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Finding the Bright Spots in a Pandemic Year

November 2, 2020

Words and photo by Kristen Phillips

This has been a year of curveballs and those of us lucky enough to continue training through the pandemic are a fortunate group. Especially for those of us who are “pandemic parenting” and working every day to keep up with work, family, and fitness – it takes a lot of support and internal motivation. The benefits of anchoring every day with a workout that makes us feel happy and healthy are worth it. For me the key has been adapting my mindset to let training look different for this moment in time.

Racing bikes has taught me life skills that I’m grateful for – like how to put my head down and suffer, then pick my head up and smile through the feed zone before going out for another lap. That’s what 2020 has been like for me and maybe for you, too. Being an endurance athlete has its benefits in real life, especially if you are a parent. Even when your day is done, it’s not. The willingness to believe in our ability to make it through tough situations, and the determination to see it through, is a part of this skillset. Only now in this strange set of circumstances we don’t know where the finish line is. All we can do is stay steady, conserve energy, and do our best to arrive in one piece.

As a still relatively new mom, I’ve spent most of this year focusing on being present for my toddler despite all the craziness. It means the majority of my outdoor workouts are done with him in tow so he benefits from fresh air and exercise too. My indoor workouts are all at home which includes riding, strength training and yoga. Living in a densely populated city has had me hunkered down more than I would like, but it is not forever. As I’ve gone through the process of adapting training to this new pandemic landscape, I’ve learned a few things. Here are a few of the bright spots.


I’m not normally a hiker but this year it has been refreshing to have an activity I can do outside at a safe social distance with my energetic child. Our weekend hiking adventures are so much fun, and carrying around a 50+ pound child carrier backpack is a really good workout! It’s been a great way to explore new parks and trail systems while spending quality time together. 


The same energetic toddler loves to go “zoom zoom” in the jogging stroller and I am happy to oblige. I get in a good workout and he gets to play in carefully selected (vacant) parts of our local NYC park. It’s so enjoyable to run with my little buddy and I secretly enjoy passing people with a jogging stroller. It also turns out that running is a very effective way to train higher intensity heart rate zones. Running isn’t just for the off-season anymore.

Strength Training

My gym is open again but I canceled the membership. Instead I’ve been investing in home equipment that can carry me through 2021 and beyond. It’s actually kind of liberating to be free from a gym and to know progress is being made specific to my goals as an eventual return-to-racing mountain biker. I’ve been sharing my findings with my athletes with great results. 


Usually I dread winter but this year feels different. After sharing outdoor spaces with so many people these last few months, I’m looking forward to some solitude. Exercising outdoors is such good medicine for mind, body, and spirit – and with screen time at an all time high, it’s even more imperative to have this outlet. It took a pandemic to really make me appreciate that on a new level.

We’re all doing the best we can right now and hopefully the rest of the year won’t be too crazy (although I am posting this on the day before the election). No matter what happens, we can all work to build new muscles in our mind and choose to see the good in our situation. What bright spots have you found in your training this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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