You might have to tilt your head a little, and maybe even squint a bit, but it appears there is a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel we’ve been living in.
It feels like forever, but it’s been about two months since the first calls from politicians to try and “flatten the curve” mandating we have smaller gatherings that eventually led to the “stay at home” guidelines issued by the city and the state.
We’ve seen hundreds of celebrities on television and on social media telling us “we’ll get through this together, and we’ll come out stronger on the other end.”
So with an optimistic eye toward that end, will we be stronger? What will we look like anyway? Besides our hair looking like something out of the ‘70’s, gyms and parks have been closed, social distancing has been in place and people’s routines have been upended.
As we look back on the past two months, what did we do? Did you fulfill your goals to lose weight, learn a new skill, or do those things you’ve been putting off? Which direction did we take our lives, our fitness and our mental health?
“From a clinical standpoint, the world is turned upside down,” Frank Palmieri a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, explained this week. Palmieri has been walking more and doing more yard work with his free time and doing many of his professional tasks by video conference. But he understands how the coronavirus is a constant presence in the back of everybody’s mind.
“We’re constantly aware of the danger of something being wrong. The whole situation can be depressing. There’s a constant drumbeat about what we have to be doing with schools, work and staying apart. That can make people confused and disoriented.”
Anytime I go out, I see more people walking or running or riding their bikes than I have in the last thirty years. Some of that might have to do with the sidewalk project in Mandarin nearing the halfway point of completion but there are people getting out and doing stuff who haven’t thought about walking any further than to the refrigerator in years.
One of the people trying to manage the pandemic is Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. He’s always been visibly engaged with the fitness level of people here in town as well as his own. What did he do?
“Molly and I got a Peloton for each other for Christmas so that couldn’t have been better timing,” the Mayor said this week. “I’ve spent a lot of time on that and I’ve been running some.”
Curry’s son Boyd has been lifting weights in the garage, and the Mayor has joined in.
“I get about 45 minutes in each day, and the mental health aspect is great,” he explained, noting it’s a family affair. “My daughters Bridget and Brooke are running in the evenings. And Bridget does a virtual dance class a few times a week.”
Curry had gone to a plant-based diet at the end of last year and was pleased with the results. But in the last two months he admits, his diet hasn’t ben great.
“Even though I’ve been working out I’ve gained weight. I want to get back to it,” he said. “I’ll tell you this though, when I’m coming home from work it’s great to see the neighborhoods in the evenings have families walking together, jogging, riding bikes, walking the dog. Lock down doesn’t mean don’t leave your house, it means get outside and be smart. I’m really proud of how people have handled this.”
With the NFL still operating, albeit virtually, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has still had his share of work responsibilities. He’s moved his entire office to his home and has tried to keep a routine, which he said was initially tough. But he added there’s been an unexpected silver lining.
“You get back into a family situation, as tough as these times are,” Marrone said. “We’ve been a lot more fortunate than a lot of other people.”
Both of Doug’s parents worked when he was young, so having dinner together was a family tradition, a time to catch up. He’s had a chance to do that with his own children.
“With three teenagers they’re always running out,” Marrone explained. “We’ve tried to take advantage of that. We’ll look back and hopefully understand, but if you’re looking for a positive, you can find things you appreciate.”
Marrone has caught up on some reading and has tried to stay in front of planning for mini-camps and training camp if they happen at all.
“I don’t want to be scrambling,” he said.
As somebody who jokes about his weight on a regular basis, Doug laughed when I asked him about keeping on schedule.
“I was on this big kick trying to help all of the local restaurants early on, so that didn’t help my diet,” he said with a laugh. “But I’ve gotten to that point last weekend where I have to get my stuff together. Normally we’ll be on the field and running around. But sitting at a desk doing virtual meetings? That’s not going to cut it.”
Former Jaguars linebacker Lonnie Marts has been juggling his professional and family life from home like everybody else. Marts is the Athletic Director at Harvest Community School and has been preparing as if there will be athletic seasons next year. At the same time all of his children are home, making for some challenging logistics.
“I’m enjoying my kids being home because I never expected to have this time,” Marts said of having his college age children back under one roof. “But we did have to come up with a family strategy how to survive with everybody in the house together.”
