Updated: Apr 13, 2020
About a month ago, after the Tokyo Marathon was canceled, I wrote about how to handle a canceled ‘A’ race. Now we are facing drastic changes to our health, economic, sociological, and athletic environments. We are all learning how to re-evaluate our priorities as health and safety are paramount. Our athletic goals seem to be on standby. There are things we can do to boost our immune system and adjust our training plans appropriately.
When someone contracts the novel COVID-19 virus, whether you have a mild or severe case depends on the immunological and comorbidity status of the patient. In other words, our health priority is to increase our immune system and reduce or eliminate comorbidities (other risk factors).
Social isolation is the first line of defense. Staying at home as much as possible dramatically reduces your risk of exposure to the virus. It’s very important to follow the CDC guidelines, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth.
Another factor in the health of our immune systems is nutrition. As we are trying to boost our immune defenses, now is not the time to start a dramatic weight loss plan. Aggressive weight loss can impact your immune system and compromise your ability to fight infections. Instead, consider consulting with a nutritionist if you need help improving your diet (which will improve your immune system and your overall health). Some nutritionists are currently offering video-conference consultations and custom nutrition plans to meet your unique needs.
Sleep is also critical. Sleep deprivation reduces your ability to fight infections. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, especially if you have the freedom to improve your sleep patterns now that you are spending more time at home.
High intensity workouts can put a lot of stress on your body, producing higher levels of cortisol. Have you noticed that you are more susceptible to sickness when you are in the peak of your training plan? The physical stress of intense exercise can strain your immune system.
To reduce the strain on your immune system, focus on moderate aerobic exercise. Try to keep your VO2max from previous months. It’s ok to add one or two short, high intensity interval session each week, but they should not take up more than 30% of your total training load. Some high intensity sessions can help reduce comorbidities (like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc.).
We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, or when it will be safe to resume “normal” life. Epidemiological data suggests that after the summer, the pandemic may be under control and we can begin to think about long-distance “A” races near the last months of the year (October to December). Short-distance races may be possible as “B” and “C” races in late summer or fall.
Focusing on aerobic work now will serve as a medium to long-range base “mesocycle.” We can switch to a pre-competitive training “mesocycle” as soon as the pandemic is under control and conditions improve. For now, focus on staying safe and healthy while you maintain your current fitness levels. This will reduce overall stress, improve your immune system, and put you in a great position to take on heavy training loads as soon as it’s safe.
Please be healthy, safe and wise. Send thoughts and prayers to all responders to the pandemic.