I envy people who are dedicated to a religion or a philosophy.
I’m not talking about those who attend religious services simply out of obligation or tradition or the desire to wear an awesome hat (all of which are fine reasons as well).
No. I’m talking about people who have studied, internalized and have concluded that the words of scripture or Aristotle or the Old Testament are the guiding beacons in their lives.
That just seems like a wonderful, peaceful, reassuring place to be.
While I grew up around religion and religious traditions are big in my family, it never really caught on with me in my adult life. I just never felt connected to reciting prayers by rote in an ancient language while wearing a prayer shawl on a late Saturday morning. The bundt cake the synagogue served afterwards, however – that I felt connected to.
So I thought I was destined for a life of no religion or philosophy until, somehow, I discovered Stoicism.
I, maybe like you, thought Stoicism was basically the ability to hold an expressionless poker face in the face of danger or discomfort. Like when you stub your toe. Or someone passes gas on an airplane.
But in the words of the immortal Stoic writer Seneca, that ain’t it (I’m paraphrasing, of course).
Stoicism revolves around four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage and self-disciple.
As a guy who loves learning about new things (wisdom), gets a kick out of the moment where a 6 year old kid runs away in a complete panic when being chased by a goose that he just tormented for the last 5 minutes (justice), thinks the Rocky movies are a step-by-step guide on how to live life (courage) and enjoys the daily practice of trying to get skilled at impossible tasks like Olympic Weightlifting and fingerstyle guitar (self-disciple), it’s not hard to see why Stoicism speaks to me.
One of the main tenets of Stoicism is to focus on that which you can control while not dedicating energy to that which you cannot. Which circuitously brings me around to my actual point and what training and nutrition has to do with any of this.
To quote every commercial on television right now, we are living in unprecedented times (side note: I really miss precedented times). And while I am no doctor or immunologist or policy maker I have become convinced over the last 3 months that no one knows what the actual fuck is going on.
As humans we have this insatiable desire to control our surroundings and believe we can outthink everything. But right now, this virus is at the top of the food chain. It does what it wants when it wants and who it strikes and how severely seems almost random.
Can wearing gloves and masks and staying 6 feet away from each other help slow it’s spread? Probably.
But the other thing that you can absolutely control and that will almost certainly help you is to take care of yourself.
People will often perish from disease due to compromised immune systems and lack of muscle mass to help weather the storm should they get ill. You can control this in ways that should seemingly be obvious.
Resistance train in a progressive manner. This will help you build and maintain muscle mass.
Challenge your lungs in a way that keeps them healthy and improves their capacity.
Eat nutrient dense foods in appropriate quantities in order to help maintain the integrity of your internal systems and reduce at-risk body composition adaptations.
Supplement when needed with micronutrients you may be deficient in.
Get plenty of sleep. Get some sun. Go for walks. Meditate or participate in other mindfulness activities. Maintain positive relationships. Have some fun.
Now, does this list seem biased given that these are the exact things we trade in and bring our expertise to? Sure, you could look at it that way.
Or maybe we are just smart enough to have a possible answer to an impossible problem.
And before everyone jumps down my throat, yes I realize that you can do all these things and still contract a disease. The system isn’t perfect. Of course, you can get hit by a car when you are walking on the sidewalk. But that doesn’t mean you start walking in the middle of the street.
If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are already in the choir. That’s great. But I feel it’s always reassuring to be reminded that, in what can seem like a somewhat helpless situation that you are, in fact, helping yourself.
I’ll bring it all back around to my main man Seneca who said, “The whole future lies in uncertainty: Live immediately”. Pretty apropos advice from a guy who’s been dead for almost two thousand years.
t’s in your hands.