Athletes around the world have become all-too familiar with the struggles of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regimen while gyms have been temporarily closed worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing our quarantine experiences and struggles with our fitness friends has become a major way for us to connect and stay motivated in a time of social distancing.
But what has quarantine been like for professional athletes?
We interviewed four FITAID athletes—Kelsey Kiel, Jacob Heppner, Neal Maddox and Jackie Perez—to get their take on how they’ve been not only staying fit but also what key learnings they may be taking away from their time in quarantine so far. Here's what they had to say!
FITAID: Isolation coupled with a massive change in our normal day-to-day life can be tough for everyone. What obstacles have you experienced and overcome during quarantine?
Kelsey Kiel: I think one of the biggest things people (including myself) weren't used to when we started this whole quarantine is the "being alone with yourself" thing. I always thought I was independent (I still think that), but being separated from normal life and interactions, you really have to be okay with sitting with yourself (all the thoughts and feelings that come with that). It was a tough thing for me at first, but I've really embraced FEELING and THINKING and BEING. Which is a bit abstract, but I think it's helped me grow.
Jackie Perez: Quarantine has forced me to really take a look at what I rely on for happiness. Total isolation has shown me that I rely on others and events to make me happy or motivate me. I have overcome this by trying to focus on the things that bring joy to me. The things that if they were taken away, they wouldn't take my joy. I've started doing things I would never stop and take the time to do like read and go on walks or journal. Things that don't require much but truly make me happy.
FITAID: As many of our local CrossFit boxes have been closed, what are some ways that you've been keeping fit during quarantine? What is the most unique thing you've done so far for fitness?
Jackie Perez: I created a Running Club because I found myself very unmotivated to workout. It was a huge success and had over 500 people sign up. I thrive on community so I created one where we all pushed each other and kept each other accountable. Nothing replaces the community vibe of being at the gym, but we must adapt to the current situation instead of letting it control us.
Neal Maddox: I tend to go for bike rides a lot. I put together a home gym so I am able to train still.
FITAID: Staying positive and tuning in to our emotions have been very important lately. How have you been staying present, positive and connected?
Jacob Heppner: For those of you that know me you know I'm already a super positive and connected person! One thing I recently did during the quarantine period was to start Fitness Related Awesome News (FRAN) which shares positive and uplifting news from around the globe in the fitness space!
Kelsey Kiel: I've been doing a lot of self work and reading and writing. It's also been helpful to have people around me (not necessarily physically, haha) who have been there—FaceTiming, phone calling, and connecting that way. My dog also helps me stay positive because he's so dang cute.
FITAID: Describe how you've been focusing on nutritional wellness during this time. What have been some of your favorite healthy dishes you've made during quarantine?
Kelsey Kiel: I track my macros regularly, and I recognized after a few weeks that nutrition and food is something I can control, so it actually helped me feel a sense of normalcy to continue to count and track my macros and eat the normal, healthy and tasty things I normally would.
Jacob Heppner: I've actually spent a lot of time focusing on my nutritional wellness and realized that so many others need that help and need accountability! So I recently started "Functional Eating" which is a nutrition company with a 1-on-1 coach, the same coaches I use for my diet and nutrition for competing at the Games. Our main focus is giving every person that accountability and relationship instead of just a plain ol' diet template that doesn't keep you accountable!
FITAID: What advice do you have for other athletes during quarantine? What have you personally taken away from this experience?
Neal Maddox: Advice I could give is this: get off social media and pick up a book. I have been basically going back to school and gathering as much knowledge as possible. The reason is because I want to come out of this pandemic a better person and great coach for my clients.
Jackie Perez: The best advice I can give is to only focus on what you can control. See opportunity in the situation that will help you grow. It's a great time to get back to the fundamentals and make them bullet proof. We won't have this kind of time to rebuild from square one again so focus on the basics and get really good at them so when things go back to normal, we can continue to build.
C O N C L U S I O N
This experience has shown me just how important it is to control our thoughts. This can either be the biggest tragedy we have had to deal with or an opportunity for growth in areas of our lives we have ignored because we were too busy.
As Jackie Perez mentioned in her interview, “Nothing replaces the community vibe of being at the gym, but we must adapt to the current situation instead of letting it control us.”
While it can be easy to lament the temporary closing of your local gym, remember that everyone—even professional athletes—are going through the same experience, and with that knowledge we can move forward together towards a positive and healthy future.
All images are the property of respective athlete and FITAID, all rights reserved.
About the Author:
Georgia native Tiffany Ammerman is the thru-hiker and CrossFitter behind the travel blog The Goodish Traveler. She spends the majority of her time traveling, eating sushi and searching for hiking trails. When she's not blogging, Ammerman can be found training at CrossFit LaGrange and teaching art to kids.