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What To Do - The Million Dollar Question

Someday, 20-30 years from now, the next generation of endurance sport athletes, and non-athletes for that matter, will ask the million-dollar question: “What did you do during the COVID-19 Pandemic?”

Seems weird, right? I mean, I don’t know about you, but this is not something I’ve ever experienced or ever envisioned experiencing in my lifetime. We’ve seen major sports seasons get halted in time, prolific endurance events get postponed, and cities, towns, and states across the US begin the process of “shutting down” to allow the healthcare system to not be overwhelmed during this unknown time.

And that’s just it. If I had to guess what the answer to the question above is, the answer would be “I don’t know”. I don’t think anyone knows! A week ago, every single company, news outlet, doctor, and politician seemed to have a different opinion on the severity of the situation. Now, with the orders from local and national governing bodies, recommendations from the CDC/WHO, and reactions of many workplaces closing their doors, we seem to be beginning to understand SOME course of action that will get us through this, however long that may be.

So, the TWO million dollar question: “What SHOULD you do during the Coronavirus Pandemic?” How do we get to the other side of this as a society, and what can we do as endurance athletes to get through this? I am NO doctor, or medical professional at all. So, I asked some qualified friends to answer some of these questions. 

First – social distancing. It’s imperative that, when possible, we follow this guideline. I think most understand the process of social distancing, but I asked Sam Grady (PA-C, Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services) to give us the reason why we are doing this: “The idea behind social distancing is to flatten the bell curve and spread it out over time. This means the virus stays around longer, but infects slowly and fewer people at a time, leaving most people healthy and saving resources for sick individuals.” The status quo “would overwhelm the hospitals and require our population to compete over limited resources”. 

What makes the virus different than the flu? The coronavirus, according to Sam, “binds specifically to receptors on the human lung causing massive inflammation, decreasing diffusion of oxygenation which causes acute respiratory distress syndrome”. Because humans have not been exposed to this previously, through vaccine or previous illness, our bodies have not built up antibodies to fight off or be immune to the virus.

We also have learned that some folks can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Laura Crisp (ER Nurse, Naval Medical Center San Diego and Scripps Health), discussed with me the problems, dangers, and potential outcome this could have: “The problem is they can still spread the disease, even without any symptoms if they’re infected. The danger in that is the more people who are infected, the higher the rate of serious complications. The hospitals may become overwhelmed, putting the United States in a situation like Italy, where doctors are forced to decide which patients get a ventilator and who is only given comfort/end of life care”. 

So we aren’t being social, and we aren’t going to work. How long is this going to go on for?! Well…I don’t think any of us know. Some people say May. Some say 6 months. But it sounds like, although it may appear as an overreaction, if we make these sacrifices now – social distancing, working from home, avoiding large gatherings - we’ll make it out to the other end more safely. “I’m not sure when we can expect the current situation to improve, but it is imperative that everyone follow the guidance and restrictions put in place by the CDC and the federal, state, and local governments,” Laura noted.

So – your event was canceled. What can/should you be doing? To sum it up: 

We CAN still train, but it will be altered

We WILL get to race, but it will be delayed

We CAN help our own cause, and listen to guidelines set forth by CDC/WHO/local government

Odds are, your pool is going to be closed, or already has been. Swimmers and triathletes will have to adjust from swimming 3-5 times a week, and replace with a dryland workout 4-6 days a week. Instead of riding in your weekly spin or cycling class, you’ll have to get your home ride studio set up. You can follow along virtual rides - those that are put on via live video, or join Zwift to stay engaged in your cycling community. Same goes for running – you’re group run will likely reduce a bit in size, but you can still get out for some fresh air on your own. If you are equipped with a treadmill and the right technology, you can join Zwift there, as well.

Many coaching groups and gyms, like QT2 Systems and Cycle Life Studio (shameless plug), are already doing things to help get you through your training. We’ve created a resource area, which is available to the public at http://www.cyclelifestudio.com/covid-19-resource-hub/, that includes alternative workout routines, links to recipes and ways to help keep your body immune, key event information, and more! Cycle Life Studio has begun creating virtual classes via Facebook Live, so that you can follow along your favorite instructors through your at-home workouts. 

Of course, with event cancellations having already occurred through next month, we can certainly alter our training. Need a day off? Take it. If you’re feeling stressed from this situation, working through a hard run/ride while being concerned may not help. Take a day, read a book, play a game, go for a walk…do something to set your mind at ease. You can also dial back some race specificity, but keep training, when you can! If you’re questioning why you should be doing tempo work at race pace, fast sprints above threshold, with no target events in sight…well you aren’t WRONG. BUT – be READY to turn the dials back on, whenever that may be 

This is going to be a trying time for all. And as much as this separation from our friends, family, coworkers, and training partners will be tough, it’s just as important to stay in contact with those same people (Facetime, phone call, email), uplift each other through difficult times, and motivate one another to keep going. If we look back having reacted too little, we will be deeply regretful. If we look back having overreacted, then we did it right.

~Joe Rich - OutRival Racing Coach 

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