Exercising while under lockdown – some ideas…


With the Covid-19 pandemic causing lockdowns worldwide, transferring training to indoors is necessary.  

The first step is to make sure you rely on your government body responsible for health in your Country combined with the information of the World Health Organisation.  

Your training must meet these requirements.

A very useful document to read prior to setting up your training indoors is the World Triathlon Covid19 document, which can be found hereThe document provides some ideas around the coaching implications of the Covid-19 period, along with some suggestions on balancing training while in a home environment.

One of the key considerations is the balance of training and rest.  Indoor training often has an increased load on the body, for those who are lucky enough to have access to a treadmill for running, a trainer for the bike and a private pool for tethered swimming.  While these alternatives are as close to the real thing outdoors, they also require constant effort, so can overload an athlete if the effort is not balanced with rest.

What if you don’t have access to a treadmill, don’t have a trainer for the bike and have no access to a pool?  Here are some ideas.

The Swim 

Resistance bands or stretch cords.

Probably one of the most swim specific dry land training tools, stretch cords and resistance bands can be used to maintain swim conditioning using a swimming motion that closely mimics the technique required in the water.  While the most obvious training method to adopt is to repeat timed efforts, it is important to incorporate some skill and technique work into your dry land swim program.  Remember the key is to remain physically active, with a focus on the swim element.  Use this time to work and focus on technique, skill and building strength.

Some ideas for doing this include – 

  1. Add sculling drills – As a drill in the water, sculling is useful in creating an affective feel for the water.  You can practice sculling at the stroke entry (catch) pull through and also the push (end) phase.  You can mimic these drills on dry land with stretch cords in the same 3 positions, working closely with the muscles required in the water.  This is a useful warm up to your sessions
  2. Alter the position you fix the stretch cords to.  While the most common way to use stretch cords is to stand bent over with the cords fixed slightly higher than standing head height.  Some alternatives include fixing the cords overhead (forcing you to work on the finish of your stroke) or lie on a bench and fix the cords at your body height, mimicking the swim body position.  Another alternative is to lie on a swiss ball, so you are required to not only mimic the swim stroke but also remain strong in the core.  If you don’t have a swiss ball, try doing parts of the session on one leg to work on your core strength. Just remember you need to remain focussed on keeping your core strong, to ensure the load on your lower back is managed.
  3. Alternating the stroke used – As triathletes we tend to focus just on the freestyle stroke.  Mix it up a bit and do some double arm sets.  
  4. Keep on top of Technique – dry land training is very useful for breaking the stroke down and staying on top of technique.  While you can work on sculling drills, you can also work on high elbow drills.  Slow everything down, step back to increase resistance and work on your high elbows.  You can also work on your rotation, keeping your feet fixed and changing the drill to work on the back end of the stroke.

Try to mix up the resistance you are working with, every session does not need to be intense.  It is important to remain diligent with your stretching and easy days, because stretch cords can provide a very tough and intense workout on your swim muscles.

The Bike 

Indoor trainers and the obvious best choice when in lockdown.  With all the virtual programs also available you can really be quite social while social distancing.

What if you don’t have a trainer.

  1. Outdoor riding – Some countries still permit training outdoors.  There has been some strong recommendations to not exercise or ride on the roads, because in the event of an accident you will require a hospital bed which is in high demand presently with the pandemic in your country.  The counter argument to this is that now the roads are quiet with traffic and as long as you ride with only one other person, you can ride safely.

Your ultimate decision must be made with consideration of what is best for yourself and others and the rules surrounding exercise in your country.

  1. Weights – Without the ability to ride, you can incorporate strength exercises that mimic the bike position.  Squats and lunges will work on quad and glute strength, and adding some dynamic jumping from a squat position will add some functional strength work.  While this is not ideal, it is important to remember the goal is to remain physically active while in lockdown.  Do as best you can.
  2. Alternative machines – Can you access a rowing machine, even an old exercise bike would be useful.  See what you can find, with the local gym forced to close you may be able to hire equipment.

The Run

If you are able to access a treadmill, your run training indoors can continue almost interrupted.  Just remember treadmill running is intense, because there is a constant load.  Manage volumes and keep timed efforts under control so you do allow your body to recover.

What if you don’t have a treadmill – 

  1. Use a skipping rope – Skipping is an excellent run training method.  It develops calf strength, requires light forefoot landing, timing, provides a very tough cardiovascular workout and can be done in a confined space.  Skipping conditions the lower legs and calf well too, so it is almost perfect as a run training exercise.  If you have not skipped for a while, start with a 2 foot land to allow your lower legs and calf adjust to the technique, and then move to a single foot land.  As your skipping skills improve, vary the length of timed efforts and speed and you will find 30minutes will give you a very good ‘run’ workout.
  2. Plyometrics and drills – When in a confined space, to closely mimic a run session, you can put together a small circuit of exercises involving plyometric drills and footwork skills.  You can use a skill ladder, or if that is not available mark the floor to make your own.  Keeping yourself moving for a continuous period of time will provide fitness. Intensities can be varied along with the speed they are done to add to the difficulty of the session.  Remember everything doesn’t have to be flat out, there would be some technical areas of your run you can work on, and this can be done in a more controlled pace to ensure you are really improving that element.
  3. Circuits – this really covers all disciplines, but circuits are an excellent way to remain active.  If you are able to use weights you can design your program using them, but don’t underestimate the benefits of a circuit workout using body weight exercises.  Your circuits may involve upper and lower body exercises, core work and can even be developed into a brick workout by adding some skilling, run technique drills and perhaps a roll on your trainer.  Just remember to plan your circuit before starting, so you can train without having to stop to rethink what you are doing next.  

The key to training well in this time of limited access to the outdoors is to plan your sessions ahead of time.  Keep everything in balance and try to maintain your new routine.  Some added timed efforts may be useful to keep a check on your fitness through this period, because when racing is back, you want to make sure you are as well prepared as you can be.