How "Cheer" Coach Monica Aldama Is Dealing with Quarantine

Her secrets: Sleep chocolates, driveway workouts, and tapping into the resilient cheer mentality.

monica aldama and morgan from Netflix Navarro Cheer
Photo: E! Entertainment / Contributor/Getty Images

If you were one of the few people who didn't binge Netflix's original docuseries Cheer when it first debuted in early 2020, then you certainly should have had the chance to do so during the quarantine.

For those who've watched, you know that Monica Aldama, the longtime coach of Navarro College's champion cheer team, seems to have an amazing way of running her cheer program—and her life—with flawless execution and iron-clad resolve. While Aldama may be well versed in the stresses of Daytona season (the time leading up to their huge national competition in Daytona Beach, FL) and the decision of who "makes mat," the stresses of the last few uncertain months are new to literally everyone. Still, if anyone knows how to cope, it's Aldama. After all, if she can cultivate and run a 14-time national champ cheer program, build a team with a family-like bond, and coach them through a mid-performance injury at nationals (still not over it!!!), it's probably worth gleaning some wisdom from her on how to get through a global pandemic.

Here, Aldama shares how she's been staying sane (and healthy) these last few months, how she gets sleep (both now and during Daytona season), and the cheer skills she credits for helping her—and the team—stick it out through difficult situations.

Sticking to a Routine

"Once Daytona was canceled, I gave myself a few days to grieve the loss of that opportunity—both for me and my team—and tried to get back in the swing of things like business as usual...I definitely found out quickly that I'm not a work-from-home person. I've been lucky that we've been allowed to come up to the college on certain hours, on a limited basis. I like to be in my office, and I like my structure. So I've tried to keep my routine pretty normal as far as the work goes—which keeps me sane for sure."

Keeping Her Home Workouts Tough

"I've definitely been working out more just because I've had more time. My daughter is home from college because their school went all online. And so is her boyfriend, who played football for two years at the university that they both attend. Basically they run Camp Gladiator in our driveway every day, and I try to participate when I can.

Every day it's always a little different, but mostly all HIIT routines. We have some bands, and we do rotating stations, so it might be an arm day or leg day or cardio day. I just do what I'm told. We've run a lot of sprints, actually. I hate to sprint in the moment, but I love it after I'm done with them."

How She Gets to Sleep—During Competition Season and Quarantine

"I kind of have a fear of missing out (FOMO) when I try to go to sleep—I don't like to sleep very much because I'm scared I should be doing something else. Even pre-pandemic, my stress levels were higher than usual because we were preparing for Daytona. I found these Fast Asleep supplements (Buy It, $40, in early March and really love them because, well, they're a chocolate square and they really help me sleep. I take one, and it's like I'm immediately ready to go to sleep—it like shuts down your brain. They're made from GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid, a calming neurotransmitter produced by your brain] and saffron (and together they're supposed to help you relax and relieve anxiety). I love the fact they don't use melatonin, because then there's no risk of any leftover feelings of tiredness in the morning.

The other thing I do before bed to kind of 'power down,' is to not check my phone for 30 minutes. I’m constantly on-the-go, constantly thinking, constantly brainstorming, and know that I can’t resist the urge to respond to a message or email or even take down reminder notes for myself no matter how late. So my solution to that is just powering down the phone and setting a strict rule for myself to be hands-off completely.

I also like to practice a short mediation before bed—just for about five minutes. It helps me reflect on the day, practice gratitude, and puts my attitude into a positive perspective." (

How a Cheerleader Attitude Can Help Get You Through Anything

"I, personally, always try to think of the positives and of what we can do. Instead of sitting there and dwelling on anything that's happened, I try to move forward—and that's what I try to teach to my team. I mean, even with our whole season being canceled, it was devastating. I personally allowed myself several days to mourn it. And then I said, okay, now I'm going to get back up and move forward. We don't dwell on anything that's fearful or when something comes at us; we pick ourselves up and keep going.

Monica Aldama, Head Coach, Navarro College Cheer Team

I think one of the great strengths of cheerleaders, in general, is resiliency. We have a very high standard for ourselves, so we get knocked down, but we jump back up, and we keep going—and that definitely filters out into your life.

— Monica Aldama, Head Coach, Navarro College Cheer Team

I think we've all used that resiliency to stay strong during all of this, to appreciate the things that we do have, and try to move forward in whatever way we can, even if things look different. I think the resiliency of cheerleaders is a strength that is getting people through this pandemic."

(Keep reading: These Adult Charity Cheerleaders Are Bettering the World—While Throwing Crazy Stunts)

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