Community Bubbles…a silver lining!

It’s more than a year now since the pandemic struck the world and brought us back home…figuratively and literally.

In our country with the longest lockdown in the entire world, we are back to where we started a year ago – enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Metro Manila and some nearby provinces. We are seeing record-high daily reported infections as there are now 4 confirmed variants in the country.

We are back to where we started a year ago…

But just like any crisis, there are opportunities that surface and one of these is the emergence of community markets to bring goods and services closer to the consumers so that there is no more need for residents to leave their homes for essential items. With the plea to “stay home” and supermarkets having long lines with limited customers allowed at a time, more and more have opted to buy online but given add-on delivery fees, community markets have become the better alternative.

Subdivisions cafes, restaurants, grocery stores are now offering take-out, pick-up and delivery options and condominium residents found a business outlet right in their own buildings selling various stuff to fellow condo dwellers.

Our village is a fine example of this community economic bubble. We are a community with a little over 130 households and yet the range of offerings is just so interestingly good: from fruits & vegetables; to seafoods and packed dishes; cookies, breads, ice cream and home-cooked snacks – the entrepreneurial juices of the neighbourhood really came out during this pandemic. There are even medicines and PPEs as well as medical tele-consult with neighbour doctors offering their professional services so there is no need to go to over-capacity hospitals. It gave all of us a sense of security knowing that we have doctors a few minutes away.

And the best thing? We got to know each other! It took the pandemic to get our homeowners association to finally get organised after years of failed attempts. Since it was lockdown, homeowners were forced to be home so we got quorums during our general assemblies and with almost all stuck at home, we realised what needs to be done in our village and everyone became more engaged in village concerns.

Out of the crisis, another amazing thing happened…we gained new friends in the neighbourhood and what used to be just a wave and hi-hello became getting-to-know conversations and for the first time in almost a decade of living in the village, we were invited in our neighbors’ homes and we invited them to ours. That’s what I call a silver lining!

Laying the Blueprint for Financial Wellness

I was recently invited to share my thoughts with almost 400 delegates of the 1st Virtual Youth Congress organised by the Rotary Club of Makati Jose P Rizal. It was a mutually meaningful talk based on the feedback of the very engaged attendees and at my end, it was quite inspiring to do my own share of addressing the still prevalent “sandwich generations” among Filipinos.

I call it “sandwhich generation” when children take care of their ageing parents at retirement (because they have not prepared for it financially) while they take care of their obligation to their own family…thereby affecting also their capacity to prepare for their own retirement.

I shared with them my own vision board that I drew 22 years ago. It is a crude representation of the future that I then want but it has served as my guide and the basis for a more comprehensive financial plan that i diligently implement. I am happy to say that all except two goals (we were only blessed with one child and at my age, I can’t bear another one (sigh) and the brand of dream car that I now find impractical to buy).

My crude Vision Board reflecting the future that I want which I drew 22 years ago.

I outlined 4 steps as a guide in preparing one’s road map towards Financial Wellness:

  • Envision – Know what you want in every stage in your life. Visualise how the future looks like for you. Just the broad strokes.
  • Plan – Put a price tag to the future that you want. Once you know what you want, you can then determine how much fund you need to build-up between now and the time you need it. The key word is “build-up” which requires you to start early to take advantage of the time horizon where you can grow your money.
  • Execute – Start putting the elements of your Financial Plan. One thing we discovered about investing is that people generally have a mismatch of their goals and the investment vehicle they use. For example, a young couple wants to start early in setting up the college education plan for their 2-year old child and yet, they put their money in a savings account with little or negligible interest income. A basic principle in investing is that you can take more risks (ie invest in an equity fund that may be more volatile) if you have a longer time horizon.
  • Track and Review – Our goals and aspirations change so it is important to track and review where we are so far and make the necessary adjustments while we still have time.

I closed by reminding the delegates that their youth is their main advantage and they must not waste it by starting early and making the right choices.

Beyond great legs…start running!

All women love strong and shapely legs right? As we age, the forces of nature work their way towards our body and puts unsightly bulges here and there and we start looking at our old photos and wish…

…And wish we go back to our past shape. Hey, we actually can for as long as we are willing to do the sweat price (because the easier cosmetic route does not give you the benefits beyond what the eyes can see).

This teaches a simple truth: Effort produces results, no effort produces nothing. The effort is worth it.

