The Coronacrisis Chronicles – episode 1

Hunkering down

Hello, friends and strangers and everyone in between. Looks like I’m back… And all it took was a pandemic. Why didn’t we do this sooner?

I’ve had a few attempts at reviving my online presence over the last few years. I thought about starting a professional Instagram account, but why on earth would I want to restrict myself to looking and sounding professional when the biggest joy of self-employment is the right to be myself… I secretly started a blog to document my ACL recovery, but it never felt like a worthwhile addition to the Internet, so I never shared it… I secretly signed up for a new Instagram account to share some ideas for fitness and wellbeing whilst we wait for the coronavirus to get bored of frolicking freely in our streets and gyms, but I’m self-conscious enough about posting on my private purposeless Instagram account… and lastly, I have spent a week drafting a newsletter of idle thoughts, fitness tips and food ideas to go out to clients and anyone else who is interested, but inserting myself into everyone’s inboxes (with a poorly-designed and image-poor newsletter, to boot) seemed a little aggressive for this introvert.

Oh, wait, that wasn’t my last attempt. I briefly, in a moment of procrastination-induced madness, downloaded TikTok onto my phone yesterday whilst trying to study, opened it and immediately deleted the app.

As much as I would love a fresh start, on a sleek blog or social medium that isn’t already cluttered with my thoughts and opinions from nearly a decade ago (!), it feels good to be back in this space that was created specifically for and by my own voice. How ironic that while we are all “socially distancing” holed up in our homes, I have retreated to my virtual home rather than expanding into all the new platforms everyone else is exploring.

In case you were wondering, here’s where my fledgeling newsletter got to:

Well, here we are. We knew it was coming – this time last week my appointments were thinning out, I was already preparing myself to work from home this week – and yet cycling into work and casually walking into shops feels like another lifetime ago.

Thankfully, I’ve known for a long time that I crave routine; that as much as I oppose restricting food, I feel equally unhappy if I gorge mindlessly all day; and that although I am far from being an early bird, I do feel better for getting up and out of bed closer to 7am than midday (that’s all I’m saying). On the other hand, I don’t want to spend my life overtired, thinking about food, and chasing a to-do list. I’m still working out my own precise balance, and it’s likely to change daily and weekly, but for starters this is what I’m doing to keep feeling healthy and content:

1. I’m setting an alarm for just slightly later than I might wake up anyway – that way, I’m not woken by an alarm every morning, but I do wake up with purpose and intent.
2. I’m trying to stick to three meals a day, even if they’re small. It’s tempting to snack on peanut butter on toast every hour, but I have learnt the hard way that that doesn’t make me feel like my best self. By a meal I mean: a starchy carbohydrate, a decent source of protein, a fruit or vegetable, and flavour. Enjoy each meal or snack, and make it worth working towards.
3. Some of you are already familiar with my rehab board… It has morphed into a “rehab and training” board and includes not only the rehab I am doing for my left knee* but also some basic training from breathing drills to shoulder mobility to walkouts and planks – I plan to do more most days, but if I can’t face doing anything, theres always something on that board I can do. Celebrate the little victories!

[I return after a brief pause during which I hijacked Ben’s exercise session – I couldn’t sit still while he was doing his core work, so I joined in with his transverse abdominis activation exercises, oblique crunches and press-ups – whilst providing general merriment and wildness, because it turns out 3 days is as long as it takes for my energy to bubble up and out.]

*Yes, the left knee. You may be thinking, “Wasn’t it her right knee that we saw in a brace?”; in which case you would be right. Turns out there’s a very good reason I, and any other fitness professional, would advise you not to 1) run/walk 10km for your second run in a year, and indeed your second run post-ACL surgery, or 2) run through pain. It seems the niggle I have had in my left knee since the ACL tear in my right knee, is probably a meniscus tear, and it is absolutely furious with me for running. Luckily, I have a few weeks of enforced relative rest and time to focus on rehab ahead of me…

Then this bit:

Decisions, decisions

For those of us (well, those of you) who normally have a set time to get into the office, you’re going to be facing many more decisions on a daily basis than you’re used to having to make: even if you have meetings to be up and ready for, you might have more options for breakfast; you can choose between getting up at your normal time and using your commute time to exercise, or you could sleep in a little; you can knuckle down and work through your usual working day, or maybe you can be a little more relaxed about your schedule; and now, on top of that, you have so many more (hypothetical) opportunities to exercise. Decision fatigue is a very real thing, and for most of us the first thing that goes out the window when we are worn out is exercise.

