Adapting to change

By: Richard Bruce

Life has changed so much - and will continue to change. As humans are creatures of habit we don’t always like change, because adapting our minds and bodies to new ways is hard work. That’s why starting a new eating plan or sticking with a new exercise routine can be difficult, and is one reason why life in lockdown was harder for some. I use the term ‘life fit’. This means being resilient and able to quickly adapt to change. It’s being physically and emotionally healthy and having a good community around you. We all experienced the lockdown differently and when it comes to health and fitness it seems we are emerging from our lockdown lives at polar opposites from where we started. Some were able to start great new habits, others shifted to less healthy ones.

Personally, and ironically, I am in the less healthy camp! I found myself moving much less than usual and eating more comfort food. My ‘new normal’ worklife shifted from active sessions with clients to mostly online sessions and this meant more sitting and less active time for me. This was compounded by a significant rise in emotional stress. It became hard to fit in downtime or personal time. To adapt, I shifted focus to my mental health and finding small pockets of time for head space in readiness to deal with stress – a 10 min walk by myself or deep breathing exercises. I also focused on getting into activities with the family such as gardening, games like dodgeball and getting outside to calm the nervous system. It certainly hasn’t been the time to overwhelm ourselves with too strict a regime, so I focused on fun, and wasn’t too hard on myself. And so what do we keep from life in lockdown and what do we go back to? I’m going to keep the extra time for family fun and a lighter schedule but I’m going back to being more aware of maintaining a healthy strong body. We’re going to change our digital life to more disconnected lives and even turn off our phones and Wifi every evening. And I am going back to my restorative movement plan, which is essential to staying on top of old injuries – this is something I let slide a bit over the last two months, and I’m certainly feeling it!

Here’s my starting plan: I’m measuring my blood glucose daily, because blood sugars tell you a lot more about your health than bathroom scales do. Prolonged elevated blood sugars can create chronic inflammation that can exacerbate existing conditions or lead to chronic health issues, so proactively monitoring these means I can work on preventative plans. Stress, poor sleep, inactivity and less than ideal food choices can all raise blood sugars. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you want to try this – most devices can be bought over the counter. • The return of restorative exercises to improve function. The lack of movement means I now feel pain and restrictions. While it is tempting to go out and do a higher intensity exercise plan, I know this will end badly as my body needs to be restored to what it was pre-lockdown before I attempt any exercises that are too dynamic or with heavy loads. So kicking off with gentle restorative exercises, foam rolling and stretching is key. • Looking at my new working set up. It seems living life more online will continue, so I’m adding variety to my screen set up to keep the body moving, including a standing workstation, and Swiss ball, using my coffee table for more floor sitting and lying on the floor on my belly for casual chats. Ensuring we reduce prolonged poor posture at the screen with movement variety will ensure tight muscles don’t set in that may create pathways to injury. Regular variety of positions is a must, not to mention regular breaks.

Your body is forever changing – so are you. Avoid feeling guilty about any good habits you let slip during these highly stressful times. When things settle down for you then you can get back on the track you want. For now, focus on getting the basics back – eat as well as you can, get as good a sleep as you can and get regular movement, in nature ideally, as much as you can. This ticks a lot of good boxes but most importantly, try to do something daily that you find fun.

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