Training and the Coronavirus
Strategically adjusting your plan when your race dates change
The coronavirus has turned the world on its head, and the entire field of competitive endurance races has tumbled with it. For the first time in 124 years, the Boston Marathon has been postponed until September 14th 2020. This is happening in running, cycling, triathlon and other types of races large and small around the globe. If you've built up fitness for a spring race, what are you to do? These setbacks have been an unexpected shock, but good news is that you can start working now for a stronger tomorrow.
Below are several options for how to proceed with your training and racing plans, while remaining responsible and safe...
Option #1: Stick with the plan
One way to go is to continue following the same training plan, while making necessary changes to remain healthy during this crisis. If you live in an area where exercising outdoors is too risky or prohibited by mandatory at-home quarantine, then this isn't an option. Don't worry, just continue to the "Option #2" section of this post.
Think of this as a unique moment to build an exceptionally strong aerobic base.
If you can maintain your plan, replace any group workouts and go solo, if possible. When race day arrives, instead of lining up shoulder-to-shoulder with the competition, you will conduct a private event. Seek out a looping course with as little traffic as possible. Setup a water/refueling station that you can secure in a vehicle or by some other means. This will not be an official race, it's a time trial effort to see if you can achieve your goal. Keep in mind that hard workouts can lower your immune system, so take extra precautions for sanitation and consider racing a shorter distance than you had planned.
Don't abandon endurance training when this process is complete. Choose a goal for the fall and begin training to maintain base fitness a few days after your time trial. It will be good for your spirits, and continuing to do a moderate level of exercise will help your immune system remain in top shape.
Option #2: Shift for a fall peak
Seeing as many races are being rescheduled for later in the year, it may be more sensible to shift your training to peak in the fall. This can be accomplished by either reducing your training volume or intentionally detraining for a short time and then initiating a longer-term training plan from the beginning. Whichever you choose, remember that you built up a great amount of fitness that will make you stronger and faster when the races return!
Everyone with their 33 week Boston Marathon Training Plan pic.twitter.com/mE09vEvHol
— Peter Bromka (@Bromka) March 12, 2020
If you choose to reduce training volume, the first thing to do is to go through your SportTracks Calendar and limit the distance, intensity, and duration of the upcoming workouts you may have planned. The goal is to scale back to a base level of fitness. More seasoned and experienced athletes will only need to reduce their weekly distance by 25%, those who are newer to endurance sports or perhaps less fit then they have been in the past should reduce their weekly distance by 40%.
In addition to reducing distance, intensity should be dialed back as well. Easy workouts in zones 1 and 2 are recommended for around 80% of your weekly efforts during normal training, and with our current status of being without definite race dates, easy workouts should consume even more of your active time each week.
This doesn't mean intensity should be dropped completely. Toward the end of an easy workout, do 4 to 6 short 30-second running strides (or sprints in cycling) at near max intensity with 2:30 to 4 minutes of recovery between each. Hill repeats are another beneficial way to bring in some hard work, as well as tempo workouts at 85% of your LTHR.
My strategy is to move a couple steps down the pyramid. Drop the anaerobic cap training (fresh fruit). Make intervals more extensive and less intensive. Emphasize primary resources like strength and speed, but cut down on specific race pace work that can lead to a "false peak".
— Stephen Seiler (@StephenSeiler) March 12, 2020
If you choose to detrain and then start from the beginning with a new plan, don't be inactive for more than two weeks at the most. You will lose an exceptional amount of fitness with that much time off, and it will take longer for you regain what you've lost, but it isn't uncommon for an athlete to spend this much time in recovery before starting a new plan. All of the physical adaptations you had gained will not be lost, and you will be starting from a solid foundation to get stronger.
Season-length training plans are typically around 26 weeks long, which is exactly how far out some fall races are likely to be. It's normal for full-course triathlon training plans to stretch out to 36 weeks in length. This option is a nearly complete reset, but for some it's the most appealing way forward.
Staying fit in confinement
If you're unable to get outdoors or to the gym for workouts, don't underestimate body-weight strength training exercises. Lunges, planks, and burpees can provide a powerful workout. Here's an article that explains how to get started with at-home strength training. This article explains some basic strength training exercises for cyclists. A single step or a heavy, sturdy box such as a toolbox opens up an entire world of plyometric exercises you can do at home. This is a time to let your creativity run wild!
— Firas Maksad (@FirasMaksad) March 16, 2020
Another way to practice healthy training is to test your HRV every morning. This is a practice that measures the amount of time between your heartbeats, which is data that can be used to tell you if you're in danger of overtraining and risking injury. Dedicated smartphone apps are used for testing your HRV, and the data can be imported into SportTracks for further analysis.
In closing, remember that mindset is incredibly important in endurance sports. Think of this as a unique moment to build an exceptionally strong aerobic base. You have time to focus on skills that you can finely sharpen to improve your overall competitiveness. In a way, it's not a setback, it's an opportunity. Stay safe, fit, and positive!