By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in cancelled, postponed, and unconfirmed upcoming shows so what’s a bodybuilder to do? As a bodybuilder, it would be easy and understandable to feel discouraged with the status of the upcoming season. Look at those competitors who were well into their prep and diet. They could fall into the trap of thinking what they did was just “wasted” and turn to emotional eating. What about the competitors who planned this year or an upcoming show in 2020 as their last show? They had a plan, executed on the plan, and now the plan is turned upside down. The mere thought of having trained so hard leading up to this point and now needing to go through that training all over again and the diet can be disheartening. A similar feeling can be had by those bodybuilders who were training and feeling that this could be their ‘break out year’ but now feel defeated they won’t have the opportunity to prove themselves and their hard work to others.
The gym is a second home to many bodybuilders. While the equipment is important, so is the camaraderie with fellow gym goers. While self-isolating, we can miss that social piece as very few people can relate to what we do unless they have competed.
Feeling discouraged and frustrated is normal but that does not mean you need to obsess over your circumstances. There are things you can focus on while sidelined from your normal bodybuilding routine that will make good use of your time and keep your head still in the game. How? While you may be home because of COVID-19, you can still do something. Let’s look at both stuff outside and inside of bodybuilding.
Outside of bodybuilding … you mean there’s life outside of bodybuilding? Yes there is. My family and I just spent a week going through our basement and garage doing a solid spring cleaning and filled up a large dumpster bin. That is not something we have made time to do for over a decade. That was a different type of workout and it felt good now that it is done. House projects and cleaning are good options but so is reading a book, learning new recipes or skills through YouTube, etc.
Bodybuilders are used to an eat, sleep, and train routine but without a gym and strict food buying limits at many grocery stores do we throw in the towel? No; you use that towel as a resistance band and do bodyweight exercises and you plan what you eat, including any needed refeeds or cheat meals. Make lemonade out of lemons. Perhaps this is also the time to properly rest/rehab any injuries so rehab exercises can be incorporated into your revised schedule but stick to your schedule.
The next consuming thought can be that bodyweight/banded exercises will mess up their gains (muscle) and/or their losses (fat)? Fortunately, there is something called muscle memory and so what we CAN do is to maintain our muscle as a minimum with bodyweight and/or banded exercises. YouTube hosts a plethora of examples, i.e., John Meadows, Fouad Abiad, Jeff Cavaliere (Athlean-X) to name a few. And they offer different variations from easy to difficult. And you do not need a cardio machine to do cardio. You can still respect social distancing and go for a walk. And of course there’s the water and soap treadmill you can do in your kitchen (YouTube it).
No show? No motivation? No problem. One strategy to keep you motivated, confident, and make best use of your time is to set small goals each day. Small goals will give you direction and focus. Each time you complete a task or make use of your time in a purposeful way, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. You can turn what you do not have into what you can do. Some training examples can echo what you do in the gym but apply it at home, i.e., develop a training program for tomorrow, document your weight, sets, reps and then when you repeat it next time/week, beat it by at least one rep, increase the weight, decrease the rest time in between sets, etc. If you have been indulging in unhealthy food choices, make clean eating a goal and plan what you’re going to eat tomorrow to stay clean. Have a backup plan for when you feel tempted to cave, i.e., do something to distract yourself, eat raw veggies, drink water, brush your teeth, and so on.
The saying goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Plan to succeed by setting SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And reassess your goals as needed. Goals provide motivation, purpose, direction, sense of accomplishment, focus and results.
If you focus on goal getting every day, you will make the most of your opportunities, actively engage your body and strengthen your mental game as well.