Not too long ago, most of us were contemplating our strategies for 2020. Whether you were thinking about your next competition or how you were going to add 10 pounds of muscle or finally get your ass in shape or improve your squat, you had plans for this year.
I don't think that anyone's plans included being quarantined on account of a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus sweeping the globe. But, hey, shit happens. Aside from the immediate health threat posed by the COVID-19 virus, many of us have to deal with difficult new circumstances, such as businesses shutting down, massive layoffs, food and product scarcity, and social distancing.
What does all of it mean for the average bodybuilder/powerlifter/fitness enthusiast? It means that we've all had to make some adjustments in the name of keeping things moving.
Gear Up for Quarantine
First, let's talk training. The gyms are closed. This is the first time any of us has seen that happen, and I don't think anyone expected that development. Admittedly, I lucked out because I put together a small but fairly adequate home gym in early 2019. While it's a far cry from a full-scale commercial gym, having a power rack, a barbell, a bench, and a set of dumbbells allows me to train any and all body parts. If you have the space for a power rack, you could look for a used one, make one yourself if you're handy, or even have a fabricator put one together for you if you have that option. (In fact, now would be the ideal time to have a few basic pieces made, since many people are looking for work. Not only can you get it done quickly, but you should be able to get it done at a good price.)
Scrounging up some plates, a bar, and a bench using online classifieds such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace shouldn't be all that hard. This would no doubt be an investment, but weights and bars and benches and racks don't go bad over time. Unless you buy total junk or overspend, there's a good chance that you can eventually resell your used equipment for close to or the same price as you paid.
Some people may lack the space or the finances to do this, and that's fine, too. There's an almost endless supply of videos online from top-notch people in the industry who will show you different ways to use body weight, bands, and even household items for training at home.
If you can't do that for whatever reason or you're simply opposed to it and you don't have anything coming up that requires you to be in top shape, maybe you should take some time off. There's nothing wrong with giving your body time to rest; some of you have been hammering away for years on end, and I'm sure your joints would appreciate the reprieve. Unless your livelihood depends on it, adjusted or even missed training isn't the end of the world. If you do depend on training for your livelihood, this could be a reminder of the value of self-reliance and the importance of having a backup plan.
Stock Your Fridge and Pantry
When it comes to food, we've been lucky that we could always expect to find whatever we wanted—and plenty of it—whenever and wherever we were. Shortages were uncommon. Now, public fear has unfortunately led to a good deal of panic buying and some hoarding. There have also been issues with the supply chain of many products. As a result, we see empty shelves and meat cases in the stores. Is food still available? Of course. Is anyone at risk of dying because the stores don't have enough food? Certainly not. The worst-case scenario is a depleted supply of our usual high-consumption products. For bodybuilders in particular, many stores have been either very low or altogether out of chicken. Is this the end of the world? Hardly. Eat beef, eat more eggs, have some pork, or enjoy some fish. No problem.
Here are two suggestions: First, eat eggs more often. Eggs are one of the best whole foods for bodybuilders, and they have remained widely available during the pandemic. Second, if you have a meal replacement product or protein powder that you enjoy, order a little extra. You can use it to supplement your whole food intake and so reduce your need for meats, especially if they should become harder to find. These products do not require refrigeration, so they will not take up valuable real estate in your freezer or fridge. Even the staunchest whole food supporters like me can see how they can help you meet your nutritional needs when you have reduced access to whole foods, so I always keep a stock of Animal Meal on hand. For someone who eats six meals a day, having two meals based on eggs and two based on a high-quality meal replacement powder means that you only need two meals containing meat. It's definitely something to consider.
Another thing to consider is food storage and preservation. A chest freezer, if you have the room, is a fairly cheap investment. When you add a run-of-the-mill vacuum sealer, you can easily cook, vacuum seal, and freeze several weeks' worth of food.
Ultimately, we have to make the most of what's available to us whenever we deal with limitations or scarcity. We have to do our best to adapt. The key is to think ahead, something we should always do, even in good times. The COVID-19 outbreak has revealed our need to be prepared and as self-reliant as possible. We have seen businesses shut down, our healthcare system overtaxed, foods and household supplies sold out, and various other examples of just how quickly and easily our system can become overwhelmed. I am sure that we will get through this—get back to work, get back to the gym, and get back to our lives as usual—and we will emerge stronger and more capable of weathering any future crisis.