fitness · illness

So-called “miracle cures” are back on the market: bogus treatments for real illness

Here’s the tl:dr version of my post today:

What are the top 10 cures for for COVID-19?

  1. there
  2. aren’t
  3. any.
  4. Anyone
  5. saying
  6. there
  7. are
  8. is
  9. a
  10. liar.

Every time illness breaks out, there are lots of enterprising charlatans out there, trying to take advantage of our vulnerability. So it is now with COVID-19. What are some of those unscrupulous blackguards peddling (either in goods or false rumors)?

First, there’s garlic.

Twitter post saying that 8 cloves of garlic boiled in water will treat COVID-19. It won’t.

Apparently, this rumor got so much traction that the WHO felt the need to add it to their page of debunked myths about the coronavirus:

WHO graphic showing garlic with faces, but which have no healing powers for COVID-19.
WHO graphic showing garlic with nice faces, but who have no healing powers for COVID-19.

And also: gargling salty water.

Disinformation posted on twitter, giving bogus info about salt water gargling and coronavirus.
Disinformation posted on twitter, giving bogus info about salt water gargling and coronavirus.

Gargling may make your sore throat feel better, but it’s not going to have any effect on the virus. None at all.

Here’s another: Chlorine dioxide. What is that? Factcheck.org, tells us more here and below:

Chlorine dioxide kits are sold online under various names — Miracle Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, Master Mineral Solution — but they are most often referred to as MMS.

These kits typically include a bottle of sodium chlorite and a bottle of an “activator” such as citric acid. When the two chemicals are mixed together, they make chlorine dioxide, a common industrial bleach used in the production of paper products, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

But MMS hucksters sell the chemical solution as a cure-all for cancer, AIDS, autism and, now, the novel coronavirus.

Again, the WHO says no to bleach (either ingesting it or pouring it on one’s body) as a treatment for COVID-19 (or anything, for that matter).

Here’s yet another one: substances with the name chloroquine. This refers to an anti-malarial drug (which HASN’T been shown to be effective against COVID-19), but also to a solvent used to clean fish tanks. An Arizona couple heard a news story about the anti-malarial drug and thought the fish tank cleaner had the same substance; they decided to put some in liquid and drink it. The man died and the woman is in critical condition. You can read more about it here, and below:

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in the hospital’s statement. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

Then we have: the online swindlers who cook up bogus medical treatments and sell them to vulnerable people during times of outbreak and uncertainty. One such miscreant, Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, was arrested on Wednesday:

[Middlebrook] is charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

In videos he posted this month to his 2.4 million Instagram followers, Middlebrook showed off nondescript white pills and a liquid injection he claimed would offer immunity and a cure, respectively.

“Not only did I make the cure, but this pill right here is the prevention,” he said in one video. “Meaning, if I walk into the Staples Center and everyone’s testing coronavirus positive, I can’t contract it. It’s impossible. … I have what makes you immune to the coronavirus.”

You might be thinking: Srsly? Who would believe that some guy would have found THE medical concoction that does double-duty as both prevention and cure for a brand-new virus? I mean, who could be that gullible?

We can. We can believe anything when we’re scared, when we or our friends/family are sick, and when there aren’t any current treatments out there.

So, what can we do while waiting for medical science to hurry up and help a planet out?

I have three suggestions:

Hang tight.
Hang tight.
Wash those hands!
Wash those hands!
when in doubt, zoom!
when in doubt, zoom!

Zoom with friends, family, coworkers, yoga classmates, neighbors, distant relatives, old prom dates, vacuum cleaner salespeople, former pets, future ex-in-laws, fellow ex-patriots, third-grade teachers, part-time hairstylists, amateur boxers, Irish stepdancers, out-of-work tour guides, licensed taxidermists, in-the-know gossip columnists, tree surgeons, romance novelists, new moms, old cowhands, child psychiatrists, or orchid enthusiasts. That’s a start.

