COVID has undeniably impacted people around the globe though everyone’s experience has been undoubtedly different. Below Spinning® Instructor Matthew Alexander, who has Autism, recounts his personal and professional tale as the pandemic waged on. What’s amazing about what Matthew shares is his perseverance to find the light at the end of the tunnel. In particular, we think you’ll enjoy his tips to stay positive through it all at the end. On that note, we wish you a new year full of renewed hope and tenacious positivity to persevere just like Matthew.
Matthew, what was your first impression of the pandemic personally?
I remember getting home from college at New York Institute of Technology because they needed to clean the school. At first, I was so upset that I was not going to see my friends. Little did I know how much the world was going to change! Then I learned that everything was going to close, including gyms. I understood the logic of the shutdowns though of course it affected me – everyone, really! Especially people with special needs.
Honestly, I started to feel like I had no identity! The places that I called home (school, the gym, work) were all gone! Inside, I felt like I was having panic attacks every day. I felt like I couldn’t go to anyone because we were ALL struggling to get back in the gyms!
Now, I want you to think as you read this, “How do you feel when you think you can’t go to anyone because they are struggling themselves?” I thought to myself that I had to be this strong person to get everyone through COVID when I was not at my best either.
How has COVID affected you as an instructor?
Being a Spinning® Instructor, as well as a group fitness instructor, I was not making any money because I didn’t have a job for eight months! I am really lucky I am living with my parents because I am living rent free. Because of COVID, the gym that I felt ecstatic and honored to work at – Dynamixx Fitness in Old Bethpage NY – closed. I had to resolve how I was going to make the money I made before. Even when most gyms finally opened in August, I wasn’t asked back by the other gyms that I used to work at because I was a substitute.
How did you face all of these challenges head-on?
To help me get through this pain I was facing, I decided to get a Spin® bike for my house as well as the Spinning Digital® App. I also took some classes over Zoom, but for me (especially with Autism), it’s important to be around other people. It wasn’t the same as taking a regular class in a gym. I felt like I was saying “Woo-Hoo” to myself without being heard. I will admit, it did help me keep my passion alive for Spinning®. I also kept my riding skills intact.
The silver lining of COVID for me was that I realized that pre-COVID, I wasn’t taking the best care of myself in terms of my physical and mental health. Because of COVID (and endlessly working out), I lost over 50 pounds! (I had gained weight because I went crazy at college with food!) So, when I decided to take it off, I became very happy with myself again! Isn’t it a good feeling when you feel happy in your own skin?
Do you have any tips that will help others to stay positive during the remainder of the pandemic?
-Be positive. Even if you aren’t happy, you’re going to want to try and be as happy as you can! Being positive and focusing on what you can do can change the way you think. My friend Collier Lee always says, “We have to show grit.” I agree with this statement because you have to push yourself through the negative times you’re having and find a way to make them positive.
-Find ways to work out outdoors as much as you can. Whether you ride or go for a walk, there are great ways to get exercise outdoors! You can even find a group fitness class in your community that’s outdoors. I feel that this really helped me get over my stress.
-Socialize with your friends. I feel that this is the best way to get through a tough time. Even if you can’t get to socialize with them in person, there’s always video chat and texting. If this were the 1970’s, it would be different! But let’s use the tools we have to be able to stay in touch with our family and friends!
Please consider donating to Autism Speaks or a grassroots organization so you can help other people in your community that are struggling too.