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    Five Pillars for Health

    By John Chen–

    My fellow amateur sports hacks and fans, how are you doing during our long and unexpected shelter-in-place? Did you fill out an imaginary March Madness bracket just because? Did you dream about the Giants annihilating the much-despised, but championship caliber, Dodgers on supposedly baseball’s opening day? Did you watch the much less spectacular NFL Draft on TV and boo Commissioner Roger Goodell anyway? Did you attempt to play any kind of “sportsketball” at home or in your less than adequately-sized yard and realize it’s just not the same? Do you miss your sports friends, teammates, and camaraderie very, very much?

    I’d like to share with you how this amateur sports hack and fan has been coping with being cooped up, as well as some advice from my fitness guru friend during these unprecedented times.

    First, I’ve watched a ton of past sports clips, games, and highlights. I know it’s not live and I know who won, but I can relive the dramatics, the comebacks, the spectacular and unbelievable plays, shots, and rallies. Whatever sport(s) you are into, there are thousands of hours’ worth to watch.

    Second, try using creative ways using limited space to play ball. In fact, top pro athletes from all over the world have posted challenges you can do at home to develop and hone your skills until you can get back out on the field and on the court. I’ve tried some ball handling challenges from the likes of Stephen Curry and volleyball pros as well as attempting the tennis volley challenge issued by Roger Federer. However, I shall withdraw any confession to how well I did. All I can say is I gave myself an A for effort.

    Third, I’ve used things around the house to help me exercise and get rid of physical tension. For example, I used an extension cord as a jump rope. I’ve stuffed frozen meats in grocery bags and used them as weights. I’ve leaned on others in my household for stretching and resistance training. And I’ve created a mini asphalt tennis court in front of my garage with chairs, rope, sidewalk chalk, duct tape, and an old volleyball net. I will be ready for Wimbledon in no time!

    Finally, my health and fitness guru friend Desmond Smith offered great suggestions and advice for all of us sheltering in place. Smith encouraged me to focus on the “5 Pillars for Health”: Sleep, Stress, Nutrition, Movement, and Community.

    1. Get plenty of quality sleep. Turn off and cover any light, and if possible, install blackout curtains. Power down all electronics at least an hour before bed, and don’t eat at least two hours before going to sleep. I know the latter is hard.

    2. Reduce stress through daily meditation of 10–15 minutes, twice a day.

    3. Eat real (unprocessed) and nutritious food including lots of vegetables and fruit. Smith’s favorites are: fresh or frozen berries with yogurt and cacao powder (add oats for something heartier); spinach & arugula with cooked & cubed beets, blue cheese, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, and hard-boiled eggs; baked salmon with baked sweet potato or yam, and steamed kale tossed with an olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and curry powder dressing.

    4. Do your best to have movement equaling to 10,000 steps per day. Most smart phones can track and provide stats of your health through steps and floors climbed every day. You can also do simple at home body weight strength training by doing “Squat Lunge Hinge Push Pull Carry” at least once per week. Smith recommends this easy schedule: Monday – 3 sets of squats, 3 sets of pushups; Wednesday – 3 sets of lunges, 3 sets of table rows; and Friday – 3 sets of single leg toe touches, 3 sets of carrying something heavy (to the side, by your shoulder or overhead).

    5. Keep up and connect with your community and for your own emotional health as well as for the emotional health of the people you care about. Make at least one video call per day to a sports buddy, teammate, friend, or family member using Facetime, Zoom, Facebook Video Chat, or whatever video conferencing app available.

    There you have it. With a little help from Smith, this is how a sports hack like me is surviving sheltering in place. Although it hasn’t been easy and takes extra self-discipline, I know I will come out of this challenging time sane, safe, and healthy with minimal (fingers crossed) weight gain.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on May 7, 2020