Survive & Thrive: Together in Isolation
This was not your typical discussion about chronic pain and arthritis. There was laughing. There were singing and dancing. There was even juggling. It was just what we needed to cut through the isolation of the new coronavirus world. Former pro football player Rob Gronkowski – known by fans as “Gronk” – teamed up with Matt Iseman, host of American Ninja Warrior and a longtime friend of the Arthritis Foundation who has rheumatoid arthritis, to share their stories and some laughs on the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast. Together they will be hosting COVID-19 Celebrity Challenge – Survive & Thrive: Together in Isolation, presented by CBDMEDIC™ to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, on Facebook Live.
Gronkowski’s team took three championship titles in his nine years as tight end. After multiple surgeries and years of chronic pain, he announced his retirement last year, and has since been showing up everywhere from The Masked Singer TV reality show to WWE WrestleMania 36, where he claimed another title. In addition, he has partnered with CBDMEDIC™, which produces CBD-based products designed to ease pain.
He and Iseman joined Live Yes! With Arthritis podcast hosts Rebecca Gillett and Julie Eller to share their stories and talk about the upcoming Celebrity Challenge, where participants will get a little insight into the challenges people who live with arthritis face every day – as well as a chance to be together and to have fun!
Here’s a sneak preview of the podcast, where Rob and Matt swapped jokes about Rob’s performance as the White Tiger in The Masked Singer:
Rob: Learning how to sing and dance together is definitely a difficult task. It's another level of conditioning and cardio and using the brain muscles while coordinating with the body. I had to practice a lot. I give a lot more respect to the artists, to the singers and especially the dancing, too.
Matt: Britney Spears is the greatest athlete on the planet, is what Rob is saying.
Rob: They are athletes for sure. Doing those dance moves, doing that type of body movement, helps break up scar tissue from all my football hits. It helps out the arthritis, I would say.
Matt: Motion is lotion! Rob, when I got diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I couldn't do anything high impact. I had to stop doing basketball and even jogging. So, I started doing yoga, really low-impact swimming and things. What do you do to keep fit now that you've gotten away from football?
Rob: I got away from that hard impact. You want to be that guy on the field that is dieseled-up and ready to go. I got away from that to heal up. Body-weight workouts, [resistance] band workouts and yoga, and also getting treatments like massages to help me recover. It's been like a year now, and I'm feeling really good. It feels great. I feel kinda like I have a new body.
You know, when you're in pain, even going for a walk is unpleasant. I've been in massive amounts of pain all over my body, surgeries all over my body. I had surgery on my forearm, three back surgeries, and also I had MCL and ACL surgery. The scar tissue was built up, and when my body would get inflamed it would really aggravate the scar tissue. When I retired from football, I couldn't really walk. Everything's healed up now and, to tell you the truth, I feel like I'm not limited at all anymore. I feel like if I wanted to go play football, I could. My belief is that you can come back from no matter what it is. But you can't be doing your old routine, so find new routines.
Matt: Man, it sounds like you're feeling better than you have in so many years so… any plans for a return to football?
Rob: Oh yeah. Big time. I'm gonna be a mascot.
Rebecca: Do you guys feel that your singing and dancing, and the humor that you use, helps with your coping skills? Especially right now?
Rob: What I learned was the way I felt after a day of practicing or after the performance, from just singing and dancing – it's great. It's like after a game you get that feeling of endorphins rushing.
Matt: For me, standup comedy has been one of the best things emotionally and physically. I don't care how tired I am, how sick I feel, how sore I am. When I get on stage and do standup, and I'm in a room of people laughing, I feel like I've just won a title. It is such a good feeling. We know there are endorphins released when you're doing these things that you love. The emotional side is so important to tend to when you're dealing with chronic pain. Right now, it is easy to focus on the problems, and it's important to actively choose things that stimulate you and give you that natural high.
Rob: The natural high, that's what it's all about.
Rebecca: Pain can feel really isolating, right? We've all experienced it, and we know that a lot of people with arthritis report feeling isolated and anxiety and depression. And being stuck at home really makes that amplified. Do you guys have any ways that you would suggest to people how you're coping that might help them?
Rob: You’ve got to FaceTime friends. You’ve got to keep the brain active. I got this new game called Ruzzle. It's challenging! And just going for long walks in nature, getting fresh air, getting fresh oxygen. That definitely has helped me big time, man. I just love that.
Matt: I found some online courses. I'm learning how to cook. I've cooked more during this time of isolation than I have in my entire life.
Rebecca: In this celebrity challenge, if you want to test out those new cooking skills, maybe you should do the cookoff with Chef Ming Tsai.
Matt: It would be great, because I can do, like, a 10-minute chicken in 47 minutes.
Rebecca: Our event is called the COVID-19 Celebrity Challenge – Survive & Thrive: Together in Isolation. CBDMEDIC™ has been great to come to the Arthritis Foundation, along with Rob, and say, “Hey, we want to support the Arthritis Foundation.” One hundred percent of the fundraising proceeds are going to the Foundation and our efforts. Rob, what are you excited most about this event?
Rob: I'm just excited to chat with everyone, to hear everyone's stories, to see what they're doing during this time to keep their mind occupied, to keep their body healthy.
Julie: Camille [Kostek], your girlfriend, is also going to join the celebrity challenge.
Rebecca: Camille, share with everybody your hashtag.
Camille: Never not dancing!
Rob: Every once in a while, tensions get up, and then that's when we go and start dancing.
Matt: I love hearing other people's hacks, particularly in the arthritis community. That's why I love the community that we've built in the Arthritis Foundation, where you have all these people who understand the challenges we face.
Julie: This event has lots of fun challenges that we can tackle together – 54 challenges, because there are 54 million Americans with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Showing the world and each other how we overcome them in a Facebook Live event is just a little symbol of how we do that together as a community; how we Live Our Yes. We're so glad to have you guys. The event is April 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET, and we can't wait to see you all on Facebook for this very special event!
Tune in now to the Survive & Thrive with Gronk & Matt Live Yes! With Arthritis podcast episode to hear more about their stories of living with pain and what they do to manage and stay healthy.
Join Gronk & Matt, along with other celebrities, as they go FACEBOOK LIVE for the Celebrity Challenge Event – Survive & Thrive: Together in Isolation on the Arthritis Foundation’s page on Wednesday, April 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET.