Evaluating my health goals and the progress that I’ve made over the past few months, I have begun wondering “how do I continue this during a public health crisis?” It seems like so long ago that our biggest concern was whether to choose whole grain bread instead of wheat bread and to eat more colorful vegetables instead of starchy ones. It seems like so long ago that we were able to hit the treadmill or lift weights at our local gyms. All our daily routines and what we’ve come to be comfortable doing, have certainly been impacted. And yet, our bodies still need nourishment, exercise, and proper care just the same.

The Army Ranger, left, pushed me the hardest (circa 2005)

A few months ago, I was scrolling through some old photographs on my computer and came across one from when I attended the Deputy Sheriff’s Training Academy at Penn State University, State College. Not only was I 15 years younger but I was also in the best shape of my life. While the academy was grueling, I was pushed to excel physically even more because I became friends with two guys who were in great physical shape and were motivated to improve as well (I pushed them academically).

Rick Warren writes in The Daniel Plan that “our social circles influence our health even more than our DNA. If our friends have healthy habits, then we probably will too.” For me, that was never more true than those six months in State College. While the academy is now a distant, cherished memory, being connected to others remains integral to living a healthy lifestyle. As creations of the Creator, we were made to be in community with one another. We desire to share ourselves with each other, especially with like-minded individuals that share the same values. Being connected with one another allows us to be motivated and encouraged, and to be the motivation and encouragement for others. But how do we do that now?

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT)

I’ll never laugh again (at least not out loud) at the guy on the treadmill next to me that randomly, and extremely loudly, blurts out classic rock lyrics – way off key! – as he jams out on his headphones. I’ll never feel awkward again as the woman sidesteps on the stair climber and seemingly stares at me the whole time while I run on the treadmill. Along with other folks, even in the weirdest sense, they were my community at the YMCA. But now, due to social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, I actually miss them and that community. For me, it reiterates the fact that we’re hard wired to be with one another (Scripture agrees), even in the strangeness of random people at the gym. And yet, even without them, our bodies still need exercise just the same as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.

Without the personal and physical community at the gym, I’ve found encouragement and motivation by connecting virtually with communities through apps on my phone. I use a Fitbit watch – and its companion app – that tracks my steps, heart rate, sleep, and other exercises. I’m able to view those statistics each day and keep track of my progress. I also use the MyFitnessPal app for logging my food. Yes, I neurotically keep track of everything I eat. Doing this has probably been the single most important factor in maintaining my weight loss and achieving other health goals (such as lowering my salt, fat, and sugar intake). The Fitbit and MyFitnessPal apps are both wonderful, easy-to-use tools – and FREE – that you can use. Additionally, there are testimonial videos and blogs, user-submitted recipes, and exercise tips and ideas. Prior to the isolation I viewed these apps as a tool; now I view it as a community and a connection, a way to maintain human contact as well as receiving encouragement and motivation from like-minded individuals.

Life is certainly different for all of us now, and probably will be for quite some time yet. Who knows what the “new normal” will be and when that’ll come. What is certain is that we need to care for ourselves and care for others. I’d like to encourage you to find a group, or even just one other person and partner with them, to keep each other accountable and on track with your healthy lifestyle. Together, with each other and with God, even during this crisis, you can live a healthy lifestyle. May God be with you.

Note: If you are currently using a Fitbit and are utilizing the app, add me as a friend!