By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL
It is safe to say that this last year living in the Covid-19 pandemic has not been easy for any of us. From the political instabilities, uncertainty regarding jobs, finances, health, endless lockdowns and never-ending incompetence from governmental institutions, a lot of people (including myself) are really struggling with our mental health during these uncertain times. It is safe to say that once this is all behind us, this time will turn into our generation’s “uphill both ways” metaphor of struggle we bore kids with. However, in order for us to get to that point, we need to take care of ourselves now.
It’s no doubt that HIV/AIDS has had a huge impact on the LGBTI community; it has affected many people within our community. Today over 36.7 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and there have been many advancements in educational, prevention and treatment services offered that have turned the disease from a death sentence to on the verge of a cure.
Living a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly can have many benefits for people who live with HIV/AIDS. Greg Louganis for example was diagnosed with HIV shortly before the 1988 Olympics, he stated in his book that he was afraid he would be too sick to compete and almost called it quits. However the fact that he was training regularly and staying consistent with a healthy diet not only helped to keep the virus at bay but to keep his immune system strong, To the point he was able to fight off other infections such as the flu a lot quicker than his HIV negative teammates. (Louganis. G Breaking the Surface 1996).
Slow Paced Breathing or SPB for short is a relaxation technique in which slow and purposeful breaths are used to help increase Vagal Tone which has been shown to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Vagal Tone is a measurement of the activity of the central nervous system, specifically the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the regulation of the body at rest. This includes heart rate reduction, dilation/constriction of blood vessels, activity regulation in the heart, lunges, digestive tract, liver, immune system and other parts of the body. To summarize, when Vagal Tone is increased, the body is in a more restful and relaxed state.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus and the quarantine has certainly made a big impact on the likes that people of our generation have never experienced. With business and gym closures coupled with limited mobility to help flatten the curve, a lot of people are left without their normal fitness routines.
There is a lot of stress and a lot of uncertainty that are having a big impact on mental, physical and social health. Additionally, being advised to stay at home is leading to more sedentary behavior and for many people, increased consumption of junk food. This creates a vicious cycle which can degrade your physical, mental and social health and it has been a tough time for everybody, however, not all hope is lost.
I received a message from somebody who asked, “Coach Dirk, what can I do to strengthen my legs in preparation for knee replacement surgery?” The first step of course, is receiving clearance from your doctor to begin an exercise program. While major lifting exercises might not be the best option in this circumstance, there are many exercises you can do to help you strengthen your legs and knees to improve functionality in preparation for surgery and recovery following surgery.
These exercises are beneficial for post-surgery recovery per your doctor’s recommendations, they are also important to prepare for the surgery so as to help you improve your recovery from surgery and better prepare you for the surgery by increasing blood circulation, increase strength and muscle density and help you maintain mobility.
For a lot of trans men, top surgery is recognized as one of the major guide points toward a successful transition. During top surgery, the surgeon will remove the breasts, remove excess skin, if necessary, reposition the nipples. For most trans men, this is a generally positive, life changing experience and goes a long way toward enhancing gender identity by adjusting appearance to fit more in line with a masculine gender identity.
Cardiovascular exercise has been getting quite a bad reputation lately, it is indeed strenuous and can be long and boring. It is often overlooked in favor of more trendy fitness programs including HIIT and Crossfit. People are quick to ditch a long cardio session for a something better or straight up lose motivation to do anything at all, but is cardio really all that bad?
Coach Dirk, CSCS, is a sport psychology expert, performance coach, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 10 years of experience as a coach, athlete, personal trainer, fitness instructor, and sports psychologist to drive athletes to build their own self efficacy and express themselves through sport. Learn more about Dirk here!