5 Ways to Stay Motivated During the COVID Pandemic

Keep your training on track—and stay safe, well, and focused—with these motivational tips from some of tri’s best coaches.

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With races being canceled all over the world and restrictions placed on activity, it can be tough to stay motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. At times like this—especially when no one knows when racing might resume—it’s not uncommon for your motivation to take a nosedive. Add to this that we’re all looking for innovative ways to workout from home (while trying to balance work, homeschooling, and more) and suddenly it’s easy for your daily training to drop or even fall away. However, with these motivation tips from some leading coaches, we’ve got help on hand to keep you healthy, fit, focused, and determined for however long the coronavirus spread lasts.

Keep the Fire Alive

Six-time Ironman world champion and coach Dave Scott is advising his athletes to keep the “fire inside you alive” by setting up “races” (as best you can) at home. To stay motivated during COVID, he has them create challenges or fake races for themselves.

“Don’t let the season waste away. Remember that the gratification comes from the day-to-day quest to be ready—so do it,” he said.

“If your races are far in the future or just unknowns, try plotting out a course on your home turf, seeing if you can replicate the course in some way where you are. Set a start time and think about setting up transition zones—and maybe even aid stations for longer workouts, if possible.”

Two of Scott’s suggested workouts include:

  • 3 x 20 stretch cord full butterfly pulls alternating with 12 box jumps with a rest interval of 30 seconds. Do one set of the butterfly pulls and one set of box jumps, rest 30 seconds, and then hit a 20-minute block of biking or running, rest for five minutes and then repeat.
  • Ride or run for your chosen time duration and then perform three strength exercises of your choice for 12 minutes continuously. Repeat!

Find Your Why

Coach Marilyn Chychota has plenty of motivational tip for those experiencing a drop in their “mojo.” She says: “Be sure to reconnect to your ‘why.’ Why are you doing this sport to begin with? Write this down and share it with others. Now is a perfect time to do this!”

She also advises using this as an opportunity to stay focused when adversity hits. “Staying focused when something is looming, like a race, is easy, but staying focused when adversity arises is a good skill to practice. This will allow you to come out of this time feeling stronger and ready to build on what you have, rather than starting from scratch.”

To stay motivated, Chychota suggests using test sets or online/virtual races to keep you engaged. She says: “Consider an online run race or a Zwift event at the end of a four-week block to help keep you focused on making progress.”

She adds: “Although this is a tough time for all of us, remember that races come and go, but our overall athletic development and our passion for progress in sport can help us override a lot. Above all else, stay physically strong, mentally healthy, and control the things you can control.”

Make the Time

San Diego-based coach Jim Vance says setting a Strava challenge with your friends is a great way to stay motivated during COVID and to keep each other motivated. Don’t underestimate how important it can be just to set a time to meet on virtual platforms, such as Zwift. He also advises being strict with your time, saying: “Stress will destroy fitness, so make sure to set aside time to workout. You can be overrun with demands and worry about things to handle, watch or home-school your kids, but as the airlines say, ‘Place your own mask on before assisting others.'”

“You need to focus on being the best you first, and that requires you to be healthy and fit, in order to be there for everyone else. Prioritize yourself and your fitness, so you can better help the situation for all. If it seems impossible during the day, get up early! You’ll be glad you did.”

Reset Your Goals

One tip for staying motivated? Multiple Ironman champion and coach Rachel Joyce suggests setting short-term goals that aren’t taxing, but will keep you moving, such as a 14-day challenge of 30 minutes running every day followed by 10 push-ups or squats every time before washing your hands.

“This is more about well-being than fitness,” she says. “Be sure to make the challenges fun—and try to involve your kids if you can. I’ve got my three-year-old son Archie into my daily strength routine, and although his push-up form might need some work he finds it fun and loves counting my reps!”

Work on Your Weaknesses

Recently-crowned Ultraman Florida champion Dede Griesbauer, who coaches 10 age-group athletes and is continuing to prepare for the race season, says she views this time as a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses, saying: “We had all gotten into the mindset of race season being here, and now that we are back in an uncertain ‘off season’ again, it’s definitely a chance to clean up your form, work on your mobility, or maybe strengthen your mental game.”

To stay motivated during COVID, she advises trying to find the sense of community that we are missing when gyms and pools are closed by looking for a replacement community online, perhaps through Zwift or through trainers that are running online classes, such as RallySport in Boulder, Colorado. (You can also join the Triathlete team for open discussion and community in our Facebook group, here.)

Griesbauer adds: “The uncertainty is hard for a group (like triathletes) which is typically highly scheduled and organized. Having our daily grind disrupted is a great opportunity to get comfortable being uncomfortable—just not in the way we are used to!”

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