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Coronavirus – Looking for the Silver Linings

COVID-19, Coronavirus, SARS or whatever you want to call it is tearing through the world. It cares not for class or creed.

Day after day we hear of more infections, more deaths. As I write this, we’re at 1.9 million cases and over 121,000 deaths. By tomorrow, it’ll be more. At this point in time, it’s showing few signs of stopping globally.

A few countries have got a handle on it, but when Coronavirus thing takes off properly in the Middle East, India and Africa with their limited health care… who knows what the death toll will be? I fear for America too. Rudderless leadership obsessed with using this for political points scoring, a health system that caters for the wealthy, huge numbers of people living below the poverty line. It feels like a recipe for disaster.

50,000 Coronavirus deaths there wouldn’t surprise me.

I’ve covered my early thinking on the panic buying, the strategy and how I felt (and still do) was the best way to avoid the anxiety of the situation here.

I don’t have the words to put into perspective what the Coronavirus has done to the world. I’m not a good enough wordsmith. What it has felt like is the pulling of the handbrake on a car travelling at full speed. The global economy was still growing, there’d been the longest bull market in the stock market ever (I think), the country (UK) felt like it was starting to function again post-Brexit.

Coronavirus dropped an atom bomb on all of that. Developed economies have gone into free fall. Stock markets have had trillions of dollars wiped off their value. Only time will tell what the damage to house prices, wages, tax returns etc will be.

Long term societal changes, accelerated by Coronavirus are here to stay…

The world as we know it has changed. It won’t go back to how it was. I’m being absolutely serious – this is a seismic change for not just society, but the planet. It’s disrupting politics, work, travel, family life and economies.

In the UK before Coronavirus, our politics had never been so polarised. We had a post-Brexit government that had taken a huge leap to the right. In opposition, we had a Labour party that hadn’t been so left wing since the 1970’s. A nation was split down two lines – Labour or Conservative and Brexiteer or Remainer.

In the UK at least, party politics don’t really seem to exist any more. The right wing Tory party have effectively become socialists, with the state funding incomes up to £2,500 ($3060) per month. Rishi Sunak has done himself no harm at all with his plan to help out employees across the country – a few people will fall slightly foul of the announcements, but overall they’ve been well received. Many believe we may have witnessed the rise of our next Prime Minister.

The country has always been very proud of the NHS, but national pride in our health service must be at record levels. The bravery and work ethic of everyone working there, from cleaner to consultant has got to be applauded (and rewarded) when all of this is over. They have been incredible.

Every Thursday at 8pm, the nation grinds to a halt as we collectively applaud our NHS workers. It’s a uniquely British thing, I think, but it’s genuinely moving. From one end of the country to the other, we all stand outside our houses or lean out of windows to thank those who are at the front line of this war. It makes me proud of the country.

A chorus of clapping and banging saucepans echoes through every British town. As I write this it’s a Thursday evening – in an hour and a half we’ll be back out there, clapping along with our neighbours (from a government approved distance).

As a side note, this has put the Tories into a difficult position to navigate. At their core, they’re pro business, anti state. They’ve had a difficult relationship with the NHS for decades, but national pride in our health service couldn’t be higher right now. Any plans the Tories had for further cuts have to be thrown in the bin – harm the NHS now and you’ll kick your chances of winning the next election squarely in the nuts.

Having denied NHS workers the right to a pay rise, they’re already on the back foot in negotiations for the next pay increase. If you were being hard-arsed about it, the time to negotiate a pay rise for NHS workers would be right after this whole thing settles down. Imagine denying a pay rise to those who literally saved our lives – Boris Johnson included.

Boris has spent time in intensive care battling Coronavirus – this gives him the most inside-view possible of what goes on in there. I hope he and his party change their attitudes to the NHS once this is over. The Tories would need the skin of an armour-plated Rhino to resist the abuse if they continue their cuts after Coronavirus.

But now’s not the time to discuss that.

In times of crisis, human nature shines through…

There’s a feeling that the ‘Blitz spirit’ is back, where people help each other out in our collective hour of need. Neighbours shop for one another, share items that may be scarce in shops etc. I’m not sure we need to call it a Blitz spirit – I’d just like to think any decent person is helpful when duty calls.

