For many people around the world right now, exercising outside isn’t possible. Whether you live in an area that has a blanket ban on outdoor recreation, you’re in self-isolation due to COVID-19 or the weather’s bad, you may be wondering how to stay fit while not getting outside to train.
Previously Under Armour’s pro athletes spoke about how they’re handling training limitations like race cancelations and social distancing, and here’s how they’re handling even stricter orders:
BUILD A HOME GYM
Before a lockdown comes, the pros are getting as prepared as possible. “If there is a lockdown, and training outside isn’t available, I pre-planned by recently equipping myself with a stationary Elliptigo and a ‘garage gym,’” says Rachel Schneider, a top middle-distance runner and U.S. Olympic contender. “If it comes to training only inside, I would work hard to keep up my aerobic fitness on the Elliptigo and strength and rehab regimen with the weights in the garage.”
Similarly, Michelle Howell, runner and coach with the District Track Club acquired an indoor trainer for her bike to ensure she could do some cardio if she was stuck inside.
HONING THEIR WEAKNESSES
If your weak point is technical descents on mountain runs, this doesn’t apply, but Stephen Scullion, an Irish distance runner and Olympic marathon qualifier, points out that time inside can be a great opportunity to focus on other limiters — whether they’re strength and mobility or mental hurdles like an inability to stay focused or to focus on a specific workout that’s given you trouble in the past.
“When you’re planning your season, it’s hard to build in periods to focus on your weaknesses because you’re afraid of missing out on say the Boston Marathon or Houston Marathon,” Scullion says. “I found myself bouncing from marathon to marathon. Now that no races exist, it’s refreshing to be able to train on things I believed needed work, rather than just recovering and cramming in training for that next big race.”
EMBRACE THE ADVERSITY
“Mentally dealing with the pivot of training hasn’t been draining,” says Alex Amankwah, a Ghanaian middle-distance runner. “I’ve told myself a few things that have helped me manage these hard times: First, I make it a priority not to worry about things I cannot control. I was aware the Olympics and season could be canceled or postponed weeks ago and that’s just part of the situation we’re in. I can only worry about what I can control. So, I’m embracing the adversity. All great athletes take on adversity and make the best of it by being able to be patient, positive and adjust.”
ADDING SHORT, HARD WORKOUTS
Amankwah plans to focus on shorter, harder workouts if he’s forced inside, using the treadmill, the bike or some weights. “My favorite workout that can be done at home is doing five sets of 5-minute running intervals with a 1-minute break between,” he says. If he got stuck somewhere without access to any equipment though, he’s not worried. “If no treadmill is available, I will do a lot of bodyweight circuits that involve squats, burpees, crunches and stepsup.” (Schneider seconds this, and adds that the number of creative ‘at-home’ workouts she’s seen her fellow pros doing have been inspiring her to make up her own circuits with bodyweight exercises.)
FOCUSING ON THE LONG TERM
Maintaining fitness without a major goal in mind might be mentally challenging, but it won’t take much to hold on to your 10K training. Even at the professional level, runners are accepting the long-term view, rather than stressing about what isn’t happening right now.
“I now have more time to return to ‘full’ training after an injury more cautiously, and we have a long-term plan to hopefully increase my training to a volume where it hasn’t been before,” says Australian middle-distance runner Morgan McDonald, a top 5K and 10K racer. He’s looking forward to getting back to racing when he can, but he’s not focusing on races that are being canceled. The same is true of all of the Olympic hopefuls: It’s hard to accept the Olympic goals they had for 2020 have been deferred to 2021, but they all understand that in the long run, it will work out.
SO. MUCH. YOGA
“Yoga challenges me because it’s a huge weakness of mine, and I’m forced to focus and be patient with my body. It tests me both physically and mentally, and I really enjoy any exercise capable of doing that,” says Scullion. “I like moving away from activities that I’m good at and that let me become almost too comfortable.” (Howell also practices yoga at home, and opts for ‘power-flow’ style classes to combine yoga stretching with more of a metabolic burn and bodyweight strength-training session.)
TRYING NOT TO STRESS
“I admit I was looking on CraigsList for some form of a cross-training machine as a last-ditch attempt if I got really desperate, but I think that instead, I would also try to embrace some time off and not stress too much about training if it gets that serious,” says McDonald. If you feel trying to train indoors would cause more stress than release, focus on some gentle stretching and meditation instead.