REFLECTIONS OF A PANDEMIC YEAR

by Mark Wolff

I am going to start this post with a very short descriptive sentence “2020 was an absolutely f’ed up year” and I am sure most of the worlds population feels that way. On a personal note this has been an absolute roller coaster ride and I am the kind of individual that does not take kindly to situations that are out of my control. I am an analytical person that thrives on statistics, numbers, predictions and strategies with predictable and achievable end goals and outcomes. Well this year took all of that knowledge and know how and just threw it on its head which made it a very challenging one.

2020 was the start of what felt like a movie except we are the main characters. Thrown into a complete lockdown for which was basically our peak of summer and racing season it suddenly became a psychological battle for most with the inability to venture outdoors even to train. Some of us were more fortunate in that home gyms and indoor training equipment made it possible to continue exercising however the difficulty for most was the motivation factor with no known goals as events were postponed and cancelled. Over and above that financial worries set in with many. Income sources were burned out and many companies were put into red zones of retrenchment and the inability to support their loyal staff. In some cases like mine with airports shut down and travel restrictions as well as the cycle of lockdowns across the globe, I was unable to see my children. Its now nearly been nearly a year since I have seen them last. Simple things we took for granted now became unachievable.

It sounds like an entire year of doom and gloom, and there are still unkowns, however as the year went on I started to find some light in the situation. I noticed that what many take for granted slowly started to come to the forefront of importance.
There is a proverb which goes “he who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything”. Its a quote which has stuck very close to me for more than twenty years. I have mentioned in the past that in my twenties I fell victim to a virus which pretty much threw my entire world into chaos. It did not leave me alone and for years I battled with the ups and downs of reinfections and long lasting bouts of post viral and chronic fatigue. It took an enormous amount of focus and effort to take back control and over many years of studying and knowledge gaining eventually I was able to turn the tables. I managed to get to a position where those tables could never turn back. I could never let my guard down ever and I needed to ensure I had my nutrition, sleep and exercise routines completely down packed. It was never perfect but over many years of gaining more and more knowledge and tweaking here and there I finally became a master of my own health.

When Covid hit I was more determined than ever to make sure that health came to the forefront for myself, my family, friends and all the athletes I work with. It was the only weapon we had in such an unkown situation. Exercise continued, nutrition became a lot more focussed and easier due to constant kitchen access. Gaining proper sleep was pretty easy with no need of having to get up at the crack of dawn to travel. When lockdown eased later in the year Covid struck rampantly and my wife and I landed up contracting the illness. We didn’t know what to expect and took it one day at a time. Symptoms set in with what seemed to be a sinus infection and fatigue and every day was a different story. We didn’t suffer with fevers or lung function issues just severe headaches, some muscle aches and lingering fatigue. Exercise stopped completely and we focussed on nutrition and sleep.

I must admit it was a roller coaster ride not knowing what to expect from one day to the next, it didn’t feel natural and symptoms changed here and there but my wife and I both agreed we had been way sicker in our lives with previous infections.
After the 14 day quarantine period we still felt lingering viral fatigue but straight off to the physician for a full medical and some drips to help with the post viral oxidative stress. Bloods were completely normal for my wife and mine were a little out with hyperferritnemia and elevated liver function. Covid is known to impact iron so that would have explained it. However me being mainly plant based it did not elevate it much at all. Liver function could have been due to meds or it could have flared up my previous infection which was associated with liver function issues. The knowledge of being able to deal with these issues as well as working with an exellent physician as a sounding board made it pretty simple to get back on track. The post viral fatigue faded over the next two weeks and once the cardiologist gave the green light it was back to proper training and getting back on track.

The more and more people I engaged with that had caught Covid the more I realised that there was a pattern forming. The young were not being affected as much as the elderly. Those that were generally in good health tended to overcome it pretty well and get back to normality quite quickly. Many that I know who have not really looked after their health, have overtrained or exerted themselves a lot, sacrificed on sleep and nutrition or with underlying conditions etc seemed to be far worse for wear and battled through the illness. So much confusion also hit the medical fraternity never really knowing what to expect when patients contracted the illness. Then there were even those who were very ill who tested negative for Covid and that threw even more confusion into the works. As the year dragged on and the more people I came into contact with who had contracted Covid the more it became clearer and clearer. Health is the surely greatest form of wealth.

I had this thought that when we are young we have these immaculate immune systems which function at their optimal and as we age we can either nurture them or damage them. Most of the world damages their health. Poor nutrition choices, processed foods, junk food, lack of exercise, poor sleep, working around the clock and additional stress factors do not bode well for a healthy individual but rather weaken the body and make it more susceptible to illness.

I am currently on an athlete blood chemistry course with some top docs and scientists who in their eccentric nature love the numbers just as much as I do. I remember one lecture clearly which focussed on a cluster of over 32 scientific research reports discussing nutrition and blood markers. The doc threw a sentence out there saying unfortunately the research we are looking at was carried out with a population where over 90% of the participants are obese. Taking into account other factors that basically means 98% of those participants are unnhealthy. In short the results of this science cluster in all likelihood cannt be applied to a health athlete.
Why was this a big eye opener? Simple the majority of the world is unhealthy. Many have done damage to themselves over time resulting in long term health issues or medical conditions. The problem with an illness like Covid is that it has no mercy on these individuals. Some will get away but many will not and this is the frightening reality of the situation. Statistics of illness and death rates caused by Covid again is spread across a globe of predominantly unhealhy individuals.

World health day ,Stethoscope wrapped around globe on pastel blue background. Save the wold, Global health care and Green Earth day concept

As the year comes to a close with potential treatment methods in the form of a vaccine and much more knowledge on the situation at hand. I can only but utter that for all of you out there who have not contracted Covid now is the time to realise you were given an opportunity light. You are given the chance to truly focus on your health and build it like you have never built it before. Do not become complacent because this is not gone and there is no guarantee that it cannot happen again. Those who have had Covid and experienced the suffering and those who have lost loved ones truly realise the harsh nature of what many have had to face and experience this terrible year. You are the ones that truly know the value of what it means to have health and hope. Many have become complacent and many are just waiting to be vaccinated to end this nightmare. However we unforuntatly know there are never quick fixes in life and I urge you all to hang on to your health with everything you have. Respect it, nurture it, look after it and fortify it for without health there is no hope and without hope there is nothing.

Many blessings for 2021
yours in health always

M

Mark Wolff is a certified exercise & sports nutritionist, endurance nutrition and physiology expert with over 20 years experience. An endurance multi-sport athlete with a running, triathlon, mountain biking and weight lifting background, he works extensively with professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports disciplines as well as those just wanting to change their lifestyles. He firmly believes that a person can only reach their full potential when their health and nutrition is given the proper focus. Mark’s focus on nutrition and physiology is not just on training and racing, but he places major emphasis on recovery, immune system health, emotional stability, stress management and performance. Mark is co-founder of 32Gi, a sports nutrition company, focused mainly on health and endurance nutrition. He is also co-founder of Rapid Recover focused on pneumatic compression equipment to improve circulation for recovery, rehabilitation and health.

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