The coronavirus pandemic delayed or modified many high school fall and winter scholastic sports schedules and modified longstanding training and practice regimens. Many schools have returned to fall sports practices and games, while others have canceled their seasons altogether. Still others have had to pause due to COVID infections among the school staff or student population, with a return to sports planned in the future.
All these changes have presented a challenge for young athletes hoping to stay in playing condition and injury-free. Fortunately, there are relatively simple steps they can and should take to maintain conditioning – even while social distancing, practicing within student-cohorts at their school, or keeping in shape at home.
Maintaining a Schedule for Exercise
As always, proper sleep, nutrition and hydration are important, even when schedules seem so fluid. It is necessary – even with limited training options – to maintain and stay active and flexible. And the best way to do that is through a consistent schedule of exercise. Have a plan – and stick to it.
Coaches and trainers have devised plans, and remote guidance and routines can be found online. If you've had a period of inactivity during coronavirus lockdowns or pauses, take the time to ease into your new regimen. Stretches can be done at home, and aerobic activities – like running or bicycling – can happen in parks and on city streets. Enjoy the outdoors.
Strength training can pose more of a challenge when access to weight rooms is limited and must be performed with safety guidelines. At home, you can get creative: make a hand weight by filing an empty milk jug with water or sand.
Bodyweight exercises can provide an alternative to lifting when you can't get into the gym or weight room at school. Push-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, planks and other weight-bearing exercises can help you stay fit and agile without requiring much time or space.
Finding Ways to Keep Motivated
There's nothing like the camaraderie of in-person practices, training and games. If your usual fall sports schedule is changed or interrupted, you can still work out and have fun. Keep motivated by keeping in touch – whether that's in person with social distancing, or through social media. You and your fellow teammates can track your individual progress even if you can't always be with them and your coaches.
Nothing about 2020 – not playing and training or even academic schedules – has been consistent. The return to weight rooms, gyms and team practices is and will be different given the COVID-19 protocols. Masks and social distancing are here to stay for the coming seasons.
We're all adjusting and trying to keep our heads in the game. With a little ingenuity, student athletes can be consistent in their conditioning. Your new routines may at times be more solitary but no less effective.
The most important thing is to continue to be active, exercise regularly and participate in the activities you love.
Raphael S. F. Longobardi, M.D., is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Holy Name Medical Center specializing in sports medicine and athletic injuries. For more information, visit universityorthopaedic.com. Call 201-343-1717 for an in-person or telemedicine appointment, or you can book online at HolyNameMedicalPartners.org or NorthJerseyTelemedicine.com.