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Maintaining Your Fitness (in Spite of COVID-19)

Some thoughts and tips on fitness and race training.

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The restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have given all of us a lot of new challenges over the past year. Business, school and social interactions are all very different from what they were before COVID-19, and society has adapted to the new ways of doing things.

On the fitness front, staying in shape was and still is a challenge. In the beginning, some people hunkered down and did very little exercise (which was not good), but the majority of people tried to maintain their fitness levels as best they could.  Whether they exercised for general health and wellness or for competition, how they stayed in shape took on new forms. When gyms and swimming pools closed, people looked to other options for exercise. Many converted a room in their house to an exercise center. New equipment and technology allowed people to exercise at home and interact virtually with trainers and others fitness buffs.  Swim specific exercises with resistance bands replaced swimming laps in the pool. And some chose to do what they could do outdoors. You didn’t have to look far to see many walkers, runners and cyclists on the roads and trails. There was an explosion of cyclists everywhere in the country. People were dusting off their old two wheelers or buying new bikes. The demand for bicycle repairs and sales grew to the point that bicycle stores across the nation could not keep up. Nationally, bike inventories were depleted. Even simple bike parts such as tubes and tires were scarce for a while.  

For those who train to compete in races, 2020 brought another set of issues.  Race directors cancelled or deferred most competitions due to government restrictions or as a prudent step towards COVID-19 safety.  As racing became virtually nonexistent, motivation to train and stay race ready haunted many athletes.  Thankfully in 2021, it’s looking like there will be a resumption to racing. For those who stepped away from the training scene, and are anxious to resume training, here are several tips to get back to being race ready. Whether it’s a swim, bike or run, follow these tips for race training and preparation.

  1. Have a plan. Strategically, what are your goals for the year, and tactically what’s your short term goal for upcoming workouts?  
  2. Before you go out the door each day, know what your day’s training plans are. How much and how hard will you go? Is today’s workout going to be speed work, hills, long endurance effort, etc.?
  3. If your training has been less than usual or non existent for a while, start short and easy and gradually increase training volume and intensity. If you resume your workouts too hard or too fast, you risk an injury. 
  4. Eat healthy and drink plenty of  liquids – water and sports drink.
  5. Warm up with dynamic stretches or easy movements. Save the static stretches for the end of the workout. Do arm swings, torso twists, leg swings, high knees strides, butt kicks, etc. Get the blood flowing through your entire body. 
  6. Focus on good technique starting during the warm up and throughout the workout.
  7. Train to extremes; don’t get stuck in the middle. Hard efforts should be at high end heart rates and easy efforts should be at a comfortable low heart rate. 
  8. Cool down and stretch when you’re done.
  9. Have a recovery meal within 60 minutes of finishing and preferable sooner. Aim for several hundred calories with a ratio of  4:1 carbohydrates to protein. This meal will off-set fatigue and set you up for a good workout the next day.

When races do resume, athletes should be prepared for logistical changes. Whether it’s a running race, swim meet, bicycle criterion or a triathlon, things will be different. National organizations and race directors have made multiple changes to keep athletes, workers, volunteers and spectators safe. Race sign up, race packet pick up, and pre-race orientation will probably be virtual or by appointment. Race starts will be staggered to maintain safe distances between individual competitors. Aid stations will be reconfigured to minimize touching. Finish line chutes may be spectator free and award ceremonies will be modified or eliminated. In spite of these changes, remember the important thing is that you still get to race, to see how well you can do compared to your last race, and to test yourself against other athletes.

Now that vaccines have become available, infection rates seem to be declining, and even though we’re not out of the woods yet, it’s good to see that the exercise boom continues. 

Whatever your athletic goals are, keep in mind that exercise – with or without competition –  keeps you fit and strengthens your body’s immune system to keep you healthy and virus-free. 

Frank Adornato

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