Being an Athlete in the Heat of COVID-19

The world feels like it’s falling apart. Universities and schools closed, hospitals are overrun, and suddenly toilet paper is a scarcity.

A lot of us athletes are trying to figure out what this means for our season. With races being canceled or postponed, should we even keep training?

It’s ok to stay active, just make sure to take the standard precautions. Plus a few more.

As an athlete, training sessions can suppress your immune system. That can make you more susceptible to infection for a day after training or up to three days following harder, more stressful training sessions. Hard training blocks can have the same impact, even if the individual workouts are relatively short.

With that in mind, here is a list of day-to-day precautions you should take to stay healthy and limit the viral spread during this training block.

  • Wash your hands frequently. Hand sanitizer is great but good ol’ fashion soap is best.
  • That said, use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash with soap and water.
  • Minimize time spent in crowds, especially indoors and in small spaces. Be especially careful around gym equipment and group training classes.
  • Try not to touch your face or put your fingers in your mouth or nose.
  • Don’t share food or drinks with friends and avoid communal foods. The bowl of M&M’s at the aid stations count.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Sleep more. Even if you can add one more hour of sleep to your normal routine, the added recovery makes you less susceptible to infection.
  • Reduce stress. All stress, including training, takes a toll on immune function. That means if you’re training hard, make an extra effort to reduce stress in other areas of your life or vise versa.
  • Bring your own tools or equipment. Whether you’re out for a hike or rock climbing, it’s better to use your own belongings and keep them to yourself.

Rethink Race Travel

If you have races that you have to travel for on the calendar between May and September, do yourself a favor and look for refundable travel and accommodations or hold off on booking flights and hotels until the outbreak plays out. Despite what you might hear from friends and family members, we don’t know quite yet what the impact of COVID-19 will be on races and travel.

It’s also important to remember to be easy on race directors and event organizers. They have some hard decisions to make, and either way participants will be left unhappy. But it’s out of their control. So just take a deep breath and give event organizers a break.

What To Do About Races

If your race is canceled, don’t assume you have to halt training. Keep yourself inspired and in a routine by training as if you have a finish line to get to. At least you’ll have good fitness and that’s not a bad consolation prize.