Have you, dear readers, heard any rumors about cockamamie cures or treatments or preventatives for COVID-19? Please feel free to share them so we can all revel in their bogusness.

fitness · habits

Thoughts on not changing everything while everything’s changing

Let’s take a poll: how many people are already tired of those articles with the 10 things you MUST do to survive working from home/social distancing/etc.?

A crowd of women, all raising their hands.
A crowd of women, all raising their hands.

I thought so.

Probably most of you have seen this sample COVID-19 daily schedule for families trying to work, study, exercise, eat, rest, play and sleep at home together:

A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.
A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.

There may be people who run on schedules like this one, pandemic or no pandemic. Frankly, I’m skeptical. My sister home-schools her kids, and one of the virtues and vices of home-schooling is the flexibility and flow of their activities. For them, the educational and the utilitarian and the recreational sometimes overlap. As long as they meet the goals my sister (and her state home schooling association) set for the kids, it seems fine. All roads may not lead to Rome, but many do, including theirs.

Let me put this out there (for the five of you on the planet that don’t already know this): I’m not a scheduler. I try to make schedules to plan out my day or week (month? oh no…) . I make to-do lists, clustering tasks into categories, prioritizing them, marking them off when completed. Sometimes that works a little. I do keep an accurate appointment calendar on my phone. And yet, I’ve never kept to a dedicated routine for managing my time at home.

I get up in the morning (early, late, whenever my plans for the day tell me I must). I make coffee (obvs), and sit down right away at my computer. No, I don’t:

  • get dressed right away
  • meditate
  • do morning yoga
  • clean anything
  • go for a a run, walk, bike ride

I just work. What work I do first depends on what’s most pressing and then move down the priority list. I know, you’re not supposed to do the pressing work all the time, or you’ll miss out on doing the important work.

Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?
Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?

The thing is, I’ve always been very, uh, “flexible” about my work-from-home style. I interrupt my work flow to talk with friends on the phone mid-morning sometimes. I do mid-morning or afternoon yoga often to clear my head. My work day doesn’t end early/at the same time every day; I happen to be writing this blog post at 11:47pm. That’s me.

(sidebar: I use the Be Focused app with the Pomodoro technique– 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, repeat– to help me get up out of my chair and move around. I often do small household chores during the breaks, and it works for me. Tracy introduced me to this method and has blogged about it here, and Cate recently blogged about it here).

This informal way of working seemed more or less fine. But then life changed, and now I do everything from home. Maybe it’s now time to start scheduling my time in a more focused, disciplined, regular, accountable way.

I can't! I'm not ready!
I can’t! I’m not ready!

There there… It’s going to be okay.

Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.
Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.

The fact is, my work life from home has changed a lot. Now that I’m home everyday, I do a lot of things differently:

  • I’m cooking every day
  • I’m doing a lot more dishes and kitchen cleaning!
  • My sleep hours are more grad student-y: 1:30am to 10am (if left to my own devices)
  • I’m doing more live yoga classes, courtesy of Zoom, and I love it
  • I’m doing more emailing with individual students, soothing and reassuring them
  • Technology competence is more important, so I’m working on that
  • My friends and family need soothing, as do I– we vent and reassure each other daily
  • I want more outside exercise, which is still a work in progress
  • I want to think and write and read

That’s a lot of change to roll with.

So I hope I can be forgiven (by whom? myself, I guess) for not scheduling all these activities by the hour or half-hour in a daily planner.

The sad bear says, "I'm sorry. Forgive me, please."
The sad bear says, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please.”

Here’s an idea, dear readers: I’ll forgive myself for not scheduling all the hours of my day, if you’ll forgive yourself for something you’ve been chastising yourself about since the world went topsy-turvy. Anyone want to share what’s come up for you in the course of all this change? I’d love to hear it, and I will be soothing and reassuring.