If you’ve been all over the place this week, or if you’ve not managed to get as much exercise as you were hoping, be kind to yourself; we’re all still adjusting and figuring things out. Once you start to settle into more of a routine, my advice is to build the exercise into it so you don’t have to think about whether or not, or how, to exercise. At the very least, schedule “movement breaks” into the day: 15min segments at least every 2-3 hours in which you do some stretches and activation exercises. It doesn’t have to be formal exercises, just get moving and stretching, though ideally it would be a little more involved than the 10 minutes we are recommended to spend moving around out of every hour of sitting.

So for example: set an alarm at ten-to every hour, so you get up from your desk or sofa – use this time to get a glass of water or a cup of tea, check social media or reply to non-work messages – and every three hours, do 15 minutes of yoga or pilates if that’s your thing (there are plenty of great free classes available online – I like Yoga With Adriene but would love to hear what your favourite resources are!).

And finally, I was going to try and share an example or two of exercises people could do, and maybe a recipe:
How I’m training
Aside from trying to get my left knee back on track, and trying to keep fit on the bike, keeping my back healthy and happy had to be a priority. My neck and shoulders are the first to take the brunt of more time spent staring at screens, and the hardest to untangle when they knot up, so I committed early on to shoulder mobility exercises:
  • 6-10 shoulder rolls, backwards and forwards
  • 10-12 alternating shoulder rolls, backwards and forwards
  • 6-8 one forward one backward shoulder rolls (the fun one!), each side
  • 8-10 circles with a band or towel
My traps get tired and tight very quickly, so I normally only do one set, usually as I recover from something else like walkouts, and so far that has been doing the trick – but I do try and wriggle my shoulders around every so often.

A big favourite of mine this week has been aeroplanes: lying face down, arms down by the side, palms face down; lift the hands and stretch the fingertips away, then let the chest and ribcage rise off the floor, taking care to “roll” up from the top down rather than pinching the lower back, and keeping the neck neutral by looking down at the ground. 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps is all you need if you are giving it a good squeeze – I had muscle soreness in my upper back on Tuesday after giving them everything I had on Monday!

Rehab board week beginning 23/03

Rehab and training board for the first week of “lockdown lite” – some exercises aren’t listed on here, but these are what I knew I needed to prioritise

What I’m eating

Most of you won’t be surprised to hear that I am eating a lot of  bread and peanut butter (fun fact: I ate two peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day throughout most of high school).

We have stuck to our usual breakfast of a protein smoothie (Vega Essentials, in case you were wondering, blended with fresh banana, ice, and rice milk), which I have with homemade granola because I believe in chewing.

Lunch has been mostly bread with either peanut butter or this Bonsan tomato and lupin spread because I forgot that hummus exists and is delicious. To make it feel a bit more like a proper meal, I’ve been heating up some veggies – frozen broccoli until we ran out, then frozen peas and sweetcorn – to have with it. See above re: two peanut butter sandwiches every day for years – I’m a simple creature when it comes to lunch.

As content as I am with this simple non-meal lunch, I do want to put a little more effort into it next week. I’m looking forward to making a big quinoa salad, studded with roasted veggies, with either beans or tofu for protein. I had abandoned eating lunches like that because when I was regularly cycling home from work last year that amount of fibre would upset my stomach on the bike, but there’s no reason not to enjoy a healthy, colourful meal made with love now!

But then I realised I would probably need some photos, or a video of some exercises, then I would need to figure out how to embed it all… and tell people how and where to sign up… and there was a whole copyright bit at the end and apparently I needed to provide a business mailing address to comply with international anti-spam law, and suddenly it all seemed like far too much of a commitment. I know nobody writes blogs anymore (well, unless they’re already making money from it – or unless they begrudgingly do it to keep their website high up on search engine results) but I like that I can just leave this here and you can take it or leave it. I love writing for the sake of writing, and when my client – a published author who recently paid me to write her an essay to help with the latest book she is writing – encouraged me to “keep doing it”, I realised what a waste it would be not to.

Today, I needed a small victory. Sure, I wiped my training board clear, made some adjustments to the exercises, and ticked a few off already (the knee rehab, band pull-aparts, and some hollow holds and reverse curls, if you’re wondering) – took an online training session – and finally got through to the Universal Credit helpline to book an appointment (if you’re trying and it keeps dropping your call, yes that’s normal) – but I needed to complete a task. Maybe this can be it… if I gather the nerve to hit “publish”.

Go and find yourself a small victory to be had today too!