Amby Burfoot, podiumrunner.com

I started running in July 2018 at age 52 so it’s not yet too long ago but this is the best I have felt so far as far as my body condition is concerned. I’ve never been really overweight though but at that time, I was heavy at 134 pounds and I didn’t like it when I noticed I had to buy clothes a size bigger than the previous year so I thought it was time to level up my work-out. (I am 113 pounds now and overachieved my 115 pounds goal). It was so timely because I had been wanting to join the Angkor Wat Half Marathon which our company was a sponsor of. I downloaded a 5K Runner App and the rest is history. Since then I had been running at least 3 times a week. Prior to this pandemic, I travelled a lot so my running shoes are always with me. That’s another benefit of running – you get to explore new places and see them from a different perspective when the place is still quiet and not busy at sunrise (I’m a morning runner).

Running is certainly one of the best, if not the best, exercise to tone your legs but beyond that there are so many other health benefits. Amby Burfoot’s article published in Podium Runner lists evidence-based benefits and I am sharing six (6) of them here (for the complete list, please read: https://www.podiumrunner.com/culture/10-amazing-benefits-running-might-not-known/

  • Running adds years to your life and life to your years. Because of the overall effect of running in the body (cardiovascular, body composition, hormonal balance), studies show that runners actually gain 3 years into one’s life span.
  • Running helps you sleep better.There is a direct correlation between exercising and getting a good sleep and many studies validate this.
  • Running can improve your knees and back. I am sure you have heard the opposite of this and would not believe this is a fact. Burfoot shared a study of 675 marathoners by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which revealed that the “arthritis rate of active marathoners was below that of the general U.S. population (Arthritis prevalence was 8.8% for the subgroup of U.S. marathoners which is significantly lower than the prevalence in the matched U.S. population of 17.9%). I am sure, a big part of this is the fact that runners take extra care of their knees by doing strengthening exercises to make sure that they continue running.
  • Running helps you lose weight, and keep it off. We all know of those who lose weight by doing some diet of sorts and while there had been success stories, there are more cases of “losers” who gained it all back again. On the other hand, if you lose weight by running (as it is one exercise that really makes you burn more calories) and you keep on running at least three times a week, you will most likely keep the extra pounds away. The average person burns 280 to 520 calories with 30 minutes of running. Amount of calories burned depend on weight, time spent running and speed. ~https://caloriesburnedhq.com/calories-burned-running/
  • Running improves mental health, and reduces depression. For sure, running makes you feel good. It gives you a rush of endorphins that runners refer to as runners high. This chemical in the brain has been found to have many positive effects on the body including pain reduction, boost in happiness and pleasure and reduction in stress and anxiety.~https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/runners-high
  • Running lowers your blood pressure. Running and other moderate exercise is a proven, non-drug-related way to lower blood pressure and this is because running strengthens one’s heart muscles and make it more effective.
Pre-run and Post-run stretching

I have to stress how important pre- and post-run stretching is to avoid injuries and muscle aches. Pre-run stretches should be dynamic (active stretches where you engage your muscles and joints warming them up causing blood circulation) while post-run can be static (stretches where you hold a pose for 15-20 seconds) to cool down your muscles and slow down your breathing. Check this CNBC-TV18 you tube video for great pre- and post-runs stretching routine: https://youtu.be/qq1kGDd4Q60

Running and Yoga

Since running involves the use of the same muscles and joints, I can say that yoga is its perfect partner as the latter works out the other muscle groups and joints not used in running. Thus, it further enhances your run. Yoga exercise improves mobility and strengthens your core which improve one’s stability and performance. The other great thing with yoga practice is it teaches you the correct breathing which is so helpful in running. Read more on mobility : https://strengthrunning.com/2019/10/mobility-training-for-runners/

Psychic Rewards

Another reward that makes me feel so good is when I know that someone has been encouraged to exercise because of me. I was able to organise an informal group of runners (mostly beginners) and we would participate in different runs. Some of us even joined runs abroad (Cambodia and Vietnam) and we had so much fun!

There you go – there are just so many benefits that running gives and it certainly goes beyond having great legs. Just a word of advice though, if and when you decide to start running, make sure you build your endurance and increase your mileage just about 10%-15% every week. This way, you avoid getting injured and be traumatised so early before reaping any of the benefits and if you have a medical condition, make sure you ask your doctor’s advice if running is good for you.

And make sure you invest in a good and appropriate pair of running shoes!