Precautions and Prevention for Endurance Athletes in VUCA Times

Timendi Causa Est Nescire–  The cause of fear is ignorance – Seneca (Roman Philosopher)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic created a lot of panic, fright, anxiety ultimately culminating in a fear, fear or unknown. None of us in our generation has witnessed the scale of COVID-19 pandemic, so the fear is eminent. COVID-19 is primarily transmitted from person to person (when people come in close contact with each other by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs of sneezes) and also from contact with contaminated surface and objects.

We fear when the situations turned VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) and if the situation is VUCA solutions also to be out of the box, unheard, not tried before. VUCA situations to be dealt with VUCA (Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility) solutions.

Most of Endurance Athletes lives in Superman way. Their thoughts are we are doing so much of workout and we arefit, so we are practically immune to disease or virus. We are healthyand different from the common non-exercising folks. But this is the basic ignorance which needs correction. Infections are quick to spread and does not differentiate between endurance athlete and others. Also endurance athletes in general have high pain tolerance, so they are adopted in supressing body pain signals, which sometimes is detrimental. So finally it all comes to precautions and preventions which each one has to take andmore so by endurance athletes.

Good news is as per study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports Mar-Apr 2011,Vol.10, Issue 2, Pg: 84-89 – There is 20-30% decrease in respiratory infections resulted in individual performing moderate levels of physical activities. While moderate intensity physical activities have positive impact on immune system against viral infections but on the other hand excess or prolonged high intensity physical activities leads to immunosuppression.

So what is moderate or intense physical activity level for individual, as per study it is defined as following:

  • Moderate Physical Activity – 5 to 60 minutes of exercise with 40-60% of MHR (Maximum Heart Rate)
  • Intense Physical Activity  – 5 to 60 minutes of exercise with 70-80% of MHR (Maximum Heart Rate)

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) = 220 – Age

So for a person aged 42 years, MHR is 178 (220-42) and moderate physical activity is in Heart Rate of 72 to 107 and intense physical activity is heart rate between 124 to 142.

Recent news like bursting of lungs of a runner who was using mask during jogging and running, couple of boys losing life due to wearing mask when they were working out in gym – this keeps us wondering what are the steps to be taken to be safe and at the same time keep up our fitness level.

With all these doubts and our current understanding let’s delve into precautions and preventions for endurance athletes in VUCA times.

Precautions and Preventions:

Based on the current scientific and practical evidences, we strongly recommend the following points:

  • Maintain Fitness:In these uncertain times we need to relook into our training methodologies. As competitions timelines are uncertain, current focus should be on maintaining the fitness levels and as competition timelines clarity comes in, one can focus on specific adaptations for competition.
  • Go for Moderate Physical Activities:One of the key for endurance athletes is to do moderate physical activity in the specific heart rate zone. Heart rate based training is specific as per individual requirement. Heart rate based moderate physical activity helps in improving body’s immune system
  • Follow Preventive Behaviour and Hygiene Practices:Another important part is to apply appropriate preventive behaviour and hygiene practices – It’s compulsory to carry own sanitizers as a part of your workout gears and using it often. In case one have to touch surfaces, immediate use of sanitizer post contact will avoid infections. Also ensure not to spit on the roads.
  • Avoid Public Spaces:Avoid crowded outdoors for workouts like public parks etc. better to choose a place which is safe, less crowded and open with good ventilation. Avoid risk by all measures
  • Be Self-Reliant:Be self-reliant on your hydration and nutrition. Avoid going and using water cooler or public water supply lines. Idea is to reduce or avoid the places where we have chances to get infection. Do this all the time.
  • Be Specific:Be specific and focussed on the personal training and if possible avoid meeting with co-athletes until necessary. In case you are meeting co-athlete try to maintain social distance with your nose and mouth covered, also to avoid contacts like hand-shake etc.
  • Usage of Mask:
    • Mask is the first line of defence. Use mask for walking but when you are jogging or running keep mask down and breathe through nose. Nose has natural mechanism of filtering, warming of the air. Avoid going to a zone where you have to open your mouth for breathing, there is no filtration or warming of air in mouth. It’s important to breathe through nose as it will keep your workout in moderate physical activity or in immune boosting Heart Rate Zone.
    • Carry an extra mask in a plastic pouch. As soon as you finish your workout replace your existing mask with new one. Post workout you will be sweaty and your mask have some dust or other particles it’s better to use new mask immediately post wrokouts. This is very important to avoid infection
    • If mask is uncomfortable to put up, use Bandana or any other clothand put it around neck in case you need to cover your nose or mouth you can pull up Bandana for the same
  • Mental Fitness:Mental reset is very important;this is now a new normal for our own safety. Don’t compare too much of past with present, it’s a way the life will be – embrace it. Avoid being a hero or superman – it’s better to know the limits and avoid crossing them
  • Keep Learning:Keep a track of emerging trends and latest recommendations from Experts (sports coaches, doctors and others). Learn and implement them
  • Create Workout Space:Best is to create your own workout area in home with basic personal equipment. It’s time to invest on your health.
  • Learn New Workouts:Practice cross-training and neuromuscular plyometric and eccentric training to maintain adaptations. Learn new workouts which will be helpful and add-on for your sport
  • Focus on Nutrition and Immunity Boost:Nutrition and diet is the key. Take nutrition and supplements which help boost the immune system like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Protein etc.
  • Self-Assessment:Do self-assessment regularly for your heart rate, heart rate variability, heart rate recovery, body energy levels, physical fitness, recovery etc. Be aware of your body and how its responding.
  • Avoid Anxiety:Avoid anxiety of unknown or losing your fitness levels as science proved that muscle memory doesn’t fade away quickly, so any losses can be rapidly regained. So keep working out.

I want to conclude by statement, no one has expected this situation and we all are under a learning curve. So believe on yourself is must along with following basic precautions and preventions guidelines to sail through these VUCA times. All the best – Keep up your GAME.