In case you haven’t heard (really, really long bike ride or run?), Perth and the south-west of WA was yesterday placed into lockdown to contain community spread from a case of COVID-19 that has found its way into the wild. We’ve been very fortunate over the last twelve months and haven’t really had to deal with his sort of situation since the initial days of the pandemic but the good news is that others have and we’ve been in a good position to watch and learn from periodic outbreaks in other states. If we all work together, ironically by staying apart where possible, we’ll get through this in no time. Hopefully without too much personal, community or economic cost.
Something that we all need to be mindful of is that uncertainty and disruption creates stress which changes our thinking and consequently our behaviour. Anyone who left their house yesterday afternoon would have been acutely reminded of this. People standing in long queues to buy a month’s supply of products for a five-day lockdown (during which they could still buy them!), aggressive driving and a general lack of consideration for others. The change was palpable.
As athletes (yes you are an athlete whether you think of yourself that way or not) we often rely on routine and the feel-good brain chemistry of exercise to soothe us. When the source of uncertainty and fear takes that away from us, and perhaps even adds the fear of losing the fitness we have worked so hard for, we can find ourselves keen to wrest back control. I’d like to counsel you to resist the urge. Pause. Plan.
At this stage all we know is that we’re limited for five days. This might turn into a much longer period depending on what happens but right now you should just focus on the next five days, not only from a physical point of view but also your emotional wellbeing and that of those around you. Everyone is going to be stressed to some degree and while they say absence makes the heart grow fonder it’s also true that too much closeness can create friction. Be kind to yourself and others. Forgiving too.
From a training perspective this needn’t be a crisis. At some stage everyone has breaks in their training, whether they are planned recovery or forced through injury or other commitments. Learning to deal with lockdown is an opportunity to discover how to embrace what you can do when you can’t do what you want to do. It’s a chance to forge some resilience which will pay big dividends when you need to draw on it later during a race, training session or even just in life.
So you’re going to miss out on three swims? It’s not ideal but you can still practice some swim-focused technique, mobility and strength. In my opinion the use of stretch cords is actually better than swimming to ingrain correct catch and pull mechanics and there are very few of us that couldn’t do with better shoulder and ankle flexibility.
Can’t run hard with a mask on? The benefits of easy aerobic running can’t be overstated and you can maintain the fitness gained with vastly greater volume on just a couple of half hour sessions if that’s all you can manage. You certainly won’t lose speed by missing a few interval sessions. Some people have made running in a mask a vocation, just look at Michael Myers for example (not a suggestion!)
Cycling is probably the easiest fix in lockdown if you have a trainer to put your bike on. An hour or so on the turbo, with or without intervals, is a really efficient and effective use of your time. Sure, you’re not likely to get a three or four hour ride in without losing the will to live but again you can maintain on much less than it took to get you there. With a stationary bike there’s also the added benefit of being able to connect with others while you’re at it through tele-conferencing software or just catching up on the latest Netflix offering that you’re the last to see.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages (yes, I said advantages) of this situation is that you may have time to consider the things you don’t normally do but should. Stretching. Pilates. Foam rolling. Eating better! Who knows, you could find the tweak to your routine that turns you into a world beater.
Above all, keep your chin up. We’ll organize some group sessions and social catch-ups in the coming days and keep you informed. Stay safe. Be kind.