Mar 24, 2020, 12:36:53 PM CDT Dec 18, 2020, 12:26:34 PM CST

How young athletes can stay active while social distancing

A sports performance expert shares ways athletes can train when practices and competitions are on hold

Teen athlete working in living room Teen athlete working in living room

With the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), families around the world are facing major changes in their day-to-day lives. Communities are taking actions to stay safe, including practicing social distancing measures, canceling events and temporarily closing schools.

While these changes affect everyone, one group feeling unique consequences is athletes. With practices and competitions on hold and gyms closed, young athletes are wondering what this means for their training and sports performance.

"Youth athletes are being significantly affected by these changes," says Josh Adams, Performance Manager with Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by EXOS. "Sports are a big part of their lives. Practice and play are big outlets for them not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and socially."

During this time, Adams encourages athletes first to be mindful of the precautions being shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as practicing proper hand hygiene, not touching your face and disinfecting frequently touched objects. He also encourages athletes to take steps to maintain their general health and fitness level so that they are ready to return to play safely when it's time. See four tips to stay active while social distancing.

Tips for athletes during social distancing

1. Focus on maintaining your fitness level

During this downtime, Adams says athletes should focus on maintaining general health and fitness levels so that when they return to play, they can do so without an increased risk of injury. Many athletes might think they need to work as hard as they normally do to maintain performance, but that's not the case.

"It's a lot easier to maintain current strength, speed and overall fitness levels than it is to achieve a higher level of strength or fitness," says Adams. "Athletes should be intentional about being active most days of the week, incorporating cardiovascular exercises and strength training. That is enough physical stimulus to sustain their current level of performance."

Adams adds that a short break from sport can also allow for much-needed rest and recovery – something not always prioritized by athletes but that can benefit performance just as much as training.

2. Practice variety in your workouts

Athletes should strive to incorporate different types of exercises in their workouts. Going for a run is helpful, but it should not be the only type of physical activity during the week. A lack of strength training and core stability work could be detrimental for athletes when returning to their sport.

Adams says there are many exercises that can be done both indoors and outdoors at home without equipment. Try active stretches to help with mobility, or plyometric and movement skills. There are many bodyweight exercises that individuals can do, or they can use common household objects if more weight is desired. For example, athletes can do squats holding a heavy textbook, or arm lifts with filled water bottles.

3. Look for virtual training resources

Teams and sports performance groups may offer virtual workouts to athletes so they can continue training at home. Ask your coach or trainer if they'll be sharing any workout plans online.

Athletes can also follow Children's Health Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by EXOS on Instagram for training inspiration, daily workout videos, nutrition tips and more. These workouts will focus on at-home, equipment-free exercises that can be done indoors or in small spaces like a yard, so athletes can still practice social distancing.

4. Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy and well-balanced diet is always important to take into consideration when training, including during this time at home. Adams encourages athletes to be mindful of what they are eating and to remember to hydrate. With this downtime, if athletes see a decrease in their physical activity compared to their normal training schedule, this may equate to a decrease in their caloric expenditure. This may mean their caloric intake needs will also decrease. See more tips for proper nutrition for athletes.

As school sports practices are on hold and gyms are closed, young athletes are wondering how to stay active. A sports performance expert @Childrens shares tips on how to maintain fitness level while social distancing.

Learn more

The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and follow Children's Health Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by EXOS on Instagram for at-home workout ideas.

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