Tips and techniques to stay motivated and fight boredom
Colin Riley MS, RDN, CSSD
There’s no doubt that we are living in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our lives have drastically changed over the past week or two with races being canceled or postponed, our kids’ schools closing down, and the challenge of trying to navigate working from home while figuring out your and your families’ new daily schedule.
Many of us (including myself) were gearing up for our first big “A” race of the year only to hear that it had been canceled. This leaves us with a lot of uncertainty, asking ourselves questions like, “When will my next race be?” and, “ Is that one going to get called off too?”
For those that swim, pools all over the country are closed. We had started gaining some really good fitness and were gearing up for the spring swim meet and triathlon seasons. Now what?
But in the midst of this uncertainty, you can use training as an outlet and a constant to keep us grounded. If you are able to work from home, you might even have MORE time to train, as you no longer have to commute to the office.
There are lots of ways to stay active and motivated through these trying times. Sometimes you just have to get a little creative.
Over the last year or so, indoor training has undoubtedly risen in popularity. Initially, cyclists were just looking to optimize their workouts and stay safe from cars and traffic. Now, the world of indoor cycling is becoming the norm with Zwift, TrainerRoad, Sufferfest, and other platforms taking off.
On Zwift, there are group rides you can jump into at any hour of the day, along with workouts and training plans to help you stay focused and motivated toward your next race or goal.
Have some friends in another state or across the country? You can organize a group ride, and everyone can ride together. You might even be able to jump into a ride with your favorite pro athletes.
TrainerRoad has thousands of workouts and many different training plans to adhere to depending on where you are in your season. If you don’t have a coach, following a training plan is probably the next best thing to maintain focus and keep yourself motivated toward reaching your goals.
Indoor cycling has grown so much over the past few years that the UCI and Zwift are planning to hold the first “Cycling Esports World Championship” at some point this year, leaving no doubt that indoor cycling is here to stay.
Even if you don’t have a smart trainer, you can actually turn your classic fluid trainer into a smart trainer by following a few steps. Ultimately, the trainer is a great way to stay active, get in a good workout, and keep you going when you just can’t get outside.
In most parts of the country getting outside is still allowed and encouraged!
With so many of us being told to distance ourselves from others, including working from home, some people are probably not leaving the house for multiple days in a row. But nothing beats getting outside to get some fresh air, especially as temperatures begin to rise.
Whether it’s an outdoor ride, a run, or just a walk or hike, getting outside can clear the mind, reduce stress, and actually help you have a more productive day, as well as sleep better at night.
The treadmill, like the indoor trainer, can be a time-saving and efficient way to get in a workout. Whether you have kids that need to be watched, rain and thunderstorms are keeping you indoors (‘tis the season), or you just want to dial in some specific efforts, the treadmill is a great piece of equipment to have.
Treadmill running is all about mixing it up! Changing up tempo, speed and incline instead of running at the same pace the entire time, which can get boring pretty quickly, can help make the time go by much faster. Instead, try one of the following:
- Descending pace (increasing speed run) - Depending on how long you are running, try increasing the speed by 0.1 mph every 2-5 minutes. Start at an easy pace and build up to a hard pace (or go until you hit your limit and can’t go any further).
For example: Start at 6.0 mph and add 0.1 mph every 3 minutes for 45 minutes. You’ll get up to 7.4 mph, and then can back it off for a couple of easy minutes at your starting speed. The speed can be adjusted based on your training level.
- Simulate a track workout doing 400, 800, or 1600 meter repeats with half the distance as an easy jog between each one.
For example: 6 x 800 meters (½ mile) w/ 400 meters (¼ mile) easy between each one. Start with a proper warm-up and end with an easy cooldown.
- Tempo Run - Sometimes it can be hard to push yourself outside on your own. The treadmill keeps you honest.
- Start with a 10-20 minute warm-up
- Then run a 20 minute up-tempo effort
- Cooldown for 10-20 minutes
Strength Training at Home
There are so many resources of different strength training exercises and routines available online. From YouTube to gyms providing free workouts on their Facebook pages, there is no shortage of workouts and at-home training ideas.
Some basic equipment that is worth investing in
If you’re going to incorporate some strength training in at home, here are a few items that would be helpful to have:
- Stability ball
- Medicine ball
- “Light” and “Heavy” set of dumbbells
- Resistance band w/ handles
- Small resistance “ankle” bands
Equipment Free Body Weight Exercises
If you don’t have any weights/equipment at home, you can still get in a great workout with just your body weight!
