Pandemic Prompts

How to Stay in Shape During the Pandemic by Steven Pryce

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the "How To" prompt.

How to Stay in Shape During the Pandemic

by Steven Pryce

Factory work isn’t my first job. I am almost fifty-years old now, and tried different things. To keep my job, I must stay in shape. The pandemic is giving me a test.

At work, I hang out mostly with other fifty- and sixty- year-olds who also had other jobs. One was a police officer, the other a teacher, while others always did labor work. Some of us exercise outside of work and often wear support braces. Sometimes, we take Tylenol or aspirin for pain. “It’s the kind of job where you are going to leave with some pain every day,” our trainer told me. She was in her fifties and still brought baked goods to work.

Many young people don’t like labor work. Jobs are competitive, and they usually find something else. They come in as “temps,” or temporary employees, and leave or are let go before they could get hired. Maybe they are just not ready for it.

“I didn’t think this would be like this,” they exclaim.

I received a temporary lay-off during the pandemic, and had to immediately apply for unemployment. Luckily, benefits would start right away, helping with rent and bills. However, I wanted to be able to come back ready to work again. Gyms, like bars, were closed due to the pandemic.

I work on the third shift, or “midnights.” My sleep schedule is reversed, and hasn’t changed. I now stay up all night reading, writing, texting, and connecting with other people on Facebook, rather than assembling and packaging auto parts.

Early in the morning, before sunrise, I start my work-out routine. I have a barbell and dumbbell weight set and stretch before, in the middle, and after I lift weights. I don’t do extreme stretching, as a yoga person would do, but I try. I also don’t lift as heavy of weights as a weightlifter, but again I try. As I get older, I read that you must keep your repetitions high.

I do all the regular stretches to get my hamstrings, thighs and calves loose. I also do bodyweight exercises to get my muscles warmed up and working. Then, my weight routine starts. I do strength exercises such as squats, dead lifts, and bench presses with low weights and high repetitions. They are called “compound” exercises and workmany muscles at one time. I do my stretches again. Then, I do my assistance exercises with dumbbells. These include rows, shoulder presses, raises, curls, extensions, etc. I finish with abdominal crunches for my midsection and do one last stretch.

As the sun begins to rise, I put on an old pair of jeans, a flannel and sweatshirt, as well as a jacket, gloves and watch cap. Out of nowhere, it snowed: a light coat of white that would melt by noon. It is important to stay warm when so many are getting sick and it is so contagious. I take a two-hour walk through the neighborhoods and stores of our small city. The roads are almost empty, though I see others doing the same. Some are even running.

“Good morning,” they say, as they pass. They keep their six-foot distance.

My lay-off should be over in three weeks, though subject to change. Deaths are rising, but lower than projected. Pre-cautions and protections are necessary to hopefully end the coronavirus or prevent it from getting worse. At my age, it is getting risky.

Back at my apartment, I sleep during the day and hope it will all be over soon.