On our road we have a few elderly people and we’re all doing our bit to make sure they’re OK – whether that’s buying them bits when we head to the shops, posting letters or running errands for them. Anyone over 70 is in a high risk group and their own families can’t do these things for them easily, so we step in. I’d like to think other people would do the same for my family if needed.

All over the country, the kids have been drawing rainbow pictures and putting them in windows – in all honesty I’m not sure where it started, but it’s nice to see. As we head up the road into the woods for our daily hour of walking and exercise, the kids like to count how many rainbows they see on the way. I’ve seen people on social media say it’s made them feel better too, so it’s more than just a fun project for the kids, it’s helping in ways we can’t comprehend just yet.

Even the elderly couple across the road from us have a rainbow in their window, which is sweet to see. It’s nice to think that although they’re at the opposite end of their lives to my kids, there’s a unifying bond between the generations, as far apart as they may be in every other possible way.

You still get the dickheads, those who seem to think social distancing doesn’t apply to them, but what can you do about it? Hopefully the police will act on it sooner rather than later, because for those of us who are abiding by the rules it’d be a nightmare to have our ability to exercise outdoors removed.

I said a while back those who ignore social distancing will be seen as the drink drivers of the day. Images of recent gatherings on Primrose Hill suggest perhaps more needs to be done to disperse them. My suggestion would be to make them do community service on a Coronavirus ward – maybe then they’d take this thing seriously.

Is Coronavirus the reset button world needed?

This is a reset button for the world, I think. I shared in my last post a couple of powerful images about the effects of the reduced pollution. Here’s one again…

Coronavirus

Road traffic, down. Air traffic, down. Pollution, down. Working from home is the norm now. Businesses that have been reluctant to allow home working will have had their thinking changed. Business travel will reduce dramatically. There’s going to be a sea change in how companies operate.

Working from home, if you get it right, is orders of magnitudes better in a lot of cases. No commute, which means you can sleep in longer and are better rested. You don’t arrive at work already stressed because of traffic. There’s no excuse for being ‘late’ to work. You aren’t distracted every few minutes. You miss out on the social aspect, but it’s a pretty small price to pay in my opinion.

When I started working from home, I was amazed at how little time it took me to get things done. You can get into ‘work mode’ and don’t get knocked out of it by people asking you questions every few minutes, which is what used to happen when I worked in gym management.

As productivity goes up, employee wellness improves and the technology to facilitate online meetings gets better, businesses will embrace home working more. There’s a benefit to business too – they can reduce their real estate costs and improve bottom line. A rare example of a profit and personnel benefitting.

Coronavirus makes life looks different financially…

Rachel and I are both self-employed, so our income has taken a big hit over the last few weeks. A few very generous clients have continued to pay during the time we can’t train, but those sessions will be honoured when we start again so the income hit will merely be delayed, not removed.

I’m also buffered by the fact I don’t just rely on personal training for my income – my writing work is generally enough to cover our essential bills, but cloth still has to be cut accordingly. I had to cancel the April Active Retreat, losing out on a four-figure profit from that.

That being said, our expenditure has dropped enormously. My personal training rent (our second biggest outgoing behind the mortgage) has been put on hold, but there are other things too…

We shop differently now. I’m a nightmare for ‘just nipping to the shops’, because every time I’m in there I’ll spot an offer and I buy it. We’re buying more with specific meals in mind, rather than just ‘options’ – stuff you buy that you might use. We’re far less wasteful than we ever have been.

We’re cooking differently too. We’ve baked. In my life, I’d never baked a loaf of bread (apart from in year 8 at school, but it’d be unfair to call that bread. You could have built a decent house of those ‘loaves’), but I made a couple of focaccia’s. Rachel has made some Rocky Road and I’ve heard a rumour that she’s planning cup cakes this weekend. I hope the rumours are true. (Edit – they were. And the cakes were amazing.)

We’re barely driving anywhere. I filled my car up on the 23rd of March. It’s the 14th of April today and I still have nearly half a tank of fuel left. That’s the first time in driving life that has happened.

What you begin to realise is how wasteful we are as a society. Every week Amazon were delivering something to our house. We buy crap we don’t need – the kids get magazines with plastic bits of tat attached, that they’re bored with by the end of the day. We throw away too much food. Rach and I have spoken about how this has made us look at things differently and I think our habits will have been changed for good at the end of this.

Self sufficient entertainment for the win!