A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.
A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.
fitness · online exercise · yoga

Developing my Zoom identity: new options emerging

This is my first week as a Zoom person. I’ve Zoom’ed to department meetings, chit-chats with friends, one therapy session and two yoga classes. It’s surprising to me how effective it is at creating a platform for interacting with other people fairly authentically; I didn’t feel like I was in the same room with my colleagues, but we were all our full selves. In fact, we were more our full selves than usual, with cats and dogs and snippets of home conversations weaving their way into the meetings. I don’t have pets, but I tried out wearing hats for meetings (well, one per meeting), and I may keep it up. I also showed off my blooming orchids to everyone (they’re actually blooming– that’s not my attempt at old-timey English slang).

Therapy via Zoom went really well, and I hope y’all who are therapists or in therapy (or both) find it useful and satisfying, too.

But I’m really here today to talk about Zoom exercise classes. Friends are doing Zoom spin classes, Zoom strength training, and loads of Zoom yoga classes. I blogged about some things I liked about my first Zoom yoga class here: 5 great things about Zoom online yoga class.

One thing I didn’t mention there was this: in a Zoom class, we have choices about how visible to be. We can choose to listen to the instructor but not see them. A class I’m taking today (Jennifer Reis’ Five Element Yoga plus Yoga Nidra Sunday March 21 at 2:30pm, which you can register for here for free; she’s awesome) is set up so that we can see her, but she can’t see or hear any of us. There will be Q&A afterward, but it’s independent of the class.

On Friday, I did a wonderful Flow and Meditate class with Alex Amorosi, who teaches at my local studio Artemis. There were 50–60 people (he estimated at the time) taking the class via Zoom. It was cacophonous at first (in a good way); everyone had audio on, and people were greeting Alex and others they knew; I joined in the happy shouting with teachers and fellow classmates.

Then we got down to the business of yoga. We were all muted (literally), and it was just Alex’s voice (and image, when we looked up at the computer screen), leading us through meditation and asanas. I found it difficult to stay in some of the poses as long as he indicated, and so I came out of the pose for a moment, then got back in it. I do this in classes, too, when I need it. All of my teachers remind us at each class that we are in charge of our practice (workout), and I enjoy that vibe.

However, in the Zoom class, I felt more free to do a modification, or come out of a pose for a moment and then resume when I needed to. I’m sure this is because I knew the other students couldn’t see me, and even Alex the teacher couldn’t see or focus on individual students much during the online class.

One yoga colleague who took the Friday class told me that they turned off their camera and used audio only, as they wanted to be free to do their own thing during the class. They liked hearing Alex’s voice taking us through the series of asanas, and they joined and made modifications when they wanted. Having no video made it easier to do that.

When I posted on Thursday about Zoom yoga, one commenter wrote that she was going to take a Zoom Vinyasa class(more active and strenuous flow), and she was “worried that I won’t push myself as hard without others around me.”

That makes a lot of sense. I definitely push myself harder in classes with others than when doing yoga at home alone. However, I’m thinking of another opportunity that Zoom yoga offers: the chance to take a demanding class that I might not take in person. I’m definitely going to do this. More advanced Vinyasa classes involve poses or variants my body’s never even dreamed of doing (yes, we’ve all posted about this; see Sam’s most hated yoga pose, and my Yoga poses I simply can’t do). Also, they go at a pace that is sometimes way above my comfort level.

Enter the virtual yoga studio class. This is perfect– I can push myself as much as I like/can/want, take microbreaks if I need them, and do modifications when I want and need them.

I know, I know– yoga teachers everywhere are fretting and crying out, “But you are encouraged to do modifications all the time– everyone’s body is different, and everyone’s body has different functionality from day to day. We welcome you wherever you are in your practice!”

Thank you, yoga teachers everywhere. I know this and appreciate you.

Some wonderful things yoga teachers bring to us.

And yet.

I’m liking the idea of taking whatever class I want and not feeling one iota of self-consciousness (other than between me and me, but that’s another post). I get to practice yoga incognita.

