An Athlete in the Time of Coronavirus

by Pam Harris

Pam finishing up the Cape Cod virtual half marathon with some help.

As I rode my bike slowly to nowhere this morning, I looked down on the roundness of my stomach hanging over my bike shorts; I get way too hot riding indoors to bother with a shirt. I reflected on what it means to be an athlete in the time of Coronavirus.

Like many of you, I spent some considerable time and effort putting the 19 (pounds, that is) into COVID-19. Some of that weight was gained in a deliberate attempt to eat my feelings. Some of it came on via what sports psychologist Justin Ross terms the “ahfuckits,” which for me translated into: “I can’t see the need to wear pants without an elastic waistband anytime soon, so why bother watching what I eat?”

That said, while I’ve been consuming a gram or two more processed sugar than strictly necessary, I have also made sure that I’m also getting what my body needs to support my athletic endeavors. I haven’t let my protein, healthy fats, veggie, or quality carb intake slip. It’s one thing to gain a few unwanted pounds, but sabotaging future workouts with insufficient fueling is an entirely different ball of wax. 

Like many adult-onset athletes, I’ve had trouble accepting that "athlete" title. Training for and running my first half marathon, and, several years later, my first full marathon helped, but it was the realization that I had come to love training for its own sake that cemented athlete into my identity. Training in the time of coronavirus has solidified it further.

I’m training hard, with one hard bike workout, one hard run workout, and one long run every week, interspersed with easy runs and recovery days. In addition, more than four months after the cancellation of my big 2020 race, I signed up for personal training sessions at a local open-air kettlebell gym.

I love seeing the weekly progression of my fitness. The way I can lift more every week, and move my body in new ways to do impressive things with kettlebells. I get immense satisfaction in seeing the fruits of those sessions in my workouts: the use of my “boxer’s muscles” to extend my arms on the bike while keeping my shoulders relaxed; sore abs after a run or a ride because I’m learning to recruit different muscles; my easy pace inching up, even on the hills.

Check it: I became the Strava Local Legend on one of the gnarliest hills around because I’m no longer scared to incorporate it in my running routes. 

Sure, I might be carrying around some extra core insulation. That's ok. I’m still moving my body with purpose and perseverance. I don't have any running races planned, and my bike rides net me zero mileage. Still, I am still an athlete in the time of Coronavirus.

2 responses to “An Athlete in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. All of this Pam! At the beginning of the pandemic, I medicated with food. I baked a lot with my daughter (who was graduating from high school) and we celebrated those missed events with fancy cakes and cupcakes. It made it harder to sleep well and in turn get out the door for my runs. But, I’ve adjusted. I’ve given myself some grace. I just started tracking my food again and doing intermittent fasting so I’m hoping it will make me feel better and more like the athlete I used to be.
    I remember the first time I called myself an athlete. It was a few years ago and I was driving my daughter and a classmate to a pasta party after school. I introduced myself by saying “hi, I’m Erica. I’m a wife, mother, and an athlete”. Just rolled out. Felt natural. I hope to be able to say it again and have it feel that way.

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