116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — With the continuation of sports throughout COVID-19, there always is a risk of catching the coronavirus.
This has led to many quarantines throughout the season since one positive test from a team member who has been at practice is enough to send the rest of the team into a two-week quarantine, starting on the last day of contact.
Often sports teams come back having lost a lot of ground on their previous performances. But there are ways to minimize these losses.
“It’s not super fun, but it’s only temporary, so you’ll be OK in the long run,” said senior Laila Butler-Mills, a captain of the City High girls’ swim team said.
So far this school year, multiple sports teams had to quarantine, including the girls’ swim team, the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, the boys’ swimming and wrestling teams. But what can these athletes do at home to help reduce the loss of their fitness during quarantine?
“When we think about (exercise) we talk about two types of activities. One is aerobic activity and one is muscle strengthening” said Katerine Mellen, an associate professor of instruction at the University of Iowa.
The American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic recommend at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity spread over a week, and doing muscle strengthening activity twice a week.
“I think there’s a lot more opportunities for activities that people can find online,” Mellen said. “I think the bigger challenge is the mental aspect. As an active person, they’re used to having a very consistent training that they’re doing at a very high level. Now all of a sudden cannot do that.”
Even though athletes can’t do in-person practices, there are activities they can do on their own to maintain fitness.
“I went on a few bike rides, (as well as did) workouts outside,” Butler-Mills said. “Just circuits in my yard that I made up.
“I’d just (make sure to) exercise every day.”
Besides exercising, it is important to look at other aspects of health as well, such as sleep and food intake.
“(You have to) think holistically about health and incorporating activity, making sure that what you’re eating is a healthy pattern of eating, and then also making sure to practice other good self care behaviors,” Mellen said. “Sleep is really important. It can affect your (other) activities, and I think that (it’s) often something that can get overlooked when we think about health and the importance of health.”
For high school students, the CDC recommends eight to 10 hours of good sleep per night. To help improve sleep, the CDC recommends keeping a consistent schedule and getting exercise during the day.
It is also important for athletes to watch their food intake.
“The key is just making sure that people are matching what that fuel is to what their training is,” Mellen said. “If they have reduced their exercise a little bit, then they don’t need the same high level intake of carbohydrates as they might when they’re training much more intensely.”
Even once they get out of quarantine, athletes may still feel its effects due to their reduced level of fitness.
“My concern is people who think (that they) just didn’t do as much exercise for the last two weeks, and try to do too much too quickly trying to make up for lost time,” Mellen said. “After those first few days, increase the volume of your activity. By doing that, you’re going to see those fitness gains increase.”
As athletes rejoin sports after quarantine, they won’t be able to immediately go back to the same workouts they were doing before. They will have to build back up to the level over the course of a few days or weeks.
“It was mostly just making sure that each day I did a little bit more than the last,” Butler-Mills said. “It probably took me about a week after I got out of quarantine to build up all the way to my regular swimming and lifting workouts.”