By the way, Yoga Incognita is totally going to be my spiritual name if I ever find myself doing loads of kundalini yoga (you can actually request your own spiritual name here). Or maybe some other occasion that calls for a yogi name will come my way. You never know.

So, dear readers and fellow Zoomers, what are your impressions of Zoom movement classes? Do you like them? Are you finding that they are less motivating? More liberating? Hard to see or hear? A way to sneak into a new type of activity? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · yoga

5 great things about Zoom online yoga class

Today I just did my first (of probably many) Zoom online yoga classes. It was a fundamentals class, lasting an hour. Here’s a list of things I really liked about it.

5. The commute: I left my zoom department meeting at 11:50am in my dining room, walked to the living room and set up my mat, props and laptop in time for noon class.

Gorgeous open plan living room dining room kitchen-- so not my house!
This is soooo not my house.

4. Easy wardrobe change: I was wearing my yoga clothes in my work meeting with a nice-looking (to me) sweater, which I took off for yoga. Presto, change-o!

A person doing yoga on their desk at work. This person got their work/yoga boundaries confused here.
Unlike me, this person got their work/yoga boundaries confused.

3. Time and money savings on laundry: I wore the same yoga clothes for the zoom class as I had the day before for my video yoga workout. Hey, you’re all doing it too… 🙂

Cartoon in which 4 pairs of pants say to a person, "we love you but we're concerned. You never wear anything but your yoga pants anymore."
Cartoon in which 4 pairs of pants say to a person, “we love you but we’re concerned. You never wear anything but your yoga pants anymore.”

2. Opportunities for cultivating compassion; in my case, for the yoga teacher whose headset kept falling off, so she gave up and just kind of yelled for the rest of the class. No complaints– it worked.

A video shot of person doing yoga with cat's face taking up half the screen. In my case, At least the camera was well-placed to be out of the way of curious cats.
At least the camera was well-placed to be out of the way of curious cats.

And now, number 1:

At least it wasn’t yoga on the deck of a kayak!

A person trying to do a head stand on the deck of a fishing kayak. Who else other than me believes this won't end well?
Who else believes this won’t end well?
A person falling into the water off the deck of a kayak.
Yep. That didn’t end well.

Hey readers: have you tried any zoom fitness/activity classes? How have you liked them? What haven’t you liked? We’d love to hear from you.

fitness · yoga

Last yoga studio class (for the time being)

This week has marked a shift from business as almost-usual to an awareness of the need to shut down our social and work life to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. From school to church to local museums to yoga studios, I’ve gotten a series of emails, culminating in a flurry of Friday afternoon messages:

  • We’re closing for the time being.
  • We care about all of us, which is why we’re closing.
  • Here are some ways to stay in touch with us and what we do together.

It may strike you as odd, but I am warmed by these messages. Businesses large and small, and institutions of all sorts– educational, religious, governmental, etc.– are taking steps to promote the common good. Yes, the reasons for closure vary, and not all motivations are noble. But it is happening, and that is good.

Friday night I went to the last yoga class at Artemis, my local yoga studio, before they closed for awhile. My friend Norah met me there. We brought our own mats, blocks, bolsters, blankets, straps– the works. There were about 8 or so students in a large studio, so there was plenty of room. Liz R, my favorite yoga instructor of all time, helped us get spread out.

The Friday night class is a special one. Liz R greets us gently and cheerfully, inviting us to settle into the transition from the work week to the weekend. Her restorative class begins with gentle movement (partial sun salutations, twists, some balances, some easy stretches), in preparation for a nice, satisfying yoga nidra. We make ourselves comfortable on our mats for the next 20–25 minutes while she takes us through a body scan and mindfulness narrative. I like to put my legs up the wall with my butt on a bolster, which is super-relaxing (to me, YMMV). Invariably, someone falls asleep (it is Friday night, after all), and we’re aware of (hopefully) gentle snoring off in the background.