Our kids have coped with this whole thing just fine. Home schooling has been a challenge, but certainly not a drama. You have to balance the guilt of providing the kids with the worst schooling they’ve ever had in their lives with the fact that we’re trying hard to make it worthwhile. Rach and I are both still working and I’d like to think we’re doing a good job at the schooling – the ‘curriculum’ is pretty enriching, even if break times are probably longer than school would encourage!

As a family, we’re obviously spending pretty much every waking minute together, which has been really nice. I’ve never had a period of time like this at home – even when the kids were born I didn’t take a paternity leave because my business was still so young. Isaac was born on a Saturday morning – I was in work on the Monday. Jago was born on a Wednesday night, I was working again Thursday morning. We’ve (so far) avoided any fallings out at all!

Coronavirus silver lining

The kids are closer than ever. They’re great friends anyway (despite having a bedroom each, they always choose sleep in the same room), but this has brought them even closer. Almost every day we head into the forest for ‘an adventure’ (as Jago likes to call it) and they just run around, laughing and joking. We’re lucky to live in the countryside and it’s not a luxury we take for granted. Certainly not now, anyway.

The fresh air in the forest is amazing, plus it’s a great way to teach the kids more outside of the classroom. We found a huge patch of natural wild garlic, so we picked some and have made wild garlic pesto and a wild garlic butter from it. We’ve built little dams across the streams and found tadpoles. Next on our list is collect sticks to turn into walking poles.

Coronavirus poynton

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll know that I enjoyed ‘The Little Book of Hygge‘, a book explaining the Danish concept of hygge, which roughly translated means ‘pleasure in simple things’. We’ve had to embrace hygge more than ever during this time, so whether that’s a walk in the woods, reading a book or eating some good food, you have to look for the nice bits to take from it.

I’m reading more – managing at least 10 pages per night, but often going up to 40 if I’m awake for long enough. This doesn’t sound like a lot to many, but it’s a pretty big increase for me. It’s a habit I want to keep up. It’ll see me get through my book backlog relatively swiftly, which would be a nice thing to achieve!

Garden work has been upped as well. We didn’t manage to buy any seeds so they vegetable beds look a little very bare at the moment, but hopefully we can get some rocket in there and start planting stuff for the late season.

The lawn looks a bit sorry for itself, given Isaac has played football on it every day. Still though, we’ve manage to cut back a lot of overgrown hedges, re-stocked the firewood pile and re-painted the woodwork in the garden. There’s a tangible record of achievement in the garden, so I’m chalking it up as a win. There’s kids toys all over the place, but that’s a job for a less locked-down time.

I realise that we’re really lucky to live where we do. Rach and I watched a recent news piece focussing on a family in Madrid and their experience of isolation. Husband and wife with a 3 year old daughter. They lived in a small apartment on the third floor. No outside space and three rooms in the apartment – a living room/kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. To be locked in there with a confused and enthusiastic child would be a challenge.

I wonder if it will make people question where they choose to live now? A move from cities to suburbia for many wouldn’t surprise me in the coming years. Not just in case of a once-in-a-hundred-year virus, but because it’s just… nicer. Cleaner air, fewer people, countryside up the road.

Daily habits look different now…

I’ve tried to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible at home. Of course there are obvious exceptions – I’m not out of the house personal training, so my work is largely home-based. Despite that, I’ve made effort to use this enforced downtime productively. I’ve spent time working on a project I’ve always had in the back of my mind. I’m going through a website redesign, I’m moving my email software provider, I’m growing my copywriting work.

There’s a few reasons why I’m doing this, and I’d urge you to follow my lead on them, especially if you’re self-employed or in business. If you have a job, ignore the advice and move past this bit!

  1. Momentum in life is key. You know how hard it is to get going again after a 1-2 week break? Imagine how hard it’ll be to get started after a 6-8 week (or longer) break. Don’t slow down too much.
  2. Work on the business, not in it. The businesses who will thrive after this will be the ones who work ‘on’ their business whilst they can’t work ‘in’ their business. When the time comes to get back to work, if all of your admin, marketing and ‘busy work’ is done, you can get focussed on the income-generating work.
  3. Diversify your income. If this isn’t the wake up call you needed to diversify your income, then you’re probably beyond help. I know a lot of people in my industry will have had their business destroyed by this because they weren’t diverse. I was diversified enough to survive this well. I’m going to be even more diverse now though, that’s for sure.
  4. There’s no excuse now to not get things done. I can’t say “I was too busy” to finish the project I’ve been promising myself I’d do for ages. It’s a potential money earner, so I’ll be annoyed with myself if I don’t do it.
  5. It’s the perfect time to work on skills. Learn things you don’t understand, get better at what you do understand. Don’t waste the time. If you treat it like a break, you’ll come out of it behind.

