Working Out and Social Distancing During a Pandemic

Airman 1st Class JP Guyer, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Control Party specialist, assigned to the Washington Air National Guard, performs a weighted lunge during a physical training test Aug. 9, 2019, at Camp Murray, Wash. (Airman 1st Class Mckenzie Airhart/194th Wing)

Here are some ideas if you do not have a home gym and your gym or pool is closed for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 pandemic:

The Classics -- PT Pyramid Progression

Between the PT pyramid, super set, max rep set and the PT/run workout, this will keep you busy every other day for your upper body, but you can change the exercises and make for a killer leg day, too, with squats, lunges, jumps and step-ups. If you want to see how we place these classics into a week of training, see the article Classic Military PT Week.

Top 10 pyramid workouts: Some classics to choose from when you need new ideas and easy workouts that naturally have a warm-up, max out and cooldown all built in.

Outdoor equipment

If you have a pull-up bar that you can place outdoors, do so. You also can also learn how to build, find or buy one to add to your training. If you have a difficult time doing pull-ups, consider using assistance bands, TRX suspension training or do hangs and negative repetitions for your pull-up exercises.

We also use local pull-up bars in parks, around a track or even the monkey bars on a playground to do pull-ups as part of a good outdoor workout.

Build your own home gym

This can be quite an investment, but gym memberships also can be rather expensive. A year of gym membership fees could be invested to build a nice home gym of your own. A few dumbbells and/or kettlebells, a pull-up/dip bar and a TRX is a great starter kit.

Consider a rack with a barbell and a few hundred pounds of plates, and you will have what you need for a variety of training cycles to help with strength, power, muscle stamina and endurance. If you like some basic gear like a tractor or car tire that you can flip or hit with a sledgehammer, you have the makings of fun workouts. Add in a weight vest to make all calisthenics harder.

Another option is to go to to find countless fitness items from cardio equipment to weight vests at lower-than-market prices.

For more details on a home gym, see video podcast below:


Swimming pool closures

Although the chlorinated water may be a good antiseptic for your body with respect to viruses, indoor facilities tend to be a breeding ground for them, so many pools are closing as well. If you need to replace swimming with another activity, consider another non-impact option, running or walking.

You can replace swimming with a variety of workouts -- see swimming replacement ideas.

Also, if you want to work the muscles used in swimming on dry land, consider the PT reset, dry land training, a Vasa Trainer or other calisthenics to work your legs, core, arms and shoulders.

Get outside, breathe fresh air, soak up rays

Enjoy the sun if you are in a temperate climate. It doesn't matter whether you just sit, walk, do yard work or get exercise. The sun's ultraviolet rays will help kill some viruses. In fact, during earlier pandemics in our history, the open air and sunlight were very beneficial to treatment and prevention.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues