Athletes offer free online fitness classes and tips as coronavirus bites
Australia’s Sally Pearson jumps a hurdle on her way to winning the final of the women’s 100m hurdles athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD

Moving from the track to the living room, many athletes around the world are doing their bit to boost public health during the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s been an explosion of athletes offering free online fitness classes and tips to an audience isolated at home.

It helps others keep fit, and especially for sports like track and field, it’s a way to stay relevant in a year without the Olympics.

“The onus is all now on the parents and for kids you’re stuck in whatever space you’ve got at home,” former marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, who is preparing an upcoming online class for World Athletics, told AP.

“So it was just trying to make that a fun way to get everybody active together and try to restore a little bit of normality.”

Radcliffe previously organised family running events to keep people active. Now that more people are at home, she’s taking the initiative online.

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World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, has been left with an empty schedule as meets around the world have been cancelled. It is filling the gap with a range of online exercise tips and educational resources, particularly aimed at children.

Besides Radcliffe, other Olympic athletes involved include two-time 100-metre champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who is reading her children’s book, and 2012 100 hurdles champion Sally Pearson of Australia, leading a pre-natal workout class.

The trend spans sports and countries. England cricket player Jos Buttler has been demonstrating pilates exercises on Instagram with his wife Louise, a professional trainer. Sometimes he’s even done it in full gear, with helmet, pads and bat.

In Germany, world long jump champion Malaika Mihambo led an after-school sports club for young children. Now she’s taken it online, with daily German-language YouTube workouts packed with motivational chat for the kids she calls her “world champions.”

“Even when parents try hard to keep the general uncertainty away from them, children have finely tuned antennas and sense something like that anyway,” Mihambo said on the German track federation website. “If I can make my little contribution to putting a bit of structure in their everyday lives in this time, to make them enthusiastic about sport, then I’m happy to do that.”

Spanish football coaches and French athletes have joined in, too, while the Slovakian FA published a video showing Jan Gregus, a midfielder with Minnesota United in Major League Soccer, doing a playful routine. Copying his high-energy mix of abdominal exercises and ball tricks will challenge anyone stuck at home. Radcliffe said athletes can adapt during the pandemic, and help others, thanks to the “resilience” many have built up when their training options are limited by injuries.


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