6.16.2020

OT: Reality intrudes and swimming goes on hold for a week. Hospitalizations rise in Austin area. Mellowness achieved.


We've been doing our masters swimming workouts every morning from 6-8 a.m. The group has devised methods to maintain social distancing and has been very observant about reducing any "on deck" interactions. We've done a good job and, so far, no one in our program has had symptoms of or tested positive for Covid-19. What this meant for me was a return to the pool four weeks ago and a renewed program to get back in shape after months out of the water. 

But...we got a message from the club/pool manager last night that a lap swimmer (not in our program) had been at the pool around 1pm one day early last week and had, shortly thereafter, tested positive for the virus. That was the last week on which we also had noon master swim practices (which I did not attend) and it's possible that some of the noon swimmers crossed paths with the infected person (not likely). But, with a need for caution, and a responsibility to the 400 member families of the club, the board of directors opted to close down the facility for a deep cleaning this week and an attempt at contact tracing with the person who tested positive. 

If the swim gods smile upon us we'll resume regular, morning swim practices on Tuesday morning, June 23rd. I am currently offering offerings to all the wet and wild deities and demigods in the aquatic pantheon... 

Since the pool won't be available in the meantime I'm back on my long, long walks, shorter three mile runs, planking and weight lifting regime. I have added one thing to my total health regimen which is very interesting to me. Let me preface this by saying that what I'm about to discuss should not be taken as a recommendation that you follow the same path! Everyone is different.

At any rate I have to start by admitting that I've grappled with lots of anxiety over the past decade. It was overwhelming for a year or so back in 2007-2008. I tried several medications but didn't like them at all and chose to work through the anxiety by researching and trying all manner of cognitive training approaches. I was able to master and stop the panic attacks that sometimes crept up and surprised me but for the rest of the decade since I've had pervasive and uncomfortable levels of more or less continuous anxiety. It's almost like a low level of electric current running through my body. Swimming both soothes and at the same time exacerbates the anxiety. I love the physicality of it but my anxiety intrudes in the form of performance anxiety. Which is odd for an older swimmer; I should be long past the point where I feel like I have anything to prove; or an audience that wants to see me perform...

My doctor and I talk about this whenever I drop by to see whether some skin abnormality will kill me or if he can burn off the offending blemish with liquid nitrogen. About three months ago he suggested that I might try taking a supplement called 5-HTP for my perennial anxious state. I bought some and it sat unused on a shelf for a couple of months. When we started swimming again I decided to give it a shot. I've been taking it twice a day and, for the first time in a long, long time I'm "electric current-anxious buzz" free. It took several weeks for me to see a real effect but it's there now. 

I don't have more or less energy. I am not more or less depressed (and certainly not clinically depressed...). My mood is neither elevated nor de-elevated. It's just that I don't have that tingling, annoying, frightening feeling that catastrophe is just around the corner and that I should be hyper-vigilant and on full alert. 

An interesting thing happened after I noticed the cessation of anxiety symptoms. I take my blood pressure every day and I also recently started checking my oxygen uptake and pulse rate. My blood pressure has always been under control (without meds) but it dropped from averaging 120/65 to 110/65 in the last two weeks. The metric that really surprised me though was my resting heart rate which dropped from an average of 62 to a new, sustained low of 53 bpm. The resting O2 measurement remained static at 97-98.

Seems that not having the overlay of anxiety is good for one's cardiovascular system. Since I am not having side effects from the 5-HTP I'm certainly going to continue to take it. Maybe it's reducing all that free flowing cortisol.

I now have a little cocktail of medications and supplements I'm taking during the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm taking 10 mg of Atorvastatin since this particular statin is well know to smooth the inner epithelial tissue in arteries and veins. Since the Covid-19 virus seems to do the most damage to the cardio/pulmonary systems it seems wise to reduce inflammation and roughened inner artery walls as much as possible. I'm taking 1000 mg. of vitamin D since recent studies pointed to vitamin D shortages as being a common condition in Covid-19 patients who have had the highest mortality rates. And I continue to take 800 mcg. of Folic Acid daily to reduce arterial inflammation caused by possible build up of homocysteine. 

I'm also dosing myself with good coffee at every opportunity. We eat so many fruits and vegetables you'd think we were product testers for the produce industries, and we eat red meat only glancingly and then in small amounts. 

I do think it's important in these precarious times to do as much as possible to boost your immune system in order to fight off infections, to the extent that it's possible. Diet, anxiety control, exercise and getting enough sleep might go a long way toward lessening the effects of a Covid-19 infection, or just making a seasonal cold less miserable. Any way you slice it there are no real downsides to being is as good a physical shape as you can get. 

Ah. An image from back in the good old days when three people could 
socialize in the pool while doing kick drills....
Not advised these days...

Well, Texans have outdone themselves. Our governor convinced all the "low information" people in our state that everything was more or less dandy and that we should all just suck it up and get back to work. As the scientists and medical experts predicted confirmed cases and hospitalizations have both just ticked back up dramatically. The city of Austin has extended the "stay at home" advisory and asked, pleaded and begged citizens to please, please, please wear a face mask whenever you go out in public. 

I'm only visiting businesses that absolutely mandate that everyone wear a mask to enter their establishment. I don't care what political cult people subscribe to but private property owners can make their own rules up for customer safety and anyone who doesn't want to play by the rules should find some place else to shop. I'm wearing a mask everywhere I go and I'm not stopping till we have a cure and a vaccine. If you have an anti-science response just save it because it will get deleted in the interest of not giving bad information to the public. 

I'm giving Austin citizens mixed reviews on their masking skills and social distancing awareness. The Trader Joe's store in our neighborhood is getting high marks for their 100% required compliance toward masking and limiting overall store occupancy. One local coffee shop flunked miserably (not a national chain) when the counter person who poured and handed me a cup of coffee did so with a face mask pulled down under his chin. 

It's all a reminder to me to pay attention to the visiting doctor in my studio tomorrow, and to also make sure I wipe down the camera, lens and tripod I'll be using before (and after) his visit. 

Waiting for the vaccine fairies to deliver a nice, safe vaccine for all of us.

An image from the past that I hope will once again be routine.
12 people circle swimming in a warm-up lane at UT 
before the Masters Nationals.

Hook Em Horns.