I’ve personally always thought that if you could only do one exercise, it should be the push-up. A classic, the push-up is also one of the most effective exercises out there, as it works a lot of different muscles and gets the heart rate up.
Here is a quick circuit of exercises that you can do. Go through the entire set 2-3 times:
Upper body: Push-ups - regular (or modified - on your knees or against a wall)
Lower body: Squats in place and/or wall sit
Core: Plank - hold 30-60 seconds or longer
Upper body: Chair dip - place hands on chair/bench/couch with knees bent at 90 degrees (or straight out)
Lower body: Standing single leg deadlift/Ground touches
Core/Upper body: Side Plank
Lower body: Glute Bridge
Core: Flutter kick/scissor kick
Lower body: Standing calf raises (both legs together or one leg at a time)
Core: Oblique twist (side to side sitting on the ground with legs up)
Free Access to Workouts
If you belong to a gym, see if they are posting videos of workouts you can do from home. Since many gyms have been shut down due to the virus, a lot have turned to live streaming on IGTV and Facebook Live to help people still get their workout in at home. There’s a huge variety of free classes out there right now, take advantage and try something new!
Many pro athletes, including Team INFINIT Pro Andy Potts, are also trying to help out by posting their core and strength workouts on social media and YouTube. These can be great ideas to mix-up your at-home strength training sessions and get some new ideas.
Aaptiv is also making part of their audio-based workout library free to help people stay active. They offer a variety of core, strength, cardio, yoga, and meditation classes ranging in length from 9 - 40 minutes long. Add in a quick 10 min core class on your lunch break or try the 9 min meditation “Prepare the Body to Sleep” if you have been struggling to sleep with all of the change.
Alternatives to Swimming
With nearly every pool in the US closed right now due to COVID-19, it’s time to get creative if you’re a swimmer or a triathlete. Stretch cords can be a great alternative to keeping a similar swimming motion going while you are out of the water.
Some specific exercises good for swimmers that you can do from home:
- Seated row with a resistance band
- Bent over row with a heavier dumbbell
- Overhead shoulder press
- Reverse fly, Lateral shoulder raise, Front shoulder raise
- Tricep dips on a chair or bench
- Pull-ups (if you have a home pull-up bar)
Flexibility & Body/Mind Training
There’s no doubt that these times we are facing are a little stressful. Doing some yoga or guided meditation while at home can be a great way to help clear the mind and focus on your well-being. Consider getting your whole family involved for a fun post-dinner yoga class.
- Pull up a yoga class on YouTube.
- Foam rolling - You might have a foam roller that just sits in your corner. You always say you are going to spend some time each day “rolling out,” but it never happens. Now with a little extra time at home, spend that 5 minutes a day foam rolling those tight spots (IT bands, quads, calves, etc).
- Listen to a guided meditation on a podcast or YouTube.
- YogiApproved - Get a free 30-day membership to a wide range of yoga classes.
- Calm - Sleep, Mediation, and Relaxation App
- Breathing exercises - Spend a short period of time doing some focused breathing. This can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Our daily routines have changed, and we are not really sure how long things will be “different.” There are a lot of things you can’t control, but there are also a lot of things you CAN control. By continuing to stay active, even if you’re unsure when your next race might be, you will help keep your body physically and mentally healthier.
Has your “A” race already been pushed back to the fall? Take a step back, assess your training, and reflect on how it was going. It is a great time to get back to the basics of developing a good aerobic base, incorporating some speed and short intervals into your training, as well as adding in some strength training.
As always, and since you might have a little extra time on your hands, don’t hesitate to reach out to us about any of your nutritional concerns. Our full team of dietitian nutritionists are still operating as normal (just from home)! So schedule a consult to discuss your updated race schedule, training plans, and to dial in your nutrition to get the most out of your efforts.
About the Author
Colin Riley, MS, RDN, LD, CSSD is INFINIT's Head Formulation Specialist, registered dietitian, a fourth year professional triathlete, and a USA Triathlon level 1 certified triathlon coach. Colin started his triathlon career while he was studying at the University of Dayton and Florida State University. Also in that time Colin received his Bachelor of Science in fitness and nutrition from University of Dayton and his Masters in Sports Nutrition from Florida State University.