This Friday, Liz R did not pummel us with information or warnings, or in fact say much at all. She just greeted each person and offered verbal help to get them set up so everyone felt comfortable. And we did. I don’t think I’ve ever relaxed more in a yoga class. It wasn’t that I forgot about my worries and uncertainty. It wasn’t that I become more reassured or confident about the duration or intensity of the outbreak. I just sunk into being there, at that moment, feeling the comfort of others and the sound of Liz’s voice, moving us through postures and then guiding us through yoga nidra. She’s planning on recording it and posting it on the Artemis website. It’s not up yet, but should be sometime this week (I’ll post an update in the comments when it’s there).

When class was over, we quietly rolled up our mats and gathered our things. Liz said, “I won’t see you next Friday night, but hope to see you all some Friday night soon”. Yes, that’s what we know, and that’s how we feel.

I do a lot of yoga at home, but I will really miss that Friday night class. I’ll miss all my group in-person yoga classes and other group physical activities, too. Can I safely take a walk in the woods with another person? Maybe so, we’ll see. What about yoga at my house with one other person (in a good-sized space)? Again, we don’t know.

For now, I’m practicing at home, walking in the woods, being in the moment, and taking it day by day.

Dear readers, what are you doing at home or in your neighborhoods, with gyms and yoga studios and other places closing? I’d love to hear from you. And I’ll post Liz’s yoga nidra in the comments when it comes out.

aging · fitness

Livestrong won’t live long with this bogus exercise advice

CW: mention of diets and quoting of bogus articles’ judgy and false statements about body sizes and ages and (oddly enough) heights.

I don’t necessarily hate internet exercise advice; often I can pick and choose the good stuff from the bin of otherwise useless or ill-fitting or totally-not-for-me tips, and go about my merry way.

Not today, though.

Nope, not today.
Nope, not today.

Why not today? I came across (courtesy of Sam), a pair of totally bogus 2019 exercise articles:

An exercise guide to get a 40-year-old woman fit (I kid you not on the title); AND…

How do short women stay in shape? (their tone of incredulity was, at the very least, surprising)

First of all, what’s with the titles? The first one seems to be enlisting unnamed third parties for rounding up the 40-year-old women and subjecting them to fitness-inducing procedures. Thank goodness I’m no longer 40 is all I have to say about that.

Of course that’s not true; I have a lot more to say about that.

I'm just getting started...
I’m just getting started…

And the second article– is it curious that such a thing (namely, short women “staying in shape” — ew!) is possible? Or is there a darker tone of skepticism here?

Moving on… I have to tell you, these writers really know how to hit you with the lede. Here’s the over-40 article opener:

If you’re a 40-year-old woman who wants to get in shape, it’s crucial to do workouts that are targeted to your changing body and slowed metabolism levels. As you age, it’s normal to experience muscle loss, stubborn belly fat and reduced energy levels (hurrah, getting older!).

It’s a miracle I had the energy to keep reading.

The short-women article opens with encouragement:

Every woman should strive to stay in shape, no matter her height.

Well, that’s a new twist on fitspo. Then, there’s some carefully couched phrasing about exercise and eating (did they call in the lawyers on this?):

In general, shorter women will need to aim for a lower weight than taller women, which may mean that you need to exercise more or eat less than they do.

This woman isn't sure what's coming, but she's not happy.
This woman isn’t sure what’s coming, but she’s not happy.

Both articles start from the premise that “getting fit” (which also means for them getting thin) is going to be, at best, a grim uphill battle, involving lots of hard workouts and very restricted eating. Both articles make false statements about how exercise will help reduce belly fat (BO-GUS!) and how exercise will result in lowered body weights (DOUBLE BO-GUS!).

The worst part of the getting-women-over-40-fit article is this: it assumes that 40-something women aren’t or can’t or wouldn’t otherwise be athletes, or physically active, or functionally able to do all sorts of vigorous sports and activities. So it offers a grim regime of exercises, all aimed at staving off the dreaded belly fat. This makes me sad.

