07 Dec 2021

Fitness: Pandemic fatigue has set in and is exhausting us all

Newbridge physio Barry Kehoe offers some advice for runners of all ages

Fitness: Pandemic fatigue has set in and is exhausting us all

File photo

We’ve had the annoying pandemic clichés, the Covid-19 takeaways, and the daily updates. The Zoom parties are dwindling and Duolingo may be but a distant memory that still lingers in your phone applications.

With summer camps few and far between, the kids are still melting our heads. Coronavirus has delivered more changes to our lives in the past few months than many of us have experienced in the previous number of years. Daily routines and interactions have changed for us all.

School changed for the kids and many adults have lost jobs while those lucky to keep them have had to get used to working in the confines of their own homes, or within alien environments with necessary new rules and guidelines to follow.

Social media showers us with constant information and updates on the pandemics status. It calls on us to finish that ‘Covid project’ or write that book or learn Portuguese.

All the while, we’re just trying to survive and get through another strange day, looking forward to sitting down and enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. But just as you sit down to take the first sip, the news at nine tells you you’re drinking too much!

Home schooling, constant handwashing, paranoia and social isolation... is it any surprise that many of us are exhausted and may be suffering from pandemic fatigue and quarantine exhaustion. The stress is real.

Stress can grow from many sources — money worries, family issues, relationships and work. Sometimes it’s a single dramatic event, sometimes it is multiple tiny cuts that build to a bigger wound. Stress has short and long term negative effects on the body. It can cause muscle pains, stomach upsets, headaches, nausea, dizziness, speed the development of chronic diseases — the list can go on.

These past months have been enough to move the most ‘Zen’ of people to distraction. So, if you’ve found that your normal training run or exercise routine feels tougher than normal, that’s understandable.

Mental fatigue, exhaustion, stress and loneliness has negative effects on physical performance, according to studies in 2014 and 2020.

The other reason training has been tough is that hard exercise feels worse when you experience it alone — which, again, most of us have been diligently doing until the easing lockdown restrictions.

There are lots of recommendations for coping with stress — self-care, avoiding sugar, reducing alcohol intake, sharing thoughts and talking to loved ones.

But exercise is one of the primary mechanisms consistently recommended for dealing with stress; the exact mechanism of how it works is unknown, but it is thought that by learning to cope with the physical stress caused by exercise, it allows the body to practice coping better. This allows body systems to take trial runs at communicating better together.

The ‘body adapting to cope’ theory makes sense to me but I also think of the Viktor Frankel quote: ‘in the space between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.

In running, like in life, if anything is to be achieved from jogging one mile to finishing a marathon, the mind, body and spirit must work together.

Currently it’s more important to focus on remaining sane rather than worrying about making progress on your latest masterpiece, fluency in Italian or even running a 5km personal best... Just survive the day and get to that glass of rioja.

Article written in collaboration with Joanne Dowds, MISCP.

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