Staying Fit During the Pandemic
Updated: May 15
All cyclists & triathletes want to stay fit, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How can you do this safely? And should you even be thinking about this right now?
If you are sick, especially with a fever, then don’t train at all! The latest advice is to rest during the illness and for at least 14 days after the fever has subsided. This is sensible advice for any flu irrespective of which virus causes it. A common cold (not the flu or Covid-19) usually requires a shorter period of rest.
If you are currently healthy, regular exercise including cycling and running is good for your overall health, mental state and for boosting your immunity. Swimming pools are currently closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. An excessive amount of training can temporarily lower your immunity which may or may not increase susceptibility to infection. Strength training (at home rather than a public gym) for up to 1 hour is reasonable.
So how can you train? Before we get into that, it’s important to re-iterate that we all have a responsibility to halt the spread of this virus, so whatever way you choose to stay fit needs to have this at the top of your mind. For example, the current lock-down laws allow you to ride or run in a group of 2 only (unless your group is your household only in which case it may be slightly larger). Since the virus is usually caught by contact of droplets from an infected person with your hand, and then touching your face, running and cycling are generally thought to be safe.
The social distancing of 1.5m also sounds pretty easy to comply with for runners and cyclists, but this advice was based on people standing still. It does not account for the aerodynamic effects of a person running or riding directly behind another at faster speeds. A study* has just been published showing that the droplets you exhale as you breathe, cough or sneeze leave a trail of particles behind which may land on the trailing athlete. This may cause infection should the lead athlete be a carrier of a virus. Based on these results, scientists recommend that the distance between 2 people walking directly in line behind one another should be 4-5m, for running and slow speed cycling 10m, and faster cycling 20m. If you are over-taking another person, being staggered to one side reduces the chance of their exhaled vapour cloud covering you. And it goes without saying no blowing your nose, coughing or spitting in a group ride! Don’t share bidons or food. Maybe take a small hand sanitiser with you else wash your hands very thoroughly with soap and water.
So the best advice currently suggests that training solo or in your own household group is ok, training indoors on a stationary trainer or treadmill is fine. A group of 2 people not from the same household may need to ride side by side where possible rather than directly behind one another. This has been recently updated by Cycling Australia and the AIS: https://cycling.org.au/nat/cycling-australia-covid-19-rebooting-cycling
If you are short on ideas for what you can do on your stationary bike, Cycling Queensland has a great weekly indoor workout published by qualified coaches to get your started.