Luckily, none of what that article says is true or necessary. We of the over-40 women’s roundup group have loads of fun activities open to us. Just look at our blog for ideas. Or these recent pictures of me (in my mid-50s) attempting all sorts of moving-around-things:

Can all sorts of activities be done over 40? Yes.

Will there be belly fat? Yes, probably.

Does that inhibit movement and render one incapable of activity? No.

You know what? I’m going to go out on a high note here and not talk about the short-women screed. Okay, I can’t resist sharing this one totally bogus tidbit:

Short women will do well in Ashtanga yoga, which requires you to move from pose to pose in the space of one breath to the next. Your compact shape will enable you to move in and out of poses more quickly than taller women.

I’ve taken a lot of yoga classes, and must say I don’t recall shorter colleagues moving in a blur around me. If you are either a) shorter and move with ninja speed; or b) have witnessed examples of a), please do share your story with us.

fitness · walking · winter · yoga

One weekend, seven women, some activity, much downtime, no bad news

This weekend I write to y’all from Ogunquit Maine, where my book club getaway is in progress. We’re a group of friends who enjoy books, each others’ company, cooking and eating yummy food, and movement.

I feel deeply connected to these women. We play multiple roles in each others’ lives: work colleagues, co-authors, confidants, cycling buddies, yoga friends, and of course fellow literary critics…

Yes, we are discussing a book this weekend (Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton; IMHO definitely worth a read), but the main business of this retreat is to take time off from the world (no, we’re not talking about the world AT ALL in this post) and eat, sleep, talk, move, laugh, and talk some more.

What have we been up to? Friday it was a brief ride for some and clamber on rocks for most of us near the Nubble lighthouse. It was windy and cold– I mean, it’s March in Maine. Duh. But it was fun, even with a few very cold sprinkles of rain (worse than snow in my view). Then food prep, fireplace attention, puzzle-solving, lazy chat, and eventually, tottering off to bed.

Rachel and me, on rocks at the Nubble lighthouse which was (unfortunately out of the shot).
Rachel and me, on rocks at the Nubble lighthouse which was (unfortunately out of the shot).

Saturday was much more active. A couple of friends had their bikes and trainers in their cars, so did intervals outside in the cold on the deck (perfect), accompanied by rock music (my favorite tune was Rock You Like a Hurricane).

Michele and Rachel, smiling and pedaling on their trainers on the cold but sunny deck.
Michele and Rachel, smiling and pedaling on their trainers on the cold but sunny deck.

I didn’t bring my bike setup, instead opting for the ease of a yoga mat. I had a good view of the cyclists from inside (except when in down dog). Norah joined me for a nice morning stretchy workout.

Me in downward facing dog on my mat inside the house.
Me in downward facing dog on my mat inside the house.

Others decided to do walking meditation in the woods, appropriately bundled up for the weather.

Kathy, coming back from her walking in the woods meditation.
Kathy, coming back from her walking in the woods meditation.

Mid-afternoon we headed to the beach. The wind had died down, and the almost-full-moon was rising.

Almost-full-moon, rising over the ocean in Maine.
Almost-full-moon, rising over the ocean in Maine.

There was some cavorting.

Me, holding a pose by the ocean.
Me, posing by the ocean.

As I finish up this post, I’m wondering if there’s any message here other than “hey, my very nice friends and I are having a very nice weekend in a very nice place.” Hmmm. I think I have one:

Life is tough. Bad things happen all the time, and a big bad thing is happening now. We are hearing a lot about how to deal with this and other big bad things. Let me add one more way: if you have the time and the space and it feels safe to do so, spend some easygoing time with people you care about.

Kathy, me, Michele, Lisa and Rachel in front of the Nubble lighthouse (before Kim and Norah arrived).
Kathy, me, Michele, Lisa and Rachel in front of the Nubble lighthouse (before Kim and Norah arrived).

Readers, what are you doing to deal with big bad news these days other than reading and listening and talking constantly about it and washing your hands? I’d love to hear from you.