Plenty of high school athletes work out on their own at home, but it’s not usually the only thing they’re doing, as it is now amid the coronavirus crisis. With an eye on the challenges in both logistics and motivation that athletes may be facing at this time, The Independent reached out to Bert Reid of Olympic Physical Therapy and Steve Canter, local endurance athlete and former football coach who works in leadershup development, motivational speaking and life coaching, to get their advice.
Reid is a co-founder of Olympic Physical Therapy, which has offices in Wakefield, Barrington, Bristol, Middletown, Tiverton and Warren. He has worked closely with elite athletes in many sports, in addition to being involved in high school athletics. OPT offices remain open, with precautions in place and the option for virtual visits.
Reid breaks general fitness into categories, which can help inform the creation of workout plans. Anatomical lifting features isolated strength training to build bigger muscles. Think bicep curls, deltoid raises and weight machines. Functional training focuses on bigger, whole body movements like lunging, squatting and rotational rowing that foster integrated rather than isolated movements. Sport-specific training is aimed at a particular activity, like non-throwing programs for baseball pitchers, strength training for running and explosive power training for football. And cardio is designed to raise the heart rate into a training effect for cardiopulmonary fitness.
“Fitness is a combination of strength, flexibility, endurance, body composition and endurance,” Reid said. “Strength can be subdivided into power, agility and one-rep max.”
With any combination, Reid recommends starting slow and finding a way to connect with a workout partner online.
“Having a workout partner is enormously helpful,” he said. “Motivation and enjoyment goes up, time seems to go by quicker, funny stories or discussing current movies makes it more interesting, and just setting a time and place makes the workout more likely to happen if you know someone is relying on you. That can be done via laptop or Facetime, too.”
In these times, the benefits of exercise go beyond training for a sport. Especially amid distance learning for students, exercise is important for mood, stress relief and avoiding too much time just sitting around.
“I had one pediatrician tell me that most of her COVID-19 telehealth treatment calls were for kids with emotional and anxiety crises rather than feeling ill,” Reid said. “These are kids who would benefit from the effects of exercise on mood and psychosocial health, physical benefits.”
When it comes to working out at home, Reid recommends getting creative. Stairs allow for step-ups and step-downs – front-facing or sideways – dips for arms, and squats. You can increase resistance for push-ups or planks by resting your feet on the stairs or a stool. Substituting heavy cans for weights or even adding weights to crates or shopping bags can help with strength training. Inexpensive resistance tubing with handles is a great value for reproducing almost any exercise. Doorways are perfect for stretching.
Reid also recommends checking out quality online resources, like Gary Gray’s Dumbbell Lunge Reach Matrix, a pattern of moving that can grow with your fitness.
“Best advice is to make it simple,” Reid said. “Less is more, meaning too many stations can be confusing, overwhelming and will lower your chance of getting going. Three or four well-chosen stations of functional training done twice or three times through may be easier to accomplish rather than a page full of items.”
Much of Canter’s message about dealing with challenges stems from his time as a walk-on with the Virginia Tech football team. He wasn’t sure he belonged in such a powerhouse program, but he tried not to let those thoughts get in the way.
“When I got to Virginia Tech and I saw all these elite athletes, I’m thinking, ‘How in the world am I going to compete against these guys?’ I used to think about, ‘What if I leave my career here having not played? Or not accomplished the things I wanted to do?’” Canter said. “It can really overwhelm you, to the point where you start to think, ‘Is it even worth trying?’ I really just had to shrink my focus to how good can I be today?”
The same approach may work well for athletes facing uncertainty, especially spring sports athletes who are training for a season that remains in limbo. Canter preaches to keep your world small – don’t get overwhlemed by social media or news reports about how long you will be out or if there will be a season, control what you can control, focus on each tiny battle at a time, and ask yourself, ‘What am I doing today that will make me the best athlete possible when I do return?’
The advice could apply well beyond high school sports.
“Not just kids, but all of us, you can start to get overwhelmed if you look at this as a whole,” he said. “If you keep your world small, you can take it day by day and really focus on the tasks that are at hand, whether it’s completing schoolwork and working out, versus being overwhelmed about how far away August is or how much you need to complete in a certain week. When you shrink your focus and narrow it down, it’s much easier to execute. From a mental standpoint, it’s easier to put one foot in front of the other that way.”
Canter also recommends staying connected by using technology to schedule workouts with teammates, creating an accountability group and understanding that you’re not alone.
And when it comes to working out, adapting and overcoming is key. Workouts will be different; accept it and move on. You will be asked to change positions and learn new drills at all levels – consider this a test. Begin setting a new bar for yourself based on the workouts you are capable of doing at home – instead of worrying about your bench press max, start comparing your max number of pushups against teammates and your previous highs. And find the fun in functional training, like moving big rocks in your yard.
Ultimately, if staying in shape and training is important to you, there’s value in doing it regardless of what it leads to.
“What if, all of a sudden, the season pops up on you? Are you prepared? I like the quote, ‘I don’t get ready. I stay ready,’” Canter said. “You say, ‘I don’t feel like working out because I’m unsure of the future.’ Well, we’re all unsure of the future, so I’m not real sure why that matters.”