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Fitness and training in covid-19 times

By K.N.*

We are experiencing brand new developments in our era all over the world. The declaration by WHO for the COVID-19 pandemic cannot leave you indifferent. In a hierarchy of actions ahead people are evaluating their situation making necessary adjustments aligning with government’s directions. Additionally following the directions from experts in reference to COVID-19 it is an obligation by all of us to stay physically distanced from one another. This is new to all, and the scientists of the field are admittedly still learning from this, so until they have a better understanding of how to manage and eventually cure this virus, we need to stay at home and pay homage to the thousands of health care providers and nurses working out there for us.

Major events get cancelled, businesses are in lockdown, the bare minimum are in operation, and of course sporting events are postponed way down the line as well.

During this emotionally sensitive period people will be called to serve many roles, being a parent, a caregiver, an employee working from home, a chef, a house cleaner, a psychologist to younger or older…. One key element across the board for all with no exemptions though will be to preserve our personal health and fitness.

 Regarding the second aspect (Fitness), as a coach I need to clarify to all readers out there, the outmost priority is to listen to the experts of the Epidemiology field and follow the directions given by the WHO. Based on those guidelines physical activity and namely outdoor sports creates a gateway to relief, freedom and mental clarity for many athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

However it needs to be clear that with no major sporting events and no reason to fully prepare diligently for anything in the next couple of months, it is risky at this period to opt for big training blocks, and serious practices.  Some might fall in the trap to take advantage of all that home bound free time and invest lusciously on their turbo trainer pouring buckets of sweat in front of Netflix. Also running around the block for many km “clinging” to that high fitness level that was obtained, might not be such a necessity right now. Additionally training with partners, as attractive as it sounds, might exacerbate the spread of the virus, hence physical distancing is a must.

As it stands out (we might have to change that statement in a few months) a healthy and fit and robust system without any major health problems will probably stand better chances shaking-off this Corona virus in the possibility that it gets infected. In case multiple strong and exhaustive daily training sessions are implemented in this period, the window for the common cold to enter, is widely open, and the possibility to get a viral infection (see upper respiratory tract infections articles during heavy duty training) is much greater.

It makes perfect sense that now more than ever it is unnecessary to self -inflict those tough sessions on your body. My take on this: Maintain fitness up to a minimum level ( with a make- sense light version approach that is structured weekly ). Lower volume by at least 30-50%, yes it is ok to de-train a bit, and allow the body to rest and get more sleep, and down time, allow the body gradually to get to this transition of lighter load. For many recreational and maybe even elite athletes

MAINTENANCE is the name of the game for now.

Keep exercising of course, keep producing those white blood cells and make sure you do remain mobile and lightly active. Avoid extremes and avoid stressing the body to it’s limits. Immune system gets stronger not with so the called “super supplements” available at your drug-store, but with the right amount (usually less that what we think) of training load and adequate food along with plenty of sleep restoring the balance.

For many this will seem like too little but the WHO is advising on maintaining a bare minimum of 150min of cardiovascular activities, (cardio),  to name a few such as walking, running, stair climbing at your building, rope skipping, dancing, stationary or outdoor bicycle (if there is one), or maybe even following a cardio routine. Key element for now, is to keep a very low intensity if you are a novice to this.

Sure it is ok to add some body-weight training, the weapon of choice for all home bound athletes, some external resistance or “home-made” weight, the “furniture assistance”, are all valid methods in attacking our major muscles to get toned, hence making us feel good. But do not over-cook this.  Professionals in the field caution home exercisers to achieve perfect form Vs just “pushing to get a maximum muscle burn”. Rubber band tubing is an additional and useful tool (easily accessible anywhere in the world) to maintain muscle tone via a list of myriad moves for lower and upper body.

It must be told that when selecting something from the above and searching solution on the net, it makes sense to verify that the source presenting the guidance is reputable and reliable with the necessary background education.  

Delving deeper into your personal Health (1) and Fitness (2) regime, the 2nd concept cannot be developed if the 1st is not there, so doctors’ advice for health preservation is valuable and should be followed. Worth reading here (https://www.ryltoday.com/priority-a-race-your-health/ why focusing on health simultaneously when aiming for fitness is a priority not only for the elite level athletes but also for recreational sporting enthusiasts. Now more than ever it is important to read up on this since the times we are going through require preservation of Health & Fitness.  


*K.N. is an Exercise Physiologist, graduate of the University of Alabama, an ACSM certified Health & Fitness Instructor, holds an ITU  Level II Certification as a Triathlon Coach, and is a multiple Ironman & Half Ironman Triathlon finisher. He is coaching Triathletes online, teaches Functional Training at ryltoday studio / Nicosia, and performs Exercise Physiology assessments at the Cyprus Sports & Research Center. www.ryltoday.com

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