1 year into a pandemic
I wish I was writing this with greater hindsight and more distance between myself and current events but I will proceed to tentatively document some observations – as always, I will remain open to changing my view entirely. And I don’t want to jinx things either.
Like most of the western world, I saw the initial rumblings of Covid-19 as just a distant whisper, something that the Chinese alone would have to deal with. I remember flying out to London to watch my beloved Spurs get whopped by Wolves (always the good luck charm) and in the airport I saw a few masks, which I though unusual and slightly paranoid (!). Around the same time I was chatting to someone that was going on a skiing holiday to Austria, who jokingly talked about bringing the work laptop in case they got stranded for a few days. Little did we know…
So, without dragging things out further (I forgot this isn’t homework and I am not on a word count target), here are some observations and insights…
Buying property is difficult.
I know this is obvious living in Dublin but I really had no idea. I have documented – or at least constantly moaned about my two year stress soaked ordeal previously. I don’t know if it was mainly down to the pandemic but almost every chain in the sequence was faulty and there were constant obstacles along the way.
I suppose there are no real insights or epiphanies on this one but if you are going through something similar, I feel your pain. I empathise more with small businesses dealing with stubborn landlords in this time too.
My business strategy
Taking about charging people and price seems vulgar (particularly being Irish, it is something that just makes us uneasy) but for other coaches I think this is an important topic. As soon as gym owners figured out that we had to pivot and deliver our offering online, there was a big scramble, which was induced by large amounts of fear and adrenaline. One thing I saw immediately was that coaches were offering online classes and training for a fraction of their original gym membership cost. I may get a lot of heat here – but this observation is for gym owners more than members…
I was watching the above happen and it was generating a lot of unease within myself. At this time I was still waiting to hear if I would be asked to leave my premises or alternatively if I would like to buy it. In the case of the latter, I knew if I went to the bank with a big dip in my income, I would be screwed.
From half-heartedly attending a few business seminars in the past, I remember one thing around pricing – if you are uneasy with the price you are charging for something, then that is on you. You need to look at the quality of what you are offering. With this in mind I left my membership as it was and I thought about how I could deliver the same service and value (but obviously via different means). Admittedly I did a good job of burning myself out during the first lockdown and my output waned for the second one in particular.
I can go into the above in more detail and maybe I will when this is all over as I feel this is a larger issue within the fitness industry – a race to the bottom. I also understand that I am in an extremely privileged position for a couple or reasons, I own my premises now and I also had the support of an incredibly loyal group that stood by me as I moved things online and I am very grateful for that. That race to the bottom is a real thing though, and it creates more resentment in coaches and increases the rate of churn in the industry. Strive to be professional.
I saw another coach post about having a second job so that he could fund his coaching ‘passion’ in tough times. His argument was something along the lines of ‘scared money doesn’t make money’. I say fuck that. Hungry makes more money. I also feel strongly about being all in when it comes to being a coach, or go do something else. This situation will see who is serious and truly has skin in the game.
The big one! The big lie! I do need to address this (again) – in not so much of an ‘I told you so’ way but more of a ‘how much more time do you need to wait to see that this is not working’ kind of way…
A lot of folks that I have reached out to who were struggling, and were citing lack of motivation as the main culprit for their demise. There have been a million articles and nice Instagram memes critiquing this as a poor strategy – so I don’t really need to persevere. But I do.
I think James Clear said that ‘you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems’ in his book Atomic Habits, and it is true. Systems and habits trump motivation. They build momentum, and that is far more important. I have talked about ‘shrinking the change’ in the past as well, but there is also a danger of shrinking the change until it is so small that it becomes uninspiring. There comes a point when you just need to DO SOMETHING.
Sit down with a pen and paper and delve into your ‘why’ – the reasons you want to be healthier – keep digging. Intrinsic reasons are ideal. Your training and health goals are for you.
Continuing from the above. Everyone’s energy levels have been similar to that of a bipolar rollercoaster the past 12 months. This is ‘normal’. There have been days that I have woken up (when I could sleep) and knew instantly that the main goal for the day was survival and getting back to bed in one piece.
Sure, we are looking to get out of this situation stronger and better, BUT there are days (maybe even weeks) when the goal is to get through each day in one piece – so take it easy on yourself during those times too. But remember, self care isn’t just a Dominos Pizza – it could be a long walk, a phone call with an old friend, taking time away from your phone and or work emails.
This one ties in with our systems and momentum to some degree. Right now it is incredibly easy to fall out of bed and log into work and just remain there for the majority of the day, hooked up to the Matrix. This is something that is draining people of any remaining energy and enthusiasm.
I have encouraged folks to ‘mimic’ their work commute – by mimic, I mean go for a walk for the time it would take to get to work. Not hop in a car and elevate your blood pressure as you navigate the mosh pit of pedestrians, cyclists and other manic drivers.
Boundaries are important now that we are one push notification away from more work. This is not heathy and it sure as hell should not be considered normal.
It’s easy for me because I own a gym
In fairness, not many people have said this lately. Partly due to the fact that the last person that said this to me is still recovering from my caustic retort.
I am aware that I am in a privileged position on multiple fronts right now – I am lucky that I get to ‘go’ to work and that it greatly facilitates my hobbies. Having said that, during the first lockdown, I was pretty sick with stress and I didn’t want to be near the building, mainly for that reason but I also pretended that I was staying at home so that I could perform the home workouts myself and validate their efficacy (which I did in hard metrics on the InBody results).
For all the privilege that I am experiencing now, I had to wade through a tonne of shite to get here – which makes it sweeter and as I will get into later in this post, delaying short or medium term gratification, amplified the long term fulfilment.
