Training during the COVID-19 lockdown: knowledge, beliefs, and practices of 12,526 athletes from 142 countries and six continents

Jad Adrian Washif*, Abdulaziz Farooq, Isabel Krug, David B. Pyne, Evert Verhagen, Lee Taylor, Del P. Wong, Iñigo Mujika, Cristina Cortis, Monoem Haddad, Omid Ahmadian, Mahmood Al Jufaili, Ramzi A. Al-Horani, Abdulla Saeed Al-Mohannadi, Asma Aloui, Achraf Ammar, Fitim Arifi, Abdul Rashid Aziz, Mikhail Batuev, Christopher Martyn BeavenRalph Beneke, Arben Bici, Pallawi Bishnoi, Lone Bogwasi, Daniel Bok, Omar Boukhris, Daniel Boullosa, Nicola Bragazzi, Joao Brito, Roxana Paola Palacios Cartagena, Anis Chaouachi, Stephen S. Cheung, Hamdi Chtourou, Germina Cosma, Tadej Debevec, Matthew D. DeLang, Alexandre Dellal, Gürhan Dönmez, Tarak Driss, Juan David Peña Duque, Cristiano Eirale, Mohamed Elloumi, Carl Foster, Emerson Franchini, Andrea Fusco, Olivier Galy, Paul B. Gastin, Nicholas Gill, Olivier Girard, Cvita Gregov, Shona Halson, Omar Hammouda, Ivana Hanzlíková, Bahar Hassanmirzaei, Thomas Haugen, Kim Hébert-Losier, Hussein Muñoz Helú, Tomás Herrera-Valenzuela, Florentina J. Hettinga, Louis Holtzhausen, Olivier Hue, Antonio Dello Iacono, Johanna K. Ihalainen, Carl James, Dina C. Janse van Rensburg, Saju Joseph, Karim Kamoun, Mehdi Khaled, Karim Khalladi, Kwang Joon Kim, Lian-Yee Kok, Lewis MacMillan, Leonardo Jose Mataruna-Dos-Santos, Ryo Matsunaga, Shpresa Memishi, Grégoire P. Millet, Imen Moussa-Chamari, Danladi Ibrahim Musa, Hoang Minh Thuan Nguyen, Pantelis T. Nikolaidis, Adam Owen, Johnny Padulo, Jeffrey Cayaban Pagaduan, Nirmala Panagodage Perera, Jorge Pérez-Gómez, Lervasen Pillay, Arporn Popa, Avishkar Pudasaini, Alireza Rabbani, Tandiyo Rahayu, Mohamed Romdhani, Paul Salamh, Abu Sufian Sarkar, Andy Schillinger, Stephen Seiler, Heny Setyawati, Navina Shrestha, Fatona Suraya, Montassar Tabben, Khaled Trabelsi, Axel Urhausen, Maarit Valtonen, Johanna Weber, Rodney Whiteley, Adel Zrane, Yacine Zerguini, Piotr Zmijewski, Øyvind Sandbakk, Helmi Ben Saad, Karim Chamari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Our objective was to explore the training-related knowledge, beliefs, and practices of athletes and the influence of lockdowns in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

Methods: Athletes (n = 12,526, comprising 13% world class, 21% international, 36% national, 24% state, and 6% recreational) completed an online survey that was available from 17 May to 5 July 2020 and explored their training behaviors (training knowledge, beliefs/attitudes, and practices), including specific questions on their training intensity, frequency, and session duration before and during lockdown (March–June 2020). 

Results: Overall, 85% of athletes wanted to “maintain training,” and 79% disagreed with the statement that it is “okay to not train during lockdown,” with a greater prevalence for both in higher-level athletes. In total, 60% of athletes considered “coaching by correspondence (remote coaching)” to be sufficient (highest amongst world-class athletes). During lockdown, < 40% were able to maintain sport-specific training (e.g., long endurance [39%], interval training [35%], weightlifting [33%], plyometric exercise [30%]) at pre-lockdown levels (higher among world-class, international, and national athletes), with most (83%) training for “general fitness and health maintenance” during lockdown. Athletes trained alone (80%) and focused on bodyweight (65%) and cardiovascular (59%) exercise/training during lockdown. Compared with before lockdown, most athletes reported reduced training frequency (from between five and seven sessions per week to four or fewer), shorter training sessions (from ≥ 60 to < 60 min), and lower sport-specific intensity (~ 38% reduction), irrespective of athlete classification. 

Conclusions: COVID-19-related lockdowns saw marked reductions in athletic training specificity, intensity, frequency, and duration, with notable within-sample differences (by athlete classification). Higher classification athletes had the strongest desire to “maintain” training and the greatest opposition to “not training” during lockdowns. These higher classification athletes retained training specificity to a greater degree than others, probably because of preferential access to limited training resources. More higher classification athletes considered “coaching by correspondence” as sufficient than did lower classification athletes. These lockdown-mediated changes in training were not conducive to maintenance or progression of athletes’ physical capacities and were also likely detrimental to athletes’ mental health. These data can be used by policy makers, athletes, and their multidisciplinary teams to modulate their practice, with a degree of individualization, in the current and continued pandemic-related scenario. Furthermore, the data may drive training-related educational resources for athletes and their multidisciplinary teams. Such upskilling would provide athletes with evidence to inform their training modifications in response to germane situations (e.g., COVID related, injury, and illness).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalSports Medicine
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2021

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