/var/www/html/wp-content/themes/Divi/single.php I WAS INVERTED | CrossFit Skopos

FINDING BALANCE IN COVID-19

For a few years now, I’ve been paying attention to a guy, Julien Pineau, who established a method of training called StrongFit. I’ve been exposed to a ton of information that I didn’t really understand and honestly could barely begin to apply to my own coaching and my own life, but I’ve taken a few nuggets of wisdom that I think apply very nicely to what is happening with COVID-19.

Julien believes that much, if not all, of our success in daily training is directly tied to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is often seen as the drive to rest, recover, and inhibit the overworked and stressed out state. The sympathetic nervous system is what we refer to as “fight or flight”. This is the idea that decisions and choices must be made right now. There is no option to simply “exist” anymore. Make a decision, deal with the results, make another decision, survive.

Our current modern society is built around extremely established parasympathetic patterns. Cell phones, computers, convenience, and 2 day delivery all build expectations of immediate gratification from anything and everything you can imagine. 

Here is what a typical day might look like:
Wake up.
Check news on your phone (let’s be real: check Instagram/Facebook).
Maybe look at the weather.
Send a few text messages or an email.
NOW get out of bed.
Use your electric toothbrush (let it do the work for you).
Have your pre-programmed coffee pot ready with hot coffee. MAYBE use your Keurig instead.
Microwave a frozen breakfast sandwich.
Start your car with a button.
Send an email or two while you wait for your car to warm-up (winter) or cool off (summer).
Drive to work.
Get frustrated with traffic (because it stops your easy progress).
Start your work day with a computer screen and easy access to everything.
Take breaks – get coffee and snacks from the vending machine.
Drive home.
Get frustrated with traffic (because it stops your easy progress).
Microwave dinner.
Watch Netflix.
Check social media for a couple hours.
Use your electric toothbrush (let it do the work for you).
Sleep.
Repeat.

I know this isn’t what a day looks like for everyone, but there are parts of this that most people can relate to. The reality is that our days are often, from a nervous system perspective, extremely easy. We don’t have to make many decisions that require urgency. We don’t have to worry about our safety. We don’t have to be uncomfortable at almost any point in our day. Everything we need is available at the touch of a button or the flip of a switch. 

However, in order to be neurologically healthy, we need a nervous system arch that is balanced. Our current normal daily life pushes that balance far too heavily towards the parasympathetic side and we need to push back.

Because of this state of our typical daily lives, exposure to CrossFit (or any intense exercise) is a stunning experience for most people. An athlete can go from easy daily rituals to the absolute end of physical exhaustion and discomfort. Extreme parasympathetic status quo to extreme sympathetic mental and physical discomfort. 

This actually begins to explain the idea of CrossFit being cult-like or people becoming “addicts” to it. The reality is that most people lack the exposure to sympathetic experiences in their life. CrossFit then becomes that experience. It becomes an outlet for stress, frustration, and anxiety that accumulates through a day of passivity and neutrality. You have to make decisions when you exercise. You have to choose to push when it’s uncomfortable. You have to decide if you’re going to let the challenges of that day beat you or if you’re going to fight back. This is sympathetic training: fight for it or give up. 

Here is the reality of life (or in the StrongFit world, here is how we balance the arch): get comfortable being uncomfortable. Make discomfort and pushing yourself a part of your daily life. Below is a very simple graphic of what I mean. We want to be as close as possible to the keystone (top) of the arch. That indicates “balance” between our two systems, rather than being driven further and further to one side. And underused sympathetic system gets weak on that side and the parasympathetic system pushes the keystone further that direction. We want to push it back and keep it balanced!

This is something that you have done so well simply by choosing to be part of Skopos. On a daily basis, you are tasked to physically and mentally push yourself past the normal limits daily comforts. You push that arch back towards balance by challenging your sympathetic system consistently and aggressively. This is part of what makes you feel more at peace and calm when you leave your daily workout. It’s part of what makes you look forward to each day and each workout. Creating balance is what makes Skopos one of the best hours of your day.

COVID-19, however, is a very new twist. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been operating in crisis mode for the past three weeks. Each day is filled up making emotional, psychological, and intellectual decisions that have lasting impacts on my future and the future of this business and my family. This crisis mode is a version of sympathetic response. It isn’t physically life or death, fight or flight, but my body still reacts that way. I still get the shakes from it. I still feel like I’m about thirty seconds from a panic attack most days. Crisis mode is exhausting and draining. 

My arch has been pushed back the other direction. I’m spending too much time in my sympathetic nervous system. I can tell this because in many ways, I’m no longer emotionally driven to work out. I don’t feel like I have the stored up energy to want that anymore. I have to convince myself to do it each day, and most days I fail to actually do so.

This isn’t healthy either though. Balance is the key, not extremes. So, in order to combat the lack of drive to work out, I’ve been attempting to incorporate more patterns and consistency into my schedule. This allows my mind and emotional state to return to some basics of parasympathetic balance. In that balance, the desire and need to work out returns and I’m able to find time for it because my day has been more scheduled and systematized. Even in the past few days, exercising consistently has been absolutely life giving. It feels like getting a huge breath of fresh air. 

My life (and probably yours) has been completely turned on its head. Nothing feels the same. Nothing looks the same. Nothing IS the same. Hour by hour, I’m mostly just getting by, and it’s exhausting. I’m looking forward to things returning to “normal”, but I’m extremely interested in what I might learn from this experience and where life will take me when COVID-19 is mostly past us. So far, I’m learning a lot more about myself than I thought I would in such a small amount of time. 

Like most things in life and in training, the answer to most issues is patience and perspective. Give yourself time to adjust to the changes in life. Give yourself grace and know that you need routines in life. Find a few things you can design your day around. Create good patterns and habits. Start balancing your arch. I promise you will feel more sane and more normal if you do.