Navigating Fitness Through a Pandemic


By Breanne Nalder-Harward and Dave Harward — Strange times are upon us. Our daily lives are impacted in ways that we may have never imagined. COVID-19 has us essentially on the run. People are hunkering down and preparing for extended time in physical distancing mode. “Physical distancing” sounds much more like what we’re trying to accomplish than “social distancing”. We have plenty of social outlets, we just need to protect our physical space.

To stay fit during the pandemic, keep your meals clean, full of fruits and veggies, and control portion sizes. And spend time with your pet. Photo collage by Plan 7 Coaching.

Only You Can Prevent Virus Flare-ups

The only way to get back to regular living is to physically distance yourself from others at this time. It’s rough as we come into the spring season when group rides and races are the norm. As a collective cycling community, we must face the gravity of COVID-19 like responsible cyclists. Please only ride with your immediate family or the people with whom you reside. Please don’t take unnecessary risks while you’re out on the road or on the trail. We all value our health, so it’s our responsibility to take action to keep ourselves healthy and protect our peers, family, riding friends, and healthcare providers alike.

Train Don’t Strain

Frustration and extra time may tempt some athletes to go a little overboard on spring training. Consider, however, that training hard in marginal weather has been shown to increase human susceptibility to viruses. Over-trained athletes are more likely to contract a respiratory illness than the general population. We are not advising you not to work hard, rather to work smart! The goal is to find the proper balance between working out and wearing down.

Exercise can be a huge stress relief. Regular exercise can activate and boost immunity. Photo by Breanne Nalder-Harward

Studies show that exercise maintains or even boosts immunity. If you shift from couch potato to regular exercise, you will definitely activate and boost your immune system. However, if you are already exercising regularly, consider toning things back a notch while we are in an extra perilous situation as we are now. Maintaining a solid level of fitness will protect. Pushing the limits will put you at risk.

A structured training plan isn’t a magic black box. It’s challenging to be objective with your own training plan. Consider consulting with a professional coach who can put an objective eye on what you’re trying to accomplish. We all hope that before long, we’ll be back to normal and preparing to race all of those events we looked forward to in the off-season.

The worst case scenario is that we might be out of luck, and the entire 2020 season is a write-off. There is always next year and if you’ve maintained fitness by structuring your training, you’ll likely deepen your efficiency with a more moderate effort overall.

Make Lemonade

Now that we’re mostly eating at home, there are positives and challenges to our nutrition. On one side we are now cooking at home which takes fast food out of the equation. This gives us the opportunity to keep our meals clean, full of fruits and veggies, and control portion sizes. It also can allow us to be lazy and eat pre-packaged foods, snack too much, and choose convenient foods (which tend to be “junk” foods like chips, candy, and baked goods). Also, when working from home, it is important to manage triggers that can lead to stress eating.

A few tips to keep your food choices under control:

  • Keep a food journal to help identify stress-eating patterns.
  • Pre-portion snacks so you don’t mindlessly overeat.
  • Put healthy foods at eye-level in the refrigerator so you choose them first.
  • Fuel your body for what you do. For example, have carbs around exercise, not when you’re at your computer or in front of the TV, and enjoy a salad with lean protein in the evenings. Remember you don’t need energy to go to sleep. Our bodies digest and utilize nutrients while we sleep, so give it all the color and fiber to process overnight.
  • Hydrate! It may seem redundant to say, but it’s easy to forget to drink enough water when we’re out of our normal routine. Avoid sugar drinks, keep alcohol consumption moderate, make smoothies, whatever you can to keep that immune system strong.

Brain Fuel

We’ve heard from many clients and friends regarding highs and lows in their overall motivation considering the situation. Mental health is a huge consideration, as we may face financial strains due to an uncertain economy. Exercise can be a huge stress relief, but it can also be the cause of stress. Generally, we’re lucky to even have the opportunity to exercise, so view it as a benefit from the beginning, even when you struggle.

Find ways to have fun with exercise. Change things up a little. If you haven’t been over to the local park, pull on the running shoes and do a few laps on an uneven surface. Seek out a strength workout using body weight. Throw your newborn in a front pack and do some air squats!

When events are postponed indefinitely, maintaining motivation to train can be difficult, but can also be a benefit. Remember, with a postponed event, you will have more time to prepare and build depth to your fitness! Online group rides are actually a lot of fun, especially if you connect up over an audio channel to chit-chat about the day to day like you might normally do on a group ride. There are many opportunities to join online training rides in every cycling community that are posted on social media outlets.

Flatten The Curve

Let’s reiterate, the sooner we physically distance and reduce the chance of the virus spreading, then the sooner we can get back to normal. Skip the group ride that might be happening. If you’re riding outside, only go solo or with the people you live with. Reduce your risks, and please don’t crash! Stay positive and don’t give up on your training. Instead get creative and mix up your schedule with some new activities like grass or trail running, get on Zwift with a group ride, lift some weights or do a push up challenge, and be extra smart about your nutrition. Take a few deep breaths, away from others of course. Then get right back after it!

We’re here to support you at PLAN7 Endurance Coaching. Feel free to contact us for any coaching or nutrition needs. More details at


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