I saw this the other day – it’s a little bit hardcore, but I agree with it wholeheartedly…

coronavirus

There’ll be people who will be ill or dealing with unwell family members and/or grief, but for those of us who don’t have these worries, I think if you don’t use this time productively, you’ve wasted a great opportunity for growth and development personally and professionally.

A couple of personal training clients have taken Udemy courses, one has used the time to put extra practice into learning a language. Another one is woodworking every day. I personally have started on a project I’ve put off forever and a day. I’m well under way with it now, which is exciting – when I finish it it’ll feel like a big win and hopefully, it’ll prove lucrative. That’s diversification in action.

Exercise isn’t what it was…

I’m going to write more on this soon, so I won’t go into too much detail here. What I will say is that being in quarantine has forced a big change in the way I train. I have plenty of equipment, but I don’t have any proper weightlifting equipment (weightlifting specific barbell, bumper plates, squat rack etc). This means I have to be adaptable.

I’ve done more cycling than I have done for years. I’m sticking to the maximum 1 hour a day for outside exercise, so that limits how far I can go. What I’ve done to extract the most value from a ride is to focus on riding fast and riding up hills. Where I’m not at the level I was years ago when I cycled the end to end, it’s all about the training effect and I’m certainly managing to get a good training effect from the rides.

We’re easily hitting a 10,000 steps per day target by walking in the woods, which is an up hill, rough terrain walk. It’s not an especially long walk, but it’s challenging in its own right. It’s also in the fresh air. You can’t replicate exactly what you can do in the gym, but you can still keep ticking over. We don’t have an excuse not to be active, that’s for sure. We just have to do things a little differently.

The suspension trainer has seen a LOT of use over these last few weeks!

For a break from the forest (purely for variety’s sake) we head to a local park and football field. We don’t play on the equipment, but the running around and kicking a football is activity. We’ve used the time to do sprints and bodyweight workouts, which will definitely burn plenty of calories. The outdoors element is another bonus too. I’ve used my suspension trainer on the goalposts and done a LOT of bodyweight lunges!

An interesting (and welcome) break has come in the form of extra sleeping time. My sleep habits are far healthier than when I’m up at 4.30 or even 5.30 in the morning. I’m getting 7+ hours most nights now, which is an absolute bonus. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the return of the 4.30am starts…

The silver linings of the Coronavirus cloud…

I think of this as our collective stress test – a chance for us to see how we react when things aren’t going well. How does society react, how do families react and how do we react personally to the stresses placed upon us?

All the answers you need about yourself are revealed in times of stress.

Think of this as a chance for us to upgrade our software. We’ve had our comfort zones expanded and we shouldn’t get through this without having learned lots of great and valuable lessons. If you were caught out by this, that’s understandable – nobody saw it coming. It’s up to you to prepare now, so if something happens again you won’t be caught off guard.

Diversify your income, save some money, buy some home exercise equipment, keep a stock of food at home. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Whilst there’s no obvious end to this over the next few weeks, use what time you’ve got left productively. Do those jobs you were putting off. Get out for that run. Learn that skill. Practice something you were going to.

I understand this article has been a tad indulgent, but given I’ve barely seen another soul outside of my family for weeks thanks to Coronavirus, there’s not much else I can comment on!

Coronavirus hasn’t been a welcome guest, but you’ve got to use adversity to improve things for the future. Be better prepared, make decisions with disaster in mind and be more cautious and thoughtful than we were pre-coronavirus.

There’s opportunities for growth and improvement here. Don’t waste them.

P.S. I hope you and your family are safe. I also hope you’re abiding by the rules.

By the way, if you subscribe to the Hoyles Fitness mailing list you’ll receive a free eBook containing 101 Health and Fitness Tips, plus offers and news exclusive to Hoyles Fitness subscribers. Click the image below to download…

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HoylesFitness

Owner of www.hoylesfitness.com. Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

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