Pools are closed. Group training is out of the question. Concerns about training outside are increasing. Races are being cancelled everywhere..
So what do we do? How do we cope? Is there still any point in training?
*If you’re struggling with your mental health during this pandemic, please seek professional services.
Canada.ca Mental Health Services
Races and events are being cancelled everywhere in every discipline. For many of us our athletic identity is an integral part of who we are. And losing out on a season of racing and participation can have a profound impact on our outlook and mental wellbeing.
What does it mean if our races are cancelled? Are we no longer athletes? Should we stop training? No. Of course not.
Remember why we train. Training is forward looking. It’s what we do now to accomplish a task we are not yet capable of performing; whether it be finishing or hitting a certain time goal or result. If we keep training, we can keep looking forward. We can keep moving forward. And as anyone who has ever hit the wall at 32km into a marathon knows, when your current reality is a struggle and it feels like it won’t end, the only option is to keep pressing forward.
Your races might be cancelled, but your ability to improve, your desire to perform, to see yourself make gains and accomplish things you never thought possible have NOT been cancelled. Lace up your runners, fire up Zwift, get out the stretch bands, roll out the yoga mat… whatever you’ve got, use it.
It’s important during this time to stay connected with your support network. Whether it be your coach, your training partners, your club.. whoever you normally talk to about your athletic endeavours, keep them in close contact. Maintain social contact in the context of your sport. It will help keep you motivated. It will help keep you connected to the community. And you might get some ideas on how to train during this time!
And remember… Somersault isn’t going anywhere. The big purple finish line arch will be there when this is done.
So now that you’re fired up and ready to keep pressing forward.. what do you do?
Short answer: whatever you can.
Warm weather is coming and that means lakes and rivers are going to start warming up too. With pools closed you might be tempted to do some open water swimming. We don’t recommend it. It’s not safe to swim alone and swimming with a group isn’t possible right now.
What can you do? Dryland training! There are three key componenets to dryland training: core, mobility, muscle memory and strength.
Now is the time to get at those core exercises. Planks, side planks, leg raises, core stability exercises.. anything that develops your core strength in a meaningful way to swimming.
Because you’re not swimming regularly, there’s a risk you might lose some mobility and range of motion. Get your stretch bands out and do some stretching. Focus on the shoulders, chest, lats, hips, and back. Dynamic movements that improve mobility and work the small muscles that stabilize your bigger muscles are best.
Finally get those bigger muscles working. Your chest and latissimus dorsi are the primary propulsion muscles while swimming but your shoulders, back, triceps, glutes and hips are also doing a lot of work. Pull-ups and push-ups are great ways to keep those bigger muscles strong while also providing some work to the supporting muscles. But swimming is also about muscle memory. If you have stretch cords, practice performing movements similar to your swim stroke to keep your functional strength for swimming top notch.
As of now we can still ride outside. That being said, Cycling Canada is encouraging all cyclists who have the ability to opt for indoor riding. If you do go outside, ride alone! Even two riders together at a distance still poses a risk!
Indoor options like Zwift and TrainerRoad are great ways to train if you have the tech. For those that don’t, fire up Netflix or get a Zoom conference going with your training partners.
Try to find options that allow you train socially AND virtually. Zwift is great for this. But so is the aforementioned video call option.
Running indoors is tough for some. Treadmills are less common than indoor trainers. Fortunately we can still run outside. If you run outside, make sure to find quiet spaces away from others, and give plenty of space if you do encounter other people.
Keep your runs short and close to home! If you are training for a distance event, or looking for that long run, pick a circuit that keeps you within reasonable distance of your home. A good rule of thumb is to not go further from home than you would be able to cover if you were injured. If you tripped and rolled an ankle or aggravated an injury, would you be so far from home you needed to call someone? If so, you’re too far from home!
Right now is a great time to work on your run form and develop better strength and stability for injury prevention and improved gait. You know those drills your run coach tries to give you that you hate? Do them! Focus on mobility in your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
Do exercises that help you learn how to engage your hip flexors. Jump squats, lunges, burpees… these are all great exercises for improving your running.
Normally at this time of year our focus is broad. We’re focused on our races and event season. We’re starting to bring all the detail work we did over winter together.
Realign your thinking so you can target specific parts of your fitness. Want to be a better biker? Give running a bit of a break and ride more. Keep your focus on a few small things you can control right now. You can’t control your race calendar. But you CAN control many aspects of your training.
Stay positive. Use your sport as an outlet. Allow it to keep your mind busy with a goal or task.
Be healthy. Be smart. We’re all in this together.
The Somersault Event Series is the pre-eminent event series in Eastern Canada consisting of triathlon, duathlon, and running events for all ages and abilities.