How to Stay on Track: Training through COVID-19

By Kathy Zawadzki
USA Cycling Level 1 Coach
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
Training Peaks Level 2 Accredited Coach

During this major public health crisis, our day-to-day routines have been turned upside down. Our indoor outlets have closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including gyms, fitness centers, and cycling studios. Indeed, my business, The FAST Lab has suspended normal day-to-day operations, so we are coming up with different, creative, and fun ways to stay active and keep training for the big event in June.

Many of your training events and group rides have been canceled or rescheduled, but that doesn’t mean you cancel or stop training. It’s okay to shift the focus to maintaining your fitness and maintaining your EXCITEMENT and JOY for riding. Of course, there are going to be emotional ups and downs, try to ride those out and commit to doing SOMETHING every day. We know that staying active is beneficial for physical — and mental — health.

Just remember to obey the mandates from your state and local governments with regards to group gatherings, and be sure exercise extra caution when riding outdoors so as not to put extra stress on the healthcare system. This is no time to be involved in a crash. Another great option is riding indoors. With the advent of training apps such as Zwift and others, trainer time no longer has to be an exercise in drudgery. And when riding indoors there’s no temptation to meet up with others – and no risk of taking a tumble off your bike, and thus requiring medical care.

We know this is not like the training you were doing a week ago or two weeks ago. But this is a perfect opportunity to add in more core or strength training, yoga and stretching — the other things we were always wanting to do, but put off since riding outside was the main focus. NOW is the time to incorporate these types of activities into your plan.

We know that many of you have spent the winter months training hard and you don’t want to lose the strength, power and cardiovascular fitness that you worked so hard to build. Others may be starting to build your mileage, so keeping up with the momentum is critical at this point. But don’t fear you can still accomplish a lot riding indoors.

After a week of very limited contact with the outside world, I needed some new, fresh resources and creative ways to keep training and stay fit. Use the training tools you have available, honor our new reality of social distancing and Just Keep Moving!

And also don’t be afraid to get outside (it’s good for the mind and body). Please just note that I did not say RIDE outside. ANY active outdoor activity can be extremely beneficial to your mental health as well as build your fitness. The good news is that your heart and lungs do not know what you are doing to stress the system. Any activity that raises your heart rate and causes you to breathe harder is going to help with your cycling fitness. Walking, hiking, running or jogging all fit the bill.

You can even add in some harder effort intervals to your time outdoors. Push the pace for a few minutes, or pick a landmark and go hard until you reach the corner, the top of the hill or the mailbox. Give yourself a few minutes to catch your breath and then go again.

Finally, please remember that there are going to be highs and lows during this time. Commit to staying healthy and happy over these next few weeks and months. The uncertainty is unnerving, but we will soon settle into our temporary normal and prepare for what waits for us on the other side. We will get there — together.

Riding a Smart Trainer
For those who are using a power based program (be sure to check out Coach Kathy Z’s Training Plan that will take you through the start of Ride The Rockies), these workouts can be ridden on any trainer using your own power meter or on a smart trainer.

In addition to the full training plan, Coach Kathy Z has put together a six-week power-based plan. This program includes three structured power-based workouts that can be downloaded into Zwift and ridden in workout mode on a variety of Smart Trainers.

Click here to learn more linking Zwift with your Training Peaks account.

For those not familiar with Zwift,  click here for an  excellent tutorial

Riding a “Dumb” Trainer
And if you don’t have a smart trainer, that’s okay. Before the dawn of smart trainers, cyclists trained indoors on rollers and standard wind or magnetic trainers, and believe or not, we GOT STRONGER and FASTER!  There are many options for using a ‘dumb’ trainer to get in high-quality, focused workouts.

Workouts should have a focus. Rather than simply pedaling for an hour or two, it is much more effective to have a plan for your trainer session. Here is an example of a structured ride that will help you get the most out of your trainer time:

The goal Is to push your effort from easy to moderate to hard within one 10-minute effort. Start with a 10 to 15-minute warm-up. Then ride easy for 2 to 3 minutes, and then build to a moderate intensity over the next 5 minutes and finish the 10-minute  block with a 2-minute push to higher intensity.

Remember to allow for full recovery between efforts. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Start with only 2 x 10 minute efforts in one session and gradually build up so you can do 4 of these in a workout. Finally, allow at least 10 minutes of easy spinning to cool-down.

Cross Training

Work on your balance, core strength, functional movements, correcting muscle imbalances. I have pulled together a few resources that I like. Most of these are actual CLASSES with an instructor – so you can turn off your brain and mindlessly follow along. We need that now!

LES MILLS has made their entire series available for free:

Use the DROP DOWN where it says LES MILLS TRAINING to find options for Mindfulness, HIT Training as well as a good review on TECHNIQUE for some of the strength movements.

The national yoga chain, Corepower Yoga, is offering free 30- and 60-minute classes while studios are closed.  Click here to learn more.