Marts partitioned off his garage, with one half acting as a gym and the other as a podcast studio.
“We’ve had college exams, podcasts and Tik-Tok videos going on all at the same time,” he explained.
Staying fit is something Marts and his family has paid attention to for the last two months. His son Gavin is back from the Naval Academy and has been designing body-weight workouts for the family. Lonnie says he’s been lifting in his garage and trying to walk a lot.
“I kind of over-did it with walking and my knee started swelling up so I had to back off,” he said adding that he’s maintained his weight with a little fluctuation. “But what’s the new normal? With gyms and parks closed we had to find something.”
That knee-swelling Marts experienced isn’t unusual according to Matt Serlo, the Master Physical Therapist at PT Solutions in Ponte Vedra. A lot of those “home gym remedies” have resulted in more calls to his clinic.
“I’m happy that people are doing that,” Serlo said of the uptick in many people’s activity level. “But I’ve gotten a lot of calls in the past few weeks from patients who’ve said, ’I think I over-did it!”
While his doctor referrals are down about 50%, in Florida you can see a physical therapist without a physician’s referral for thirty days. So he’s seen more “walk-in” business.
“I get calls saying ‘This is sore, I twisted this or I wrenched that’, I’m hearing a lot of that,” said Serlo who has kept his own routine up, getting in a workout at least three times a week in the morning before seeing patients.
I checked back with Jane Alred of First Place Sports and Phil Foreman at Champion Cycling here in town. With all of this new activity, demand for them is up.
“Our maintenance requests continue to go way up,” Foreman said of the service at their three stores. “We’re also selling a lot of bikes. We’ve literally run out of some bikes. Some bike deliveries were shut down in Asia so they’re eight weeks behind.”
More women are buying bikes than men and because of that their most popular bike could now take three months to deliver. Beach cruisers and comfort bikes are flying out the door.
“I’ve been in this business for thirty eight years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Foreman said. “We’re just calling it ‘Groundhog Day.’ We’re pedaling as fast as we can from open to close.”
And the stress fracture in Phil’s right foot isn’t getting much better.
“I’m on my feet all day, doing repairs,” he said. “I’d love to be out riding my bike.”
At First Place Sports, their four stores were closed for six weeks but they’ve stayed busy.
“We did curbside and virtual fittings,” Alred said. “We were delivering shoes, painting buildings, pressure washing sidewalks, doing inventory. Our online is more robust.. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Our stores have never been cleaner.”
Because of hospital closures, Jane’s previously scheduled foot surgery was put off for about a month. Her injury had limited her to walking 2-3 miles a day after being an active runner most of her life. And the combination of the coronavirus shutdowns and her foot problems had her focus on other habits.
“I’m much more cautious about what I eat,” she explained, adding that she’s been doing non-impact workouts on a Precor machine she bought her husband Doug for Christmas.
“I’ve been reading more, maybe watching Netflix at night. I get a little stir crazy. Sometimes I don’t want to get off the video calls I do for work during the day because it’s like the only human contact besides Doug.”
And no matter what happens with the re-opening of the stores and the economy, Alred believes she’ll be permanently changed.
“My new normal will be things like grocery delivery. I don’t know when races will start up again. I’m not sure I want to be around large groups of people right now.”
Two common threads emerged from the people I spoke to this week: Weird dreams and sometimes a feeling of the “blahs.”
“People who are optimistic by nature would find this strange,” Palmieri explained. “We are so used to going through our day automatically. We don’t have to think about what we’re doing. This compels us to think about every place we go, every person we talk with. We’re not relaxed. The process of change is uncomfortable. Every thing you do takes more mental energy.”
My guitar playing has gotten better. That’s what happens when you practice every day. My chainsaw and power tools have gotten a workout. I’ve been back on my bike after a hip replacement.
I got on the scale the other day, with plenty of trepidation, and I’m two pounds heavier than I was in mid-February. While that’s disappointing, at least it’s not the ten I thought it might be. And I think I know why; I had too much fun in the first month of the “stay at home” order. So that’s something I can fix.