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Skip the Gym, And Lots of Stuff, to Keep Yourself and Community Safe

Though it’s been a while, my schooling is in public health, and we are in the middle of a public health crisis. So I am going to go in a slightly different direction than usual this week. Please bear with me. This is important.

Stay home. 

I haven’t missed a gym session in over three years. I’ve trained through illness, injury, and before family funerals. I did not go to the gym today and I won’t be going for at least the next two weeks. We all need to make these sacrifices now. Every single one of us.

Exercise and movement is still important. It is vital for physical health and mental health. But it’s time to move the program into your home, or outdoors in natural, uncrowded spaces. We owe it to each other and the doctors, nurses, and staff taking care of our ill.

I use movement as an example because to me that is something that I really value. For other people it might be playing cards. Or going to movies. It doesn’t matter what it is. For the next few weeks, we need to come together to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The way that a virus likes this spreads is non-linear. Currently, it is doubling about every six days. At that rate, millions of people will have COVID-19 by May, which would completely overwhelm the United States heath care system. The same is true in other countries. Not only will the people who have COVID-19 suffer immensely in this scenario, but so, too, will everyone else who needs care. You can’t postpone the delivery of a baby. Or the care of a trauma patient from a car accident. 

My close friend David Epstein, who is literally one of the smartest people in the world, and I were talking about this the other day. He made such a spot-on analogy. This is like climate change, but on a compressed scale. It is happening. That is incontestable. Though some of the science is still based on projections and somewhat uncertain (which is the nature of nearly all science) it points to a dire situation. (If you don’t believe me, read the links below.) If we go about our business millions of people across the world will die, particularly vulnerable populations. If we dramatically change our behaviors—sacrifice some short-term pleasure for the long-term health of our communities—we can slow this and mitigate the damage. This scenario is playing out with climate change over a century or two. It is playing out with COVID-19 over the next couple of months. 

Rather than go on and on myself I’ll share two links that really woke me up to the severity of this crisis. If you read anything this week, please read them, and consider how you might change your own routine over the next few weeks.

As you all hopefully know by now, I generally tend to be cool, calm, and collected. There is a large gap between panic and denial. We need to fill it with wise action. Right now, that means putting community health first and practicing social distancing, or avoiding crowded spaces.

The best possible outcome here would be if a few months from now we looked back and all thought, “Wow were we making a big deal out of nothing and going crazy.” It looks like the only way we get there is if we do make a big deal and go a little crazy.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this as it unfolds. Hopefully I’ll be back to more normal programming next week. This won’t turn into the COVID-19 newsletter, there are enough of those out there written by people far more expert than I am. I get that. But this morning it felt important to write the above message to you all, my intimate online community.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Allen on March 13, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Excellent as usual. I have passed-on several of your postings to our marathon flatwater canoe racing group (, including your previous good thinking and appropriate earlier “beer virus“ posting. Your postings on athletic performance and related topics transcend running, flowing into all areas of athletics and wellness – including ours. Our sport is a fantastic transition and/or cross training for running, which many of our racers loved until leg components no longer preformed as God designed them to. it uses one’s entire core, along with gentle pushing with the feet against a foot brace. That being said, keep up your good advice and knowledge work. Bob

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