MAINTAINING MENTAL HEALTH WHILE TRAINING ALONE
One thing I've always loved about endurance sports is the community - It seems like there's always at least one other person out there up for a swim, ride or run at a moment's notice. I know a lot of us are missing this aspect of the sport right now, and we're missing community in other areas of our lives as well. Following are recommendations that I am making to my athletes to help them focus on mental health and self-care, while dealing with the mental and emotional challenges of more isolated training.
1. Stick to the plan: Recently our motto has been "Training isn't cancelled" - because it isn't. Just because your race was cancelled or postponed does NOT mean that the ultimate goal for your training (HEALTH) needs to be cancelled. Stick to the plan. If the plan you have currently doesn't make sense for your new race date or goal, then get with your coach and make a new one. We've been given one luxury right now, which is time, so take advantage of this opportunity to focus on building better technique, improving core/functional strength, or cross-training to become a more bullet-proof multisport athlete. You'll be that much better on race day. (Don't have a coach? Now's the time to find one - visit us at www.playtri.com/coaching for a free consult to get started)
2. Take time for easy movement: A 20-30 minute walk or easy ride around the neighborhood will give you time to refocus, recover from harder sessions, and absorb some vitamin D. If you are fortunate enough to be at home with family, include them, too, if possible (unless everyone is ready for some alone time!)
3. Try yoga: NOT for the flexibility (though that's a nice bonus), but for the forced meditation. Yoga requires us to focus intently on our movements and body, and to let go of our ego for a little while. We're all being bombarded by news, work and social media at the moment - take 30 minutes to focus away from the noise and get your head right. If you are new to yoga, start small with gentle/beginner courses (there are a lot of easy and free online options) and remember to listen to your body. Yoga isn't a competition - it's all about meeting yourself where you are, and growing from there.
4. Prioritize health: Sleep. Good food. Water. These three little things add up to make a giant impact on our mental, emotional and physical well-being. Aim for 8 hours of sleep at night (if sleep is a challenge for you right now, you may want to try iKOR, which has been shown to have a positive impact on sleep regulation and reduction of anxiety for many athletes), eat whole foods throughout the day, and try to finish 3-4 bottles of water throughout the course of the day (not all at once). These are process goals we set for our top-level athletes throughout the season, but the benefits (