USATF trainer Christie-Lee Coad shares her advice for athletes who are stressed and stir-crazy.
If you’re going a little bit nuts while staying at home, we get it. Running solo is getting tedious, and making us itch for track meets under the lights and post-run beers with friends. But while longing for life after coronavirus is only natural, a better use of our time right now is finding ways to stay as healthy and happy as we can.
Christie-Lee Coad, an athletic trainer who is part of the USATF medical staff headed to the Tokyo Olympics next year, has completely changed the way she works in light of the pandemic. Instead of seeing track and field athletes in her clinic in College Station, Texas, Coad gives them stretches and mobility exercises over video chat or via email or text.
“One blessing of not having competitions right now is that athletes can focus on something they want to improve or strengthen without worrying about racing,” Coad told Runner’s World. “It’s a great time to heal a stress injury or hamstring issue that was bothering you earlier this year.”
Whether you’re an elite or recreational runner, you’ve likely visited a trainer or physical therapist at some point for treatment, injury rehab, or a massage. Now, with most training facilities closed at the moment, it’s up to you to keep yourself tuned up. Here, Coad shares her advice for runners on how to stay fit, sane, and injury-free right now.
Make Short-Term Fitness Goals
Since it’s unclear when racing will start again, runners should establish short-term fitness goals to focus on rather than waiting to test themselves at a race, Coad said.
For example, if you were planning to do a marathon this winter but your event was postponed until the later, you might challenge yourself by racing a solo race this spring. Set a date and a goal time for the race, then write down the workouts you will need to do to achieve your goal. This goal-setting practice will keep you motivated to run, freshen up your routine, boost your fitness, and provide a much-needed sense of control and accomplishment during these uncertain times.
That said, short-term fitness goals don’t have to be just about racing. Other good goals might include meditating every morning, warming up and stretching after each run, or doing 25 push-ups in a row—things on which we might not focus if we are logging K’s ahead of a race. Whatever your goal is, jot it down, set a deadline, and make a plan to see it through.
“Don’t worry about losing fitness,” Coad said. “In times like these, your main goal is to stay healthy. If you want to compete right now, there are ways to do it through virtual racing. But if you don’t want to race, it’s a great time to try other exercises and challenge yourself in different ways.”
Self-Treat Your Injuries (Safely)
While most of us can’t book a massage appointment right now, we’re fortunate to have many ways to treat our aches and pains from home. Olympian Gwen Jorgensen, who normally receives several treatments a week from separate trainers, shared on Instagram that she’s been self-treating her sore legs with a Sidekick recovery tool. From cheap lacrosse balls and foam rollers to pricier Sidekicks, Theraguns, and Normatec boots, there’s a recovery tool for every budget.
“Runners should definitely take advantage of these tools if they have them,” Coad said. “We’re fortunate to have ways to self-massage without having to see a trainer. As long as you use the tools properly, they are great substitutes for in-person treatment.”
Strengthen Neglected Areas
With stay-at-home orders still in place for many of us, there are a lot more hours in the day to fill than usual. But while it’s fine to stream Netflix during the time you used to spend commuting to and from work, it’s even better to strengthen your weak muscle areas while you binge-watch. According to Coad, all runners should focus more on their glutes, core, and hip muscles. “These areas are always weak in runners,” she said.
Runners can see a huge improvement in their form and fitness by working on glute activation, core strength, and mobility drills, Coad advised. Luckily, there are numerous workout classes and yoga videos available to stream that offer these sorts of exercises. To start, you can try Emily Infeld’s lower body workout that focuses on hips, core, and glutes.
Stay on a Schedule
With our usual routines completely uprooted and every day feeling a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s challenging to stay on a schedule—but keeping a sense of normalcy is critical for both our mental and physical health, Coad said.
“I have a lot of athletes calling to say they’ve been having trouble sleeping or they’re feeling less motivated than before, and I think a lot of that has to do with not feeling grounded in a routine right now,” Coad said.
While some changes to our routines are permanent for the time being—such as not going to work, school, or the gym, for example—we can still hang on to some parts of our old routines. Coad advises that runners still wake up as usual, exercise (it doesn’t have to be a run; an exercise video or walk works, too), eat healthy foods at your normal mealtimes, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you typically meet friends to run but are going solo for right now, try to set up a call with your training buddies to retain that valuable social interaction in your day.
“Staying engaged with your community is a great way to stay motivated,” Coad said. “It’s easy to feel lonely and isolated during this time. I advise my athletes to stay connected with their teammates and friends in any way they can. Just talking to other people going through the same thing will make you feel better and keep you accountable for staying fit.”