Lifestyle Calibration During a Worldwide Pandemic

It feels like the first thin cracks in the veneer of civilization, doesn’t it? For some of you they’re chasms, not cracks. If you’re reading from Northern Italy, Germany, South Korea, certain parts of Asia my inconvenience is your devastation and when you come out the other side you’ll comfort me when it’s my turn.

It’s taken us weeks to wrap our brains around how this pandemic will change our routines and fortunes. What does this mean for you and I uniquely, who’re talking to each other today because of our ardent attachment to an endurance lifestyle? If your work is built on in-person interaction and transactions – restauranteur, rideshare driver, dentist, race organizer or timing company – you’re under a financial as well as a viral attack.

If we’re fortunate enough to have escaped the worst we’re still living in a very different world than the one we lived in a month ago (and the worst is probably in front of us).

The Race as Celebration

I’ve been gearing up for a particular race for months. Yesterday I discovered it’s taking place in September (if at all) instead of next week. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere you’re in the same boat. We are probably not going to race until June at the earliest, and that assumes this virus subordinates its ambitions to mine.

You don’t know what you lose until it’s gone. Or postponed. We don’t realize all that we lose by self-isolation. Races aren’t simply a way to test our mettle; they’re the celebration of what we do. The Barn Dance. The Church Social. The Rendezvous. Our races, group workouts, club meetings are our social glue and for the next few months we’re unglued.

What does life look like over the next few months? I’ll describe the decisions I’ve made.

My wife and I are the primary patient advocates for certain family members in their 80s, and they are my current priority. Do they understand the degree to which their lives must change? Do I have plans in place for them all, if their luck turns? How can my wife and I be assets rather than threats to them? I’ve come to view casual contact today the way those of my generation viewed intimate contact in the 1980s: Our interactions with anyone mean interactions with all that person’s interactions. Today I’m a bigger germophobe than I ever was. Who I see, where I go, what I touch, are threats to my most vulnerable neighbors and family members, even if my attempts to help come from helpful motives.

This is now the ruleset that governs my daily routine. How does this affect my endurance life? Racing is out for a while. What about training?

Triathlon Training is Social Distancing

Most of the time Social Distancing is a component to triathlon training. I ride or run outdoors and most of the time it’s by myself. Or indoors. By myself. This virus has not affected my training.

What I do note is that when I boot up Zwift I don’t see 10,000 or thereabouts “are now Zwifting.” What I routinely see is that it’s 15,000. We need our social fix. There are some silver linings and one is that this virus came along after the advent of multiplayer stationary training platforms like Zwift and Rouvy.

A user on our Reader Forum asks in a thread, Pandemic: Has anyone just stopped training? The answer? An almost universal “No!” We just put up a poll: Has your training volume changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? It's early, but about 20 percent of you said your training volume has gone down, and my fear is that if you’re training less it’s because you’re in a hard-hit area, or a hard-hit industry, and I feel so bad about this.

But most of us, so far, are not yet disadvantaged beyond postponed races. Seventy percent of you said no, your training volume is unchanged, and about 1-in-10 of you report that you’re training volume has gone up.

You may be less sanguine in your responses should I retake it in a couple of weeks. We just don’t know how bad things will get before they get better.

The Swim

I’ve been out of the pool since November and intend on returning to the pool next week. So far, my intention is still to do so. We have a sparsely populated pool. I’ll have my own lane (unless the City closes our pools) and will probably be swimming with a lifeguard and perhaps 3 others populating our pool’s 9 lanes. I don’t feel as if I’m violating a social distancing imperative.

Were I swimming with a Masters team, with 4 or 5 swimmers to a lane, what would my decision be then? I don’t know. Tomorrow I’ll make different calculations than I’m making today, and you probably will too.

Approach to the Future

I’m entering races in which I intend to compete, beginning in July. Why? In my case, it’s to show solidarity with the organizers who produce the races in which I aspire to participate. If they cancel, they cancel. If I lose my money, I lose my money. These organizers have given me the platform by which I express my sport. They give me The Celebration. I’m not saying others should do this. I’m only telling you want I’m doing.

My wager is that you – if you live in the Northern Hemisphere – will be racing alongside me by August. Our economy and our markets will be in rebound after taking a historic bruising.

But this is my wager, not my prediction. I might be writing you two months from now, telling you of the loved ones I’ve lost and comforting you because of those you’ve lost. I might not even be in a position to write this in two months, or you to read it. But this is where I am today. I try to become wiser every day. To see with more perspective.

As of this week, you are not going to stop training, so we aren’t going to stop writing. We’ll continue to produce product reviews, photo galleries, and perhaps editorial snapshots of how you all are coping. Most of you come here to read to avoid the world. But there’s no avoiding this. We here, I included, will report on our sport through the prism of life in the moment of this virus, or the era of this virus, depending on how long the virus alters our lives.

In my own life I will gauge the threat realistically, calibrate my behavior as wisely as I’m able. I don’t know what the near future holds but what I do know is that this will pass.