A Doctor's View of Living With COVID-19

by Todd Shatynski

All of us are struggling in some new way over the past several months.  Whether you were personally affected by Covid19, lost a loved one or a job, or maybe you are just struggling with the fact that there are less activities in your life, you are being challenged to focus on anything other than the problems of 2020.  With an unprecedented global pandemic, racial and civil unrest, extreme natural disasters and our country steeped in unthinkable political divide, most of us are longing for some sense of normalcy. Many of us have been more isolated than ever before and this can result in profound loneliness and even depression.  This has been a common phenomenon this year.  In my sports medicine practice, I have found myself every day spending extra time counselling my patients.  At times, I have been their first live human contact in months. Other times I have been the first conversation outside of a very small circle. Our social circles, often based in fitness may be less available. Or, if you suffer an injury, you may lose one of your best outlets for stress relief – running. I am having to frequently chant the old British WWII slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” on a daily basis!

Runners are at higher risk for injury these days. More of us than ever before sit in front of a computer working from home. More of us are unable to cross train due to our gyms closing. We aren’t able to go to our yoga classes. Many of the physical therapists and massage therapists have had to close offices. Combining these limitations with the extra time many of us have, we are running more mileage. We push through the little aches and pains and “carry on.”  Then that little niggle turns into something more. These injuries are preventable! Make sure you spend some time cross training – hike, bike or find some yoga or Pilates programs on Netflix! Find ways to deal with stress other than your running. Give a trial to meditation! It is easier than ever with a tremendous amount of mobile phone apps that walk you through it for a nominal or no charge. It has helped me as well as many others I know!

I am finding myself in a much “smaller” world now.  Without the prospect of future travel, running races being cancelled, reduced sports contests and, frankly, less things in our life to take up our attention, our lives feel, in a way, simpler. This allows us to even focus more of our attention on these challenging times. This can be a good thing, allowing us to slow down.  Or it can be a challenge when we only get to focus on the negative news in the world.  Like most of you reading this article, I use running and exercise as an escape in a way to get away from it all.  I have found myself with more time on my bike, running with my dog, and running with my children.  While I am sure many of you can relate and relish these opportunities, I still miss most of the busyness of my life pre-coronavirus!

As I watched my daughter’s cross country meet today and I saw the boys and girls warming up and racing in full mask, I contemplated our running community.  Our kids were out there and happy to run and compete! They didn’t complain.  They didn’t fight it. They just raced hard and felt proud.  I think it would be great if we all could feel this way. Focus on the fact that we can still go outside and enjoy a good run (and usually do it without a mask!).  Maybe we cannot race as much as we did before, maybe travel has been curtailed, maybe our job is in a new place, but at least we can run!  During my runs, it actually feels almost normal and easy to forget about everything going on in the world.  While I run the trails of Thacher Park with my canine running buddy, I am able to forget what has been lost and focus on what we have gained. It is running, and exercise in general, that allows us to relieve stress and continue something constant in our lives.  With many of us working from home in our “simpler” lives, we find ourselves with more time to run.  More opportunity, combined with the beautiful summer and fall weather we have experienced has made it easier for any of us to get outside.  "We are all in this together" seems like and especially poignant and true statement nowadays.

Keep calm and carry on.

Dr. Shatynski’s Archive

Weathering the Winter Running Season – Part 2
Doctors Rx – Making the Best Out of Winter Training
Helping Australia at World Championships
Dr's RX: Emotionally Coping With Injury
Doctors Rx – Injury Prevention
Contribution to Treadmill Article
Doctors RX Intro

Dr. Shatynski, of the Bone and Joint Center, has extensive experience in a variety of sports, including football, hockey, and endurance sports. A graduate of Guilderland High School, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, as well as participating in running and triathlons. He has completed multiple marathons and Ironman distance triathlons, including Ironman Hawaii.

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