Athletes And Training During The Global Shutdown

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An athlete practicing social distancing by playing soccer alone

Everyone and everything has been impacted by the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, including sporting events like the Tokyo Olympics, Wimbledon, and countless others. Individuals and organizations have had to pivot and find new solutions to the current challenges and create a “new normal.” While sporting events are on hold, athletes still need to train to maintain their fitness levels and be ready for when their sport’s season resumes. Here’s how they’re doing that and how you can too!

The Importance Of Maintaining Fitness Levels

The global health pandemic caused by COVID-19 has thrown everyone for a loop, however, it’s still important for athletes to maintain their fitness levels during quarantine. Coaches, trainers and athletic trainers are advising their athletes to continue training, especially since they don’t know when athletes will be able to compete again. If athletes successfully continue their training and maintain fitness levels, they’ll face a lower risk of injury when they do return. Let’s explore some of the many ways athletes are training during this pandemic!

They’re Going Outside To Stay Active

As you may know, going outside to train can be a great alternative to traditional indoor workouts. While many athletes have the opportunity to train outside during this time (if they aren’t experiencing symptoms of the virus and aren’t mandated to be self-isolated), it’s still crucial that they are abiding by social distancing rules. This means that they are training solo (not in groups) and that they keep a distance of two meters away in public.

Another concern athletes training outdoors may face is the rising temperatures as summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, which can make it uncomfortable to train outside. Here are some tips for athletes on how to train outdoors, even in sweltering conditions:

  • Regardless of the temperature, it’s important to stay hydrated, not only during your workout, but also throughout the day.
  • If you are working out during the day, try and find shade instead of being in the direct sun.
  • Do more difficult workouts in the morning or in the evening (before the heat tires you out) and easier workouts during the day. 
  • Wear loose, thin clothing that dries quickly and breathes well.
  • Wear a hat or visor to protect your head and face.
  • Getting a sunburn will slow your recovery time, so make sure you not only wear sunscreen, but also wear thin layers that have UPF protection built in.
  • Cool down after a workout by putting your feet in cold water and use an ice pack on your head or neck. 

Not only are athletes going outside to stay active, but they are also finding creative ways to train, whether they’re indoors or outdoors.

They’re Getting Creative With Their Training

Even though it’s challenging to train when athletes don’t have their regular access to equipment and athletic resources, they’re still managing to find creative ways and solutions to do so. Whether they’re pushing vehicles up the street or walking with weights across the yard, athletes are being resourceful and using whatever they can amidst the pandemic. 

Here are some ways athletes are getting creative with their workouts:

  • If athletes don’t have access to weights, they can substitute with body weight exercises. These can include squats, lunges, push ups, planks, elbows to hands, etc. 
  • While training in person with others is prohibited at the moment, athletes can still train with team members using video calls. This creates a sense of community and accountability. 
  • They are challenging themselves and using whatever they have available by using weighted sleds and even makeshift baseball fields in their backyard. 
  • If they don’t have equipment they run or turn to YouTube for home workouts (such as functional fitness, express workouts and even yoga). 

We’ve covered where and how athletes are training… But another piece of the puzzle is how athletes are leveraging the innovative solutions available to us in this day and age. 

They’re Using Technology To Help Them Train

Being self-isolated can definitely pose some challenges for training. Fortunately, athletes have numerous types of technology that can help them reach peak performance. 

Here are some tech options for athletes looking to train during this time:

  • Fitness apps can help with goal setting and provide feedback (i.e. number of steps, number of reps, sleep patterns). 
  • Wearables offer specialized and detailed information gathered through sensors (i.e. balance, torque, acceleration, muscle fatigue percentage). 
  • Virtual reality simulates and mimics real life conditions to help athletes train and improve techniques, all in the comfort of their own home.  
  • Smart equipment, like certain bikes and treadmills, come with a built-in application that allows users to participate in live or recorded classes which also measures their progress.
  • Video conferencing allows athletes to stay in touch with their coaches, physios, and many others from their sports medicine team. 

Even though athletes are finding creative ways to train with technology, it’s still critical that they account for other factors like nutrition and sleep. 

They’re Still Maintaining Healthy Habits

Due to the pandemic, athletes are probably spending more time relaxing than they normally would. That’s why during these times it’s still essential for them to maintain healthy habits, especially since it impacts their health and their careers. While it may be tempting for athletes to slack off, they should be sticking to their regular training routines (using the above mentioned tips) and following the recommendations given to them by their trainers, now more than ever.

Training and conditioning is an important habit for maintaining fitness levels, but so is nutrition! It’s easy to snack mindlessly all day or grab something high in sugars. With the training they do, athletes also have to concentrate on the foods that fuel them. This includes eating the proper amount of carbohydrates (before an intense workout), protein and fat (which helps with muscle repair and growth), and knowing when to eat these to optimize performance. 

Another factor that plays into optimizing performance is sleep. Sleep is often overlooked, however, it should be an integral part of any athlete’s routine. Sleep helps with all aspects of an athlete’s performance, from psychological (reaction times, motivation, learning and memory), to physical (injury risk and illness susceptibility).    

Maintaining a regular routine during an irregular time is critical, however, being isolated, trying to carve out a new routine and being fearful because of a global health pandemic are all factors that take a toll on mental health. Just as athletes need to care for their bodies, they also need to care for their minds. Taking a break, reaching out to licensed and qualified professionals, and practicing meditation can all help athletes with their mental health.

Keeping in touch with the sports medicine team is another part of the routine athletes shouldn’t neglect. Athletes can use the data-driven guidance provided to them by their sports medicine teams who are using an Athlete Electronic Health Record (EHR). An EHR like Presagia Sports  is a secure solution that can be accessed no matter where the sports medicine team is working from as they help athletes with their performance and recovery. 

We know this is an especially challenging time, but we also know that sticking to a routine and finding creative ways to maintain fitness and healthy habits will help athletes stay prepared for their sport season, and we look forward to seeing all athletes competing again soon!