Where To Start?

Right now we’re in COVID-19 lockdown.  Things are way out of the ordinary.  People are scared about their health.  A lot of folks are taking this time as an opportunity to improve their health and fitness habits, but many don’t know where to begin.  Here are my thoughts.

1. Separate your “Circle of Concern” from your “Circle of Influence”

This means separating all the things that bother you from the things that you can actually do something about.  There are a lot of things that are out of our personal control, and this is not the time to be thinking about them, this is the time to think about the things you can control.  In other words,

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.

– Reinhold Niebuhr

Step 1 is all about getting your mind in order.  De-clutter your head from all the things that bother you but you can’t do anything about. Change your thought patterns from a focus on what you DON’T have to a focus on what you DO have.  Then, you’ll actually be able to do something.

2. Use your own body as a tool

Every now and then, I see a a new piece of exercise equipment marketed as the ultimate fitness tool, or I see an online survey about the most important exercise machine or fitness modality.  My response to this is always the same: The human body is the very most important fitness tool.

Think about it, the basis of human physical fitness is the actual physical work of survival in a hostile world.  That means we need to know how to get up and down, to carry things around, to walk, to run, to climb, to jump, to lift.  We do all of this with our bodies, interacting with objects in the real world.  So, don’t think of exercise or fitness as some abstract thing requiring special equipment and a special place to practice.  Fitness is as basic as walking and breathing.

With this in mind, start your personal fitness practice with walking and breathing.  Then, practice moving and practice holding still.

  • Walking is fantastic exercise for your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones.   It is also good for your mind.  And your eyes… as they practice focusing on objects at different distances.  I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t walk often, outdoors, regardless of the weather.
  • Breathing is a basic activity that we don’t usually think about.  But, how often have you actually consciously practiced better breathing?  Try a diaphragmatic breathing exercise, or pranayamas, or some Wim Hof stuff.  If you don’t have time to look any of that up, just sit down in the dark, close your eyes, and focus on taking big, smooth breaths in and out, nice and slow.
  • Moving involves some basic patterns like pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, and hip separation that can easily be practiced with calisthenic exercises.  “Calisthenics” is a term that comes from the Greek words for “Strength” & “Beauty” and denotes exercises that use your bodyweight without any external loads or equipment.  Think about the basic “bootcamp” or gymnastic exercises, like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, waiter bows, and lunges.
  • Holding still is also called “isometrics”.  This is the Yoga poses, plank holds, and wall sits.  This is also what the Queen of England’s palace guards do most of the day when they’re standing stock-still at attention while tourists and pigeons play about.  Try getting yourself into a strong position and holding still as long as you can.  Almost any position imaginable can be turned into an isometric.

3. Be mindful of the words that come out of your mouth

When I talk about “spirit”, I’m referring to the air that goes in and out of your lungs, including the air that passes through your voice box and makes words.  The words that you speak (to yourself and to others) have a tremendous impact on how you think, act, and behave.  They’re a major component of your Circle of Influence.

The words that you think and speak are profoundly influenced by the words you hear and listen to.  So, if you want to have greater control over your own words, and you want them to have a more positive impact, think about the words that you consume as well.  I’m sure you can imagine how certain music, movies, and TV personalities could influence you to say things you don’t really believe or want to promote.

So, listen to good influences and be a good influence on those around you.  Encourage yourself, your family and friends to be empowered and self-reliant, and–most of all–optimistic.  Keep your positive mental attitude!


Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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