boy running outside Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, life as we know it has changed. The world of sports and fitness is one of many areas that has seen significant changes and interruptions to routine. Sports seasons are postponed. Gyms, dance studios and parks are closed. Athletes are finding themselves wondering what to do now that their schedules are not full of practices, games or meets. Many athletes are asking, how do I keep myself in shape in preparation for when we are back in season?

Experts from CHOP’s Sports Medicine and Performance Center put together some tips for staying in shape and how to keep yourself motivated both physically and mentally during this unprecedented time. Whether you are a competitive athlete or someone just trying to stay fit without your usual training and workout resources, this advice can ring true for individuals of all ages and skill levels.

Staying physically fit to improve health and reduce risk of injury

The benefits of exercise are enormous. They include, but are not limited to, improved mood, reduction of stress, and improvement in quality of sleep.

For athletes in particular, it is important to establish and/or maintain your baseline fitness in a safe manner. Try to avoid sitting around for long periods of time, as this causes the body to become deconditioned and more prone to injury once you are back to your sport. This is particularly important if there is the possibility of a shortened preseason.

How can I exercise safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There are many ways to exercise safely during quarantine:

  • You can run, bike or play outside if you take proper precautions to keep yourself and others safe. Make sure you maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet from others, and wear appropriate protective gear like a face mask.
  • Work on your skills independently: Shoot hoops, kick a soccer ball, practice your stick handling, or have a catch with someone in your household.
  • Try to utilize open space to prevent over-crowding.
  • In your home, utilize equipment you already have or get creative. Water bottles can double as weights, and when you are done with your workout you already have water on hand!
  • YouTube has great workout videos available for free. Many gyms and other fitness providers are also offering virtual workouts and free promotions during the quarantine.

Use the time for recovery

Now is the time to finally address any of those nagging aches and pains from a prior injury.

  • Get a good stretching routine in place. Yoga is a great way to stretch and helps the mind, body and spirit.
  • Consider implementing an injury prevention program – research has shown that these programs work! CHOP has a free program called Ready, Set, Prevent.

Stay connected to your team

The toughest part of social distancing is that we cannot be with our teammates or friends. For athletes who are used to the constant social interaction that comes with being part of a team, this can be particularly difficult. Communication with your team and coaches is invaluable during this time.

Ways you can stay connected:

  • Create a group chat with your team to share training ideas and keep each other motivated. You can use text messages, email or a messaging app.
  • Work on a list of team goals that you all want to accomplish when you are together again.
  • Think of activities you can do as a team virtually – play passing games, participate in a home “challenge,” virtual team workouts, etc.

Train your mind: Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness not only helps reduce stress, but it can also help improve mental performance and recovery in sports.

This is a good time to implement visualization and mental imagery techniques that you can use when you are back to playing sports. There are many mindfulness apps available. A few examples include: Calm, Headspace and 10 Percent Happier.

Create and maintain a routine

During times like these it’s especially important to maintain as regular a schedule as possible. This applies to school and work, as well as exercise.

  • Try to keep a consistent bedtime to help your body physically and mentally.
  • Continue to eat healthy and drink lots of water.
  • Maintain a positive attitude – focus on the things that are in your control, and continue a line of communication with your teammates.

Don’t wait: Make a telehealth appointment

Don’t let pain or concerns interfere with staying active while home. While many in-person appointments and physical therapy sessions have been postponed for the safety of patients and providers, there are still ways to stay in touch with the team you rely on to stay healthy.

CHOP Sports Medicine is currently doing many appointments through telehealth options such as video visits. For example, these visits work well for assessment and follow-up of ACL and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) injuries, heel pain in runners, shoulder pain in swimmers, elbow pain in baseball/softball/tennis players, concussion, other joint pain, second opinion consults, and more.

If you need a second opinion on a sports injury or would like to set up a virtual consultation or appointment with one of our sports medicine team members, please call 215-590-1527.

Contributed by: Naomi Brown, MD, Lindsey Calandra, MSN, CRNP, and Jennifer Massey, MS, ATC

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