Sports in the Time of Corona Virus

Sakhawat Hussain
The phenomenon of Corona Virus, or COVID-19 as it is now called, is one of the manifestations of “Post Normal Times”, a concept developed by Pakistani born British scholar and cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar. At the heart of this concept lies its cardinal principles of “complexity, chaos and contradictions”. The very name says it all: we are now beyond normal, nothing is normal anymore. Surrounding us are risks, uncertainties and indeterminacies, all potent ingredients that are needed for ecologies of insecurity and fear. If we look around, we see the actual realization of these principals. The speed at which the virus has struck across the continents has rendered all governments in a state of despair and the masses clueless. It has struck with full force without any partiality or prejudice and has brought everyone down to their knees, no matter what the color or creed of its victims, be they white, brown, yellow or black: all are fair game for this microscopic menace.
All mega structures and processes which took a lot of time, effort and money now stand closed and in a state of paralysis. With all economies and businesses ruined, profiting industries shut, the heart weeps to see the iconic sacred sites of the world’s religions closed, as well: the faithful cannot perform their usual rituals. Such is the nature of this once-in-a-century crisis, an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of human history, in fact. Amidst all these, there came the worst news for the international sports community—players, coaches, trainers, sponsors, clubs and associations, and above all, billions of lovers of sports—–the postponement of Tokyo Olympics 2020. At this juncture, in most countries of the world only hospitals with exhausted staff, many of them without enough medical equipment and medicines, are open to receive the Covid-19 infected patients. Science and the scientists have almost thrown up their hands in air and seem to be in a state of panic, helplessness and even defeat. It is said that all those who have recovered from the virus is because of their physical/ mental strength, determination and firm immune systems. The human immune system is the most important link in the chain of this life-threatening crisis and it is this crucial resistive scheme of organs in the human body that is at stake given the extraordinarily activity, stress and strain that the crisis is putting on people’s lives, especially the elderly, those with background health conditions and professionals on the frontline fighting this new flu virus. In their case, there is an acute danger of developing newer health conditions. In these post normal times, if we use metaphors from the world of sports, for example, if we see this crisis as a one vs. one fight—a deadly bout between the virus and its host—-we are then obliged to turn to the world of sports in an effort to find some strategies, if not cure, that can help people in their most important fight of their life for their survival. I believe sports have a lot to teach us for that very purpose.

Never let the things you can’t do, stop you from doing what you can – Ronald Reagan

The practice of ‘Calisthenics’, an ancient sport/ exercise which consists of movements of large muscle groups such as simple pushups, chin ups, sit ups, squats and running (rope skipping) is well rehearsed and time tested. It dates back to the ancient Greece, to the armies of Alexander and especially to the Spartans. ‘Calisthenics’ means beautiful, determination and physical and mental strength. The beauty of these exercises is that they use an individual’s own body weight to provide resistance against gravity in order to enhance their strength by building and reinforcing their coordination, balance, immune systems. The good thing about these routines is that they can be done anywhere and without any specialized equipment. The importance of these exercises can be judged by the fact that the defense services of almost all countries of the world have adapted some form of these to keep their personnel physically fit mentally focussed and ready which means professionals with strong immune systems ready to face hardships and unexpected situations both during times of conflict and during peace time emergencies, like the one we are facing now.
These exercises are either performed individually or collectively in the form of mass PT or parades. In addition to these, there are a number of other individual sports that are popular around the world these days, such as tai chi, shadow boxing, yoga, deep breathing and aerobics etc. any one of which one can adopt to keep fit. Here I would like to quote the example of a great fighter of all times to further my argument about the importance of a strong immune system and a focused, positive mental outlook. During his imprisonment from 1992 to 1995, the former world heavy weight boxing champion, Abdul Aziz (formerly and popularly known as Mike Tyson, who simultaneously held WBA, WBC and IBF titles) followed an extensive individual training workout in jail to keep himself fit. The important point to note is that he did not use any weights or special equipment during his workouts. Neither was he on some specialized diet. On completion of his jail term, he was in such an excellent physical and mental state that he fought a series of bouts to reclaim his titles. Normally, after workouts sportsmen tend to follow special diet plans, but here I would like to recommend it to all to stick to your traditional diets. Despite the modern claims for specialized diets, there is much wisdom in keeping your diets very simple, in eating less and even fasting at times. If you look around, many of our modern illnesses are not because of lack of eating, or eating less, but because of overeating. Dr Muhatir Muhammed, the former Prime minister of Malaysia when asked about the secret of his good health at the age of ninety five, replied by quoting his mother’s saying, “stop eating when it starts tasting”.
All of this means that one needs to pay special attention to one’s lifestyle choices. After all, diet—what we choose to eat and drink—-is a major choice and decision for many of us, if not all. It is also not a secret that these choices are shaped, and even manipulated, by the omnipresent media and media celebrities, either overtly and directly or subliminally. Like anything else, media can also act as a double edged sword. It is up to the individual how he or she uses it. These days the negative impact of media is taking its toll on the masses when it comes to their physical condition and mental and psychological state. On the other hand, the social media has in abundance individual training workouts tutorials by experts in their fields and books on the subject (audio versions as well). Similarly, there are number of talks by experts as well on the importance and usefulness of these exercises. One only needs to be mindful about the selection of the right and authentic material and program for him or herself. With the help of these, one can start a slow but regular fitness routine in their own private spaces, to which they are increasingly being confined through social isolation and quarantine requirements of the government. Family members, especially children, may be motivated to join the routines. It is a blessing in disguise that this crisis has placed so much time at our disposal, so why not make the best use of it?
The benefits of these workouts are numerous but in a lay man’s language, I would like to list down few of them as a quick reminder for the benefit of all. The first and foremost is that these regular workout routines boost one’s immune system which is the first line of defense against the corona virus. During periods of lockdown where one is confined to his home, the levels of his or her fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression are very unlikely to remain normal. These workouts not only relive all these, but also calm down the mind and the body and boosts energy levels. These protect the joints, repair muscles, increase flexibility and the range of motions especially during periods of inactivity like the one we are forced into. With the help of these one can maintain a healthy blood flow to boost heart health and keep other bodily chemicals in check. One is never too late and a single step in the right direction is never too small, it may alter the course of one’s life and the roads ahead.
We must understand that these are not normal times. In simple terms, “post-normality”, with the description of which I started this essay, means that we are living in extraordinary times and which require that we be extraordinary beings in both our thoughts and our actions. And what better way to respond to the unprecedented challenges of the times than with strong bodies and minds, and above all, with the generosity of spirit, all of which are qualities that any good sport engenders and nurtures in a human being.
“We are so much together, but we are dying of loneliness” (Albert Schweitzer)

DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.

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