This year was barely under way before our lives were disrupted in ways we never could have anticipated by the first wave of COVID-19 restrictions. And despite our collective efforts to route the virus’s offensive, it appears to have rallied. As a species, we have been humbled by Mother Nature and forced to accept our place in the universe; our vulnerabilities have been exposed, as well as our arrogance. The image painted of 2020, thus far, has been a dreary one.
Under these circumstances, discovering things to be thankful for can be a bit difficult. To some degree, however, acknowledging gratitude is a simple matter of perspective. The positives are there, even if they require a little more digging to unearth. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to share how I have come to perceive some of the challenges this year has presented in a positive light, specifically those related to COVID-19 restrictions and their impact on the CrossFit and fitness communities.
1. Gyms are clean.
Thankfully, I have had the honor of coaching CrossFit and weightlifting for the past four years at a gym that has always prioritized hygiene. It would baffle the reader to discover just how much time and effort it takes to rid the floors, equipment, and restrooms of germs—a task that usually goes unnoticed because it happens after hours. (Of course, eliminating the risk of spreading any contagion is impossible.) I am not a scientist or a healthcare professional, nor do I have any background in janitorial services, but I can say with some reasonable basis that fitness facilities are probably the cleanest now that they have ever been. And we have the potential transmission of COVID-19 to thank for the extra precautions and cleaning protocols adhered to by small gym owners and coaches all over the world.
2. Increased awareness of weaknesses.
Any effort to remain active while gyms were closed should be applauded. For those familiar with CrossFit training contexts, which usually utilize class structures, working out alone at home, without access to conventional exercise equipment or the goodies available at the box, is a drastically different fitness experience. Maintaining an equivalent pre-lockdown measure of physiological capacity and personal acquaintance with movements and WODs, in this situation, is impractical. What we find, then, as participants return to the gym after an extended hiatus, where they are re-exposed to training stimuli they have not encountered in months, is weakness. Some of these weaknesses predate domestic confinement, and others are the natural result of being restricted to training exclusively with bodyweight movements in a garage or basement. In either case, awareness of these weaknesses is essential for making fitness progress. Frankly, had we not been forced to take a step back, many of these highlighted weaknesses would have remained dormant and unaddressed. Furthermore, recognizing these weaknesses helps us internalize where we are at in our fitness journeys and set down new goals for the future.
3. Shift in emphasis to performance.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the primary goals of those participating in fitness were aesthetic. Because humans are social beings, most of us do care, to some degree, how we are seen by others. How we look matters, and whether from an ethical standpoint that is right or wrong, or somewhere in between, is not for me to say. Nonetheless, in a world where “going out” has been replaced by digital telephonic interaction via mediums like Zoom, physical appearance has become a hair less important. At the same time, strengthening the body’s immune system and biological defense mechanisms from viral intruders has become an urgent priority. Human adaptation requires physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual fortitude, and engaging in regular physical exercise is a vital instrument in the battle against disease. Accordingly, physiological functionality—performance—has begun to surpass aesthetics as the main motivation for working out.
To call 2020 “overwhelming” would be a gross understatement. But that does not mean the year was a waste. It was a blunt reminder that we cannot take the little privileges of life for granted anymore, and we are persevering. At your Thanksgiving celebrations this year, be thankful that you made it to November, in the face of tremendous adversity, and be grateful that you have the capacity to learn from your experiences.