There is a temptation in the above tactic – reason with yourself that things are out of your hands. Let’s be honest, it is only a get out of jail card. You are shirking from responsibility by saying you would do something if only you had ‘x,y or z’. This exoneration is a cop out.
Ignoring responsibility in this manner will come back to bite you harder further down the road (said in my best Jordan Peterson voice). If you are not inclined to do a small workout at home, then having access to a gym would not change that to any significant degree. I have had members that lived minutes from the gym, in some cases their house was attached to it, and they still struggled to train consistently. Again, the drive has to come from within – get to know your why.
I have said this before, but one of the hardest things I have to reconcile with everyday that I wake up is that fact that I have found myself living at home at 40 years of age. I beat myself up over this daily and I have had people close to me in the past do the same. I am beginning to go easier on myself now and it helps to have tangible proof of progress but this all started with very small steps – almost unnoticeable – and this is a similar scenario for folks that are looking to improve their health. Small changes compound, be patient. But also be vigilant, they can negatively compound.
Lately I have come to realise that this is also a great opportunity to spend a bit more time with my family while I can. I am lucky that I get on great with my parents and sister and love them dearly. I don’t know if it is the fact that we have all thought about our mortality a little more lately but much like our ability to travel to wherever we want, we don’t know when other things will be taken away from us. Appreciate them.
But I will also take this opportunity to say a massive Fuck You to the people that gave me grief in the past and have done nothing to work towards their own improvement since x
There is still so much we do not know about Covid-19 and to me, what is really scary are the various degrees of severity with which it can attack seemingly healthy individuals and also the effects of ‘long covid’.
I have been saying it for years but staying healthy hedges your bets against all illnesses and that is so important right now. I deal mostly with individuals in their 30s and over the years it is striking to see just how unhealthy as a population we are becoming. Again, there seems to be some mindset that thinks as though it is only a ‘blip’ and things will ‘get back on track’. Thankfully I am seeing a few folks with me now who are actually dramatically turning things around at this age, but the vast majority don’t.
I know of one person that died from Covid. This person was the same age as me and was massively overweight. From doctors and nurses that I have talked to, obesity seems to be one of the consistent themes with severe covid cases and morbidity.
I understand that there are numerous papers and real life examples across various addictions to show that scaremongering rarely works in creating positive changes but it is crucial to take responsibility for your health and strengthen your immune systems in these times – especially if you have people depending on you. When the next pandemic rolls around – which could well be within our lifetime (maybe yours, not mine), do you want to be an at-risk, frail 80 year old in a nursing home?? The ground work must be done now. This is not like the leaving cert, you don’t get to cram last minute and wing it.
As Mark Rippetoe once said in his delightful manner, ‘Strong people are harder top kill than weak people. And more useful in general‘.
Social media is fucking dirt. The amount of pontificating, bickering, self-righteous bullshit on there has been a source of aggravation for me particularly in the past 12 months and what makes things even more infuriating, is that I am still playing the game myself.
I am exploring (a conceited way of saying ‘thinking’) of ways to move forward an delete as much of it as possible. I have found it useful for gaining new business in the past, but new business for my current model is non-existent. Nowadays it seems to be mostly gyms boasting about (or showing value?) what they have done today in the matrix. Maybe this is my own shit but I know it is something that is raising discontent within myself. At the same time I know my crew need guidance and even to know that I am here looking after them but I hope I am doing that through the daily check ins, zoom classes and TrueCoach.
If you are someone that struggles to control your social media usage or if you step back and look at how it makes you feel, bring some awareness to this and see how you can work on this. For me I started to acknowledge it as an addiction, and I am starting to take its effects more seriously. I won’t even get started on Tinder…
This is something that I have been thinking about across all systems and structures – businesses and our bodies. It is basic evolution but if you don’t adapt, you die. That may be a bit dramatic right now but when all of this started, I wanted to make sure I came out the other side of whatever ‘this’ was, in a stronger position across all fronts. Currently I feel as though I am on course.
This is a great opportunity to use our most valuable asset – time, and take stock and work on ourselves. A lot of us do have more time now. Look to address something that you have been putting off.
I compare this or use the analogy of investing in your future self.
Short term sacrifice for long term gain is a worthy and fulfilling investment. I have spent much of my adult life postponing short term gain in the promise of longer term achievement – whether that was picking the most challenging martial art I could find, starting a business in a leaking shed with 500 euro to my name… I probably have some type of personality disorder that requires a challenge to overcome and be. Martyrism. Useful during a pandemic but it can be a needless crusade in other times.
Without completely chastising yourself, now is a valuable time to look at ways you can make some improvements in your current situation. They do not have to be dramatic or drastic changes – small changes performed consistently over time lead to big changes.
I feel as though I am repeating myself or saying the same thing in various forms but time is precious. The worst thing is waiting. You’ve been waiting for a year. You don’t get that back.
Things have not gone to plan but the past 12 months has been a harsh lesson in plans changing. This year is gone, not every year can be a steep jump towards our goals, or a mount everest of to-do lists to undertake but we are not getting any younger. It would be nice to look back at this time to see that some positive changes were made, we took time to slow down and appreciate what we had, and value the lessons learned and maybe even made ourselves proud in how we worked through these challenging times.
Maybe it is my selective OCD or want to deal in even numbers but I have a feeling that things won’t be back to ‘normal’ for another 12 months (anything sooner would be a nice surprise). Do you want to sit out another 12 months or start to invest in your future self now and be in a position to hit the ground running when we can return?
I am sure I will be adjusting, changing and adding to these observations over the duration of this pandemic. In some ways it is rewarding to look back and see that we have survived so far and in some cases thrived in the past 12 months.
If it was more of the former and less of the latter, that is ok, surviving is the main goal, we can move forward from there. This will be over, lets knock some fun out of it along the way.