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  • Haylie McCleney

COVID-19: Staying Strong Together



Like most of you, I am almost at my wits end not being able to play softball and follow my normal training regimen. With that, I have no access to a gym while I am at home in Tallahassee. This is both frustrating and scary at times. I'm used to training in the most elite of performance centers and weightrooms. Because of the current situation around the world with COVID-19, my training now looks drastically different with most of my workouts including little to no equipment and taking place either in my apartment complex's parking lot or my living room. I'm happy to take this sacrifice for the health of the public. In the grand scheme of things I have a lot to be grateful for, this virus is showing me that more and more each day. However, I'm an Olympian. I want to make sure that I am working hard during this time and preparing for 2021 as best I can. That is not easy to do considering all that is going on, but I have been able to get some SOLID sweat sessions in over the past few weeks. I'd like to share a bit of what I am doing with you guys so that you can stay sharp while your routine has been thrown off as well. We as a global softball community are all in this together. Let's keep getting better throughout this entire process. We'll be back soon.


The past couple of weeks have been a blessing for me because it has forced me to be incredibly creative with my regimen. At my apartment I have a spin bike, 3 kettlebells, a jump rope, and a few bands. That's it. The crazy thing is, I feel so much better and stronger. I realized that because I don't have a lot of weight to move around, the WAY that I move the weight has been what has driven the intensity of my training higher than I thought I could ever go at home. It's HOW I'm moving versus WHAT I'm moving. I also think there is a place for doing something your body isn't used to, just to get it to adapt. That is where the mental growth and process happens. Limits and excuses only exist in your mind. Here is what I am focusing on:


1. INCORPORATE TEMPOS

With what weight you do have, even if you don't have any weight at all, tempos are extremely beneficial when you are low on equipment. I have been incorporating eccentric and isometric tempos into a lot of my movements at home and let me tell you, I can definitely feel it in my limbs the next day. When we are talking about eccentrics, that is the phase of muscle contraction in which the muscle in lengthening. To put it simpler, it is the downward motion of a lot of movements. Think, the lowering of yourself into a squat or lowering yourself to the bottom of the push up. We continue to build up tension throughout the muscle the longer it takes us to get to the "bottom" position. So if you want to do an eccentric body weight squat, try counting to 8 every time you lower yourself down, then explode up as fast as you can. You'd be surprised how hard you can get the muscles to work. The great part is, eccentrics can be incorporated into almost any strength movement you can do. Slow and controlled on the way down, quick and explosive on the way up.


The same goes for an isometric tempo. Isometric means the muscle length stays the same, so essentially you are freezing like a statue at the bottom of a certain movement, and holding it for time. If I were to do an isometric push up with a 5 second tempo, I would lower myself down normally, freeze at the bottom for 5 seconds, then push back up as fast as I could. The same can apply to a squat or an ab movement, think of a wall-sit or a plank. These can take your movements to the next level, and an added bonus is that isometrics are one of the best techniques I have found to improve form on various exercises. Struggle with your push ups? Do an isometric. Lunges are hard for you? Do an isometric. Rows are difficult? Do an isometric. Make your body move better by creating tension in the stillness.


2. JUMP AND SPRINT

Train for POWER. This is a blessing and makes me believe that God is a performance coach. GET THIS. When training, typically we can see strength and endurance both be maintained for up to 30 days. That's really good when we are talking about COVID-19 quarantine. We will stay strong and stay conditioned with relatively little intensity in these departments. On the other hand, SPEED starts to deteriorate in as little as 5 days. This means if we need to prioritize anything during our training right now, it needs to be speed. But the really cool part about that? We can train speed with just our two legs. You need virtually no equipment! Hello, thank you to the universe! So what have I been doing? I've been sprinting. Every. Single. Day. I usually work some speed drills and sprints right after my dynamic warm up and then go into either my lift (where I'm using tempos) or my conditioning (typically intervals with a 1:1 work/rest ratio).


3. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

I have never been one to deviate from a plan, but this outbreak has everyone in every facet of life adapting to constant change. I have taken the same approach in my training and you know what it has gotten me? Perspective. Equanimity.


My dad is famous in our small town for his outdoor runs. You can always count on seeing him off the side of streets, sweating up a storm, no headphones, just focused and in the zone. I never liked running for long distances outside. I never knew why my dad enjoyed it so much. Science says it isn't really beneficial to softball players, but that's not my point. I knew I needed to condition that day, and I knew I needed to get some sunshine. So I ran, for 30 minutes straight, outside, just like my dad. I finally understood what he had all along. The nature, the almost meditative state of mind I was in, the moments of self-reflection. It made me better. I'm not going to lie to you and say I wasn't struggling to breathe at times on my run, but I will tell you I am so grateful that I did it. Just because you don't think you "like" a certain way of training, doesn't mean it can't be beneficial to you. Especially now. Get outside your comfort zone. You'll be glad that you did.


I am working to get more and more content available to you guys as we get through these unprecedented times together. With that, I decided to create a free PDF of my 8 tips I would give to every single softball player. You can download that here.


Stay Healthy. Stay Strong!

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©2018 BY HAYLIE MCCLENEY