At times like these, it can be hard to stay motivated about your training. Perhaps your target events have been postponed or canceled; maybe you’re social distancing, or homeschooling your children while working from home. Maybe you’re just worried about your job, health, and family. Either way, if you can find the time, working out is still important.
This blog will provide you with three great reasons to keep training consistently, even in extreme circumstances.
Reason 1: You’ll Stay Fit (Even if You Decrease Your Volume!)
It may sound obvious, but if you stop training altogether, you’ll lose fitness. And the longer you hit pause, the more fitness you’ll lose. Many of us are all-too-aware of this fact, and it may be causing you some anxiety—relax, it’s not all bad!
Research conducted on competitive cyclists has shown that a relatively short break (two weeks or so), is not particularly disruptive, providing the previous training adaptations have been achieved over a period of at least 12 weeks or more.
There’s also evidence that even a tiny bit of training can drastically slow your rate of decline. For example, reducing your training volume by two-thirds has been shown to have a negligible effect on fitness in the short term, provided you include intense work, such as intervals, in the remaining third. That’s because your top-end speed de-trains quicker than your endurance. So, if you’ve got limited time, make sure you throw in some hard efforts
The other good news is that you won’t lose all your hard-won skills in the pool or on the bike. It seems that coordination remains stored in your long-term motor memory, particularly for continuous skills such as swimming, biking and running. Sure, after several weeks with no pool-time you might feel a bit rusty—but you’ll soon get it back.
In short, a couple of weeks rest won’t do you much harm, and doing even a little training will keep you much fitter than doing no training – especially if you can include some higher intensity efforts too. You can learn more about the effects of de-training in this TrainingPeaks article.
Reason 2: You’ll Feel Happier
In times of stress, we need all the help we can get. That’s why regular exercise is one of the best things you can do. Emotional benefits of exercise include decreased stress, better sleep, lower rates of depression, higher self-esteem—the list goes on. However, once you get used to those benefits, there’s an inevitable downside if you’re forced to stop training for any reason.
For example, in one study, a group of runners were prevented from training for 2-weeks. They displayed significantly greater symptoms of depression, anxiety, confusion, over-all mood disturbance, and lower self-esteem compared to a similar group of continuing runners.
It’s understandable that you might be tempted to skip a few workouts because of the present situation. You may have no choice. But skip too many and it can have negative mental effects, which you really want to avoid. Anything you can do, even if it’s home circuits or jogging around the back yard, will be hugely beneficial for your feelings of wellbeing.
Reason 3: The Bigger Picture
In times of uncertainty, it can be hard to motivate yourself. It may feel like there’s a wall in front of you, blocking your view of the future. How can you persuade yourself to do a hard workout, when you don’t even know when your next race will be?
Right now, we all need to think about the bigger picture. And be optimistic that the current situation will resolve soon. For example, imagine being able to race again in 12 weeks’ time. Would that change the way you feel about your training today? Without that wall blocking your view of the future, you’ll soon feel more motivated.
It’s not all about this season either. The training you do now will boost your performances in the longer term. Endurance, speed and strength improve at a slow and steady rate, like coffee dripping through a filter. You can either fill, maintain or empty that jug of coffee.
Remember that nothing lasts forever, so keep half an eye on the bigger picture and do your best to stay fit and positive. Good luck and stay healthy.