With tips on improving immunity & respiratory health, Abhishek Sareen shares his simple advice on how to prepare for Coronavirus like an athlete prepares for an extreme endurance event.
I’m no health professional, but I’m definitely a keen observer of my health. Having been an extreme endurance sports athlete, I have come to understand my body and mind’s limits. Extreme endurance events like 9 days long mountain biking race tours, 400+ km road cycling races, Ironman Triathlon (long distance races including 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run, raced in that order) are much more demanding when compared to 42km marathon run.
One needs to be in top physical shape and mentally strong before attempting such hard core events. Even though I gave up such endurance a few years back, those experiences and my learnings from them have helped me a lot in difficult situations.
Coronavirus Epidemic: An Endurance Event for the Human Race?
I am sure if you ask around, “How to prepare for Coronavirus,” you’ll be bombarded with so many tips. Here I am not going planning to give you any hygiene or food stocking tips regarding corona virus or COVID-19 as they call it now. Everybody is preaching about it everywhere, and no more needs to be said there. I’m going to focus on how to plan your planning, and be mentally strong to brace an unknown crisis.
I would like to consider the Coronavirus as an extreme endurance event, which we are about to encounter, and in some countries, already encountering. So as an athlete facing this endurance event, you need visualize what you are about attempt, and prepare for it.
My number one rule is, hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
How to Prepare for the Coronavirus
When you are in middle of a situation, you don’t know what you may need. Preparation helps you face a crisis-like situation, but also keeps you mentally calm. However, it’s important not to get paranoid. With experience I’m also aware, no matter how much I prepare for an adversity, something is definitely going to go wrong. This mindset helps us stay clam when things start going south.
While planning, you need set your priorities right. Once you are mentally set to face an adversary, it’s extremely important to prioritize your efforts. This may sound simple and obvious, but we are seldom conscious about our priorities.
A lot of people consider far too many things as their top priority, which basically means that nothing is priority. When you are about to brace a crisis situation like the Coronavirus, you need set your priority list straight. There can be only one top priority, followed by 2nd and 3rd. Making this priority list helps you become mentally strong and focus on key preparation activities.
In case of corona virus, you need to look at the situation objectively – you need understand where it’s attacking critically. If you read reports from credible sources, you will learn that the main reason for deaths related to Covid-19 are the virus attacking the victims’ respiratory and immune systems. So your number 1 priority should be to strengthen your respiratory organs and immune system, in case you encounter the Covid-19 virus.
Stocking up key food items, toiletries, cleaning your hands often, not touching your face, not venturing out, etc. are obvious things that you should be taking care of, but here we are planning for the worst.
Strengthen Your Respiratory System with an Age-Old Yogic Practice
Coming back to priorities, the first step is to find out ways to strengthen your respiratory & immune systems. My advice here would be to do Pranayama, which is a set of breathing exercises, which help you improve your capacity of respiratory system immensely. Pranayama, or prana yoga, is a type of yoga that focuses on prana, or breath. You can read more about it here: Prana Yoga: The Benefits of Breathe Yoga & A Beginner’s Guide.
I practice yoga and pranayama almost on a daily basis, and vouch for it. Just 30 minutes of Yoga and Pranayama exercises will make you feel stronger instantly. The best time to do it is in the mornings, on an empty stomach. I can go harping about this, but it’s you who needs to prioritize and act on this.
Your next priority is building up your immune system. You can again find a lot of information on this online, like stopping unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking etc., eating less fatty foods. Building your immune system may not be a one-week job routine, it’s almost like changing your lifestyle. However, if you understand the crisis or adversity you are about to encounter, it may give you the motivation to attempt this.
Let the Epidemic Improve Us All
Even though we are aware of good healthy choices, we ignore them more often than we’d like to admit, as we not on the brink of destruction. In a Keanu Reeves’ not-so-famous movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), there’s my favorite dialogue by Professor Barnhardt, which goes, “So it was only when your world was threatened with destruction that you became what you are now.”
I truly believe this. I didn’t take up Yoga and Pranayama just because it was healthy. I, too, was in a difficult situation, personally (or professionally?) it doesn’t matter! The fact is that I had difficulty coping with it. I identified my situation and prioritized my objective and got cracking at it. I’m no saint who has been Yoga-ing all his life, but I can admit I am the guy who faces a tough time head on with preparation. Something I learned in my early years, when I participated in endurance competitions.
The No-Fuss Way to Improve Your Immunity
So coming back to building your immune system, as I mentioned above, it is more about changing your habits. My simple rule is minimizing the intake of processed food and reduce meat as much as possible. If you look around in your fridge or kitchen cabinets, you’ll observe we consume a lot processed foods like cheese, biscuits, tetra pack juices, etc. There are so many more like cereal, ketchup, chips, bread, soda, low-fat foods, mayo, the list goes on.
It may be difficult to completely stop consuming all these things and stick to home-cooked or raw vegetables, lentils, whole grains, etc., but it’s important to be conscious of your decisions. Once you start doing Yoga and Pranayama on a regular basis, your diet will automatically reduce and your craving for processed and fatty foods will go down effortlessly.
My New Healthy Lifestyle
I adopted this lifestyle last December, when my wife was away for some work and I was not happy at work either. So when my sister casually advised me to take these habits up, I did so. I used to love eating meat, and when my wife was away, I enjoyed cooking butter chicken frequently for myself, but gave it up. Later my wife returned and she, too, joined me in Yoga & Pranayama exercises and we improved our eating habits.
Now we have been home-cooking almost all our meals for more than two months now. Home-ordering pizza has been reduced to once a month (and that too without cheese crust). We rarely order anything fatty from outside, and have stopped stocking up on soda, sugary snacks and cookies. The last time we were at a McDonald’s counter after watching a movie, deciding what to order. And my wife changed her mind and we walked away from ordering burgers with large fries and coke (she used to love it previously), I almost had a tear in my eye.
Giving up an Unhealthy Lifestyle is the True Luxury, not a Sacrifice
When you start living a healthy lifestyle, your craving automatically goes down. Part of this is having a set meal schedule, which trains your body to expect healthy meals at healthy intervals. Part of it is believing that this is good for you. This may sound unbelievable to many, but once you are feeling physically and mentally strong, with 4x oxygen in your lungs, feeling light in all senses, giving up such nice foods and drinks won’t really feel like a sacrifice.
We have also created a Coronavirus Live Dashboard with updated stats in India, map, graph, basic info and important resources. Please share this infographic on your Whatsapp groups or other social media. You can find a link to download a high res version on the same page.
Abhishek Sareen is a management professional with over 16 years of experience in brand management. He completed his Executive Education from IIM-A in 2016. He has worked in diverse areas like marketing, e-commerce, international business strategy and business consulting.
He is a passionate cyclist and has participated in several endurance races involving of mountain biking like MTB Himalaya, long distance road biking, triathlons and marathons. In his free time, he enjoys behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He also has an interest in geopolitics and noir films. He is also an advisor at Shilpa Ahuja Digital Media. He can be contacted at [email protected]