News and Events

5 health and fitness pandemic purchases worth every penny

In late February 2020 I stockpiled canned foods, staple goods, bleach wipes, toilet paper and a few other supplies before the real rush caused by the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic and the Trump Administration declaring a national emergency. These purchases gave our family peace of mind and satisfaction that we were a few weeks ahead on flattening the curve. But those purchases didn’t give us much additional satisfaction beyond the utility of using or eating each item.  

We are fortunate to have maintained full and uninterrupted employment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Me as the editorial director for PoIice1, EMS1 and FireRescue1 and my wife as an occupational health nurse. Secure employment, mostly good health and two decades of work-from-home experience helped us avoid the significant hardships many have endured during the pandemic.  

School closings, no work-related travel and reduced youth sports allowed my family to focus on health, outdoor recreation and physical fitness in our region of central Wisconsin and throughout the state.  

As I look back on the pandemic year and how we spent our money, it wasn’t the shelf of canned goods that were worth every penny, instead it was these health and fitness purchases that brought us closer as a family, supported our community and better connected us with our neighbors.   

Granite Peak Ski Area Season Pass 

This is our first year with a season ski pass. We can go from our driveway to sitting on a chairlift at the Granite Peak ski area in 50 minutes. Our typical after school or early weekend morning outing at the 700’ vertical drop ski area on the north slope of Rib Mountain is usually about two hours. We get in 20 runs as we enjoy time outside, silly conversations on the chairlift and create a set of memories that will last long after the tracks we leave in the snow.  

About to make some turns at Granite Peak Ski Area

Disney+ subscription 

Appointment TV viewing isn’t easy when the group includes a 10th grader, 8th grader, mom and dad. Disney+, home to the Marvel Comics Universe and Star Wars franchise, though has given us hours of family time together to help fill the void from summer camp, sports and family gathering cancellations. Instead of shuttling our kids to sleepovers and sports team practices we booked family time to watch “Hamilton,” “Mulan,” “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision,” which was the gateway to re-watch half-a-dozen of the Avengers movies together.  

Commercially made face masks 

We followed early advice to not purchase and use masks like N95 or surgical masks that were in short supply for healthcare providers. We tried a few DIY home-sewn masks before realizing the most comfortable, easy-to-wear and easy-to-wash masks were available from outdoor retailers we already know and trust. Our family’s favorite masks are the Athleta everyday non-medical masks.  

Wisconsin State Trail Pass 

Our home in central Wisconsin provides easy access to hundreds of miles of state trails for biking and hiking. Our purchase of a state trail pass became a ticket to explore more trails around the state. We biked the tunnels and trestles of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the full length of the Mountain-Bay State Trail from Wausau to Green Bay, the Fox River State Trail, the Tomorrow River State Tail and the Heart of Vilas County bike trail system. Though not a state trail, we ran, walked and rode many laps on the Green Circle Trail around Stevens Point to prepare for longer rides and enjoy the natural beauty in our community.  

Entering a tunnel on the Elroy-Sparta bike trail

Local food grown and prepared by our neighbors 

Since we were home more, we extended our CSA membership into the fall and made more Saturday morning trips to the farmers market for locally grown vegetables. We also filled the freezer with handpicked strawberries and blueberries. Our biggest investment in local agriculture was hiring a contractor to build us a “Taj-ma-coop” for a small flock of laying hens. In addition to the responsibility lessons of taking care of animals we can regularly gift a dozen eggs to a neighbor.  

Friday night fish fry from Guu’s on Main with a beer from Central Waters brewery

Pre-pandemic restaurant meals were rare and usually just when Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. During the pandemic we started our own takeout Thursday tradition and most weeks we’d order out from a locally owned restaurant. Our community is small enough that we know restaurant families as coaches, teacher spouses, teammates and classmates. Supporting their business was a direct support for our community.  

Gym and YMCA membership 

For most of the pandemic we kept an active D1 gym membership, as well as a YMCA membership. We did so for the virtual workouts in the Spring, socially distanced workouts in the summer and fall, and optimism that a regular swim team season might have been possible for our daughter. I haven’t worked out at the Y in more than a year, but it is important to us to support the Y’s mission to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities. 

Did you make a pandemic health and fitness purchase that was worth every penny? Please share in the comments.  

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.