Coronavirus tips for athletes: How to look after yourself while your life is on hold

Physio Neil Gallagher explains how to take care of yourself so that when the race season restarts you'll be stronger, faster and happier than ever

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It’s clearly a time of great uncertainty for us all, but it’ll be doubly frustrating if you’ve been pouring out blood, sweat and tearsover the past three months for an event that’s now postponed. However, I want you to flip your disappointment into optimism, and here’s why…

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Whether this is your first triathlon or you’re a seasoned marathon runner, you would’ve been at the sharp end of your training and undoubtedly either starting to pick up niggling injuries or your training is really beginning to drag. So now you have the perfect opportunity to chill out, recover and come back stronger.

Load management

The biggest reason endurance athletes get injured is when they have a spike in their training loads without giving their body enough time to recover. A good training programme should always be challenging and progressive but our bodies like to do this gradually, so use this time to cement your current fitness level then you can have a more gradual increase towards race day.

Strength and conditioning

Endurance athletes often overlook strength training as they worry about muscle soreness and becoming too bulky. However, a good strength and conditioning programme not only makes your muscles, tendons and ligaments more resilient to injury but can also help improve running economy – a stronger muscle moves you faster for longer.

Strength training for swimming: 6 key gym exercises

Strength training for cycling: 6 key exercises

Strength training for running: 6 key exercises

  

Speed

Now that the weather is improving there couldn’t be a better time to get outside (if movement restrictions in your country allow it, of course) and work on your run speed endurance. During a winter training programme these sessions often get pushed aside as nobody enjoys sprinting through puddles in the dark. So pencil in one or two sessions a week where you raise that heart rate. These don’t need to be long; it’s the quality of each session and the effort you put in that’s important.

Enjoyment

As I mentioned earlier, when you’re near the end of a training programme it’s often a grind and a bit tedious, but now you get to enjoy exercise again. You don’t need to turn on Strava and check your average KMPH or how quick you completed a specific segment. You can head out the front door, turn right (or left) and go at whatever speed you want.

What to do now

Most of the major multisport events have now been postponed to the autumn, which gives you ample time to stop, reassess and go again. So firstly chill, relax for a couple of weeks then see it as a mini pre-season where you can iron out any of your perceived weaknesses and fix any niggles.

If you aren’t already doing one then prioritise your strength and conditioning programme over the next 2-3 months. And you don’t need a gym, as there are any number of ways of making a home workout difficult enough to build strength. Then when it comes to three months out from the race and you want to start prioritising the long runs/cycles again, you’ll be in a more robust starting position.  

Need ideas for strength training sessions? Check out our strength and conditioning section on Flipboard

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Neil Gallagheris a consultant physio atSix Physio Leadenhall, and specialises in running and cycling injuries.

  

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