citizens” who were living alone, to comfort them.
I actually felt better and my own problems faded in the background. It’s counterintuitive.
By helping others, I helped myself & felt better
SOCIAL WITH STRANGERS
Signed up as a Radio Jockey (RJ) for a program, with an Internet Radio station, which enabled me to engage with strangers in the Indian regional language, by sharing experiences, and that improved my social health.
After containment, the overall situation improved, and unlocking started.
The 1st thing I did was to get social with a social distance. Met people! That really mattered a lot.
Experience of meeting people in person is priceless and precious.
Went for my multi-course South India breakfast at a favorite restaurant. I am not a Foodie, but the dining experience is fulfilling and brings people closer.
The opportunity to volunteer to do a post-monsoon wildlife survey in a couple of reserved forests in India gave me a chance to be with nature.
Being in the middle of the forest and staring at the wilderness to look for wildlife all through the daytime and living in a protected Tiger reserve and Elephant terrain, was a breath of fresh air, after staying locked in for a long time at home.
Found my quiet time in temples again and also did yoga with a group of people, to replenish my spiritual energy, which drained a lot during the pandemic.
Came out of 1st wave of the pandemic, by picking up few wellness goals, like
10K steps per day (Longest Streak in 2020- 112 days)
6-7 hours of sleep every night
Chanting or Meditation for 30 mins a day calmed my mind.
More importantly a competitive run every week (10 under 60 mins or 5K under 30 mins) without fail – Weekend run is my wellness checkpoint of the week gone by, to check how various wellness goals are going.
Running is difficult, and doing it solo amidst lock-down could be daunting, but I kept trying to find one reason or another, to continue the streak of my weekly runs and daily walks.
And also learned an important lesson,
“A streak is more important than spikes”.
Many times, I struggled to get down from the 1st floor to the ground floor after waking up but ended up doing an under one hour 10K run, within the next hour, just to keep my streak going.
Currently, I am on the streak of doing a weekend run in the last 29 weeks of 2021
By the end of the first wave of the pandemic, I had moved from chasing pace to just sustaining a running routine, against all odds. We need to make monthly/weekly/daily commit to our wellness and to pursue individual wellness goals.
Wellness goals is an individual choice and can be anything
Number of Push-Ups,
Plank Hold Timings,
Number of Skips
Quick Sprint or
Whatever works for a person is good, but wellness goals should be for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and challenging. Wellness goals need to be maintained and preferably calibrated higher, progressively.
COVID19 lockdown experience was difficult, but the lockdown was learning in terms of prioritizing,
Self-care – Put on Oxygen Mask before others
Staying Positive and Keeping Hope (Hold on Pain Ends)
Maintaining a Streak of wellness Goals – Streak is everything to play for!
SIP is for wealth and Streak of Wellness Goals achievement is for health
Social Connection: Feeling connected is a basic human need – online or offline! Even it could be done, unanimously!
Volunteer: Helping others is a great way to help ourselves
We’re living through a global health crisis that the world has not seen for more than a century.
So it’s important to be vigilant about our physical and mental health by taking care of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
It’s still, works in progress for me and we are still not out of the woods with this pandemic.
We need to ask ourselves,
What are your wellness goals?
And How often are you tracking it? And
What’s your longest streak?