In light of the coronavirus pandemic, everything about our training has changed: the who, what, when, where, how, and especially the why. Let’s grab hold of our new reality and reassess our triathlon lives.
Who: Well, for better or worse, this is an easy one. You. That’s who you’ll be training with for the foreseeable future. And while there are some lone wolves out there who prefer to train alone, most of us relish the social component of triathlon. How can we adhere to the protocols of social distancing while still seeing our training buddies and tri friends? It’s time to embrace virtual get-togethers and workouts. My CMC family and I enjoyed our first “virtual happy hour” via Zoom last evening. We drank, we B.S’ed, and we did our best to keep our respective young ruffians from overthrowing our hangout. Soon, we’ll have our first virtual group ride on Zwift. Lots of people are doing fitness challenges like the “See 10, Do 10, Tag 10” pushup challenge on Instagram. Don’t let the technology deter you; it will be worth the effort to connect with some familiar faces. We may be training alone for now, but at least we’re alone together.
What: First, the pool was off limits. Then came the groundswell of concern over whether riding outdoors was prudent or ethical. And is it even physically possible to stay six feet away from your friend if you’re running at the duck pond together? It sure is easy to dwell on what we can’t do right now as opposed to what we can. But let’s do our best to avoid the trap of going negative. Our lives are full of enough stress right now. What can we do to keep our training going? My vote is that the primary driver of your fitness right now should be indoor riding. Do it at least three times a week. “But all I do when I ride on my trainer is pedal mindlessly and watch Netflix!” If that’s you, you’re a prime candidate for Zwift or TrainerRoad. Riding is especially important if you’re building up to a 70.3 or 140.6 later this year, so get your butt in that saddle, and don’t forget to start practicing nutrition. What else can we do? Outdoor runs. Solo, of course, and preferably close to home. To simulate swim training, it’s time to invest in some resistance cords and incorporate dry land training. Not sure what to do? Keep it simple. With the extra minutes you have on hand now that you don’t have to drive to the Y, why not kick up the strength training? TRX is my personal favorite, but it’s not necessary. My vote is for a little bit of strength training every day as opposed to a huge 45 minute chunk once or twice a week. And don’t forget your old friend, yoga. Check out an app called Down Dog for free, guided flows that you can do anytime, or flow along with a livestream from Iron Buddha.
When: Triathletes are, necessarily, creatures of habit. We each have our own routine that enables us to cram everything into our day… until suddenly, we’re working from home and doubling as a homeschool teacher and all-day personal chef for our kids. Now when are you supposed to train? The precise “when” will be different for each of us just as it was before our lives were upended by the pandemic, but my opinion is that you have to make time for it. Consider it a non-negotiable, not just for your own sanity but for the benefit of everyone with whom you’re indefinitely quarantined.
Where: Time to get creative! Move your bike trainer outside. Attach those resistance cords to the tree in your backyard (or your front yard if you really wanna psych out your neighbor who’s planning on doing his first sprint tri this summer!) Explore some new streets on your next run and look for signs of spring. Transport yourself to a peaceful place while you flow through some yoga. We may not be able to bomb down Arden Valley Road any time soon, but there are ample changes of scenery within our reach.
How: All of us are experiencing unprecedented stress right now. And while it might seem selfish to forge ahead with the self-centered pursuit of athletic improvement, I would argue that it’s a necessary diversion. Turn off the TV, don’t engage your acerbic “friend” on Facebook, and allow your training to bring your thoughts back to the here and now. If the deluge of coronavirus-induced worry is growing too great, consider an app like Calm or Headspace, or even a remote session with a mental health professional. By controlling what you can control and taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to navigate your training… and your life.
And last but not least, why?: Finding out that your race is canceled is a real body blow to your motivation. Why keep grinding when there’s no more carrot at the end of the stick? Ok, let’s pause for a second and flash back to your motivation for doing your very first triathlon. Back then, it wasn’t about getting a PR at Wyckoff or earning your M-Dot tattoo. No, you took on the triathlete life because you wanted to become a better version of yourself. You took it on to get fitter and stronger, and to find out if you really could conjure up the courage to run headlong into a murky lake at 6:45 a.m. surrounded by hundreds of neoprene-clad strangers (spoiler alert: you could, and that’s not all!) Sure, it helps to have a tangible milepost like a race on the calendar to keep the fire lit, but our mission as triathletes is greater than that. We’re fortifying ourselves and leading by example for our friends and loved ones. That’s a “why” that no race director can cancel.
We have no choice right now but to rejigger every facet of our lives, including our triathlon lives. I urge you to take a deep breath and lean on others, and you will ultimately thrive in this new world.
Wishing you strength and health,