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Dispatches: A Coach Near COVID-19 Ground Zero In The U.S.

A New York City-based coach shares her experiences living and coaching near the United States’ coronavirus hotspot.

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As of this writing, roughly 2.3M people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and as the pandemic continues to spread, COVID-19 is something that will likely change the rhythm of our world and our sport for a very long time. 

We’ve connected with a handful of triathletes—each in very different geographical areas, with different athletic experience levels, and in different coronavirus situations. They range from international-level pros to age-groupers to coaches to college athletes. We initially collected some of their initial firsthand experiences as the pandemic fully hit the U.S. three weeks ago, and we’re going to continue to check in with other triathletes as the situation changes. 

Today, we’re catching up with Alison Kreideweis, a 37-year-old USAT All-American, 20-year veteran of the sport, coach, and cofounder of the New York City-based Empire Triathlon Club. Kreideweis lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, where she has been training and coaching her athletes remotely. She personally knows of at least 11 acquaintances who are/have been sick with coronavirus.

As of this writing, Bergen County has approximately 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and around 800 deaths, according to the New Jersey Department of Health, putting her county at a case rate of roughly 1,400 per 100,000 people. For reference, Los Angeles County has a case rate of 122 per 100,000 people. Bergen County’s death rate of 85 people per 100,000 puts it among the top 10 most fatally affected counties in the U.S. per capita according to the New York Times.

On Her Area’s Restrictions:

“We are only allowed to leave our homes for ‘essential travel,’ including grocery stores, pharmacy, and work. Gyms, pools, schools, community centers, parks, restaurants, and all non-essential businesses are closed…People are required to wear a face mask and gloves when entering stores now. When I went to the supermarket yesterday there was nearly an hour line to get in! I think they’re letting fewer people in at a time to regulate social distancing even more than before.” 

On Experience With COVID-19:

“Several Empire Tri members are showing symptoms ranging from mild to fairly severe. (It’s not confirmed that they have COVID-19 since all have been denied a test because of the limited supply, and their health condition is not severe enough—but all symptoms point towards COVID-19)    

“One athlete posted a message to the group that she was getting sick (likely with COVID-19). Teammates immediately chimed in offering to pick up food, meds, and other necessities.  Every day, they have checked in to see how she’s doing and asked if there was anything they could do.

“A few of our teammates are doctors in NYC. Many of our athletes have sent notes of appreciation and support, acknowledging all they are doing to help care for the sick and how brave they are to put themselves in the face of danger day after day.”

On Coaching:

“I’ve done a lot in the past few weeks to adjust my coaching business. I’m no longer traveling to NYC. We are tying to create as much virtual content and community as possible, which includes launching a new communication app so members can stay in touch with one another, posting a daily workout challenge, hosting a weekly live virtual strength training class, and creating ‘group meet ups’ for athletes with indoor trainers to ride together through a virtual reality cycling app.”

On Adapting:

“With all races in the next two to three months being cancelled, we are adjusting our training plans to prolong our ‘base building’ phase. 

“At this point, most races are being postponed until later in the season (hopefully) instead of flat out cancelled, which may mean a longer race season than originally anticipated. We want to ensure our athletes avoid burnout and injury, so we’re recommending they let any past injuries heal completely and avoid new ones from flaring up. We’re focusing a lot on strength training, since that can be done from anywhere with limited equipment and space. While everyone is cooped up indoors for most of the day, we’re encouraging athletes to get outside for solo rides and runs to get some fresh air and clear their minds. We’re trying to get people to focus on the present and what they can do NOW instead of worrying about the future and stressing about what they can’t do.”

On Family Life:

“We usually have a big Easter gathering with family and friends. It was sad skipping our usual holiday tradition this year (and especially hard considering one of our friends has been very sick with the coronavirus for a few weeks).” 

“Working out has always been important for my husband and I. Last week, we put training wheels on our kids bicycles and set up their ‘trainers’ next to ours in the basement so they can join in our virtual group rides, which they LOVE! It’s created an opportunity for us to ride together and not have to take turns while the other entertains the kids. 

On Encouragement:  

“It’s amazing to see neighbors going for walks and being on the street. It’s so refreshing to see how kind people have been to one another. I have seen countless acts of kindness including people volunteering to help those at risk, supporting local restaurants by donating money and ordering take out so they don’t go out of business, and reaching out to people who may not have a strong support network.” 

On The Future:

“While we are all going through a tough and unprecedented time, I hope that we’ll all come out stronger in the end. I believe that everything happens for a reason. If you are suddenly out of a job, perhaps this will open the door to a new career path. Maybe social distancing will help you reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with. Perhaps the loss of freedom will help us realize how important it is to be grounded and present instead of always rushing from place to place. Without the ability to physically meet up, it’s showing me how important it is to be part of a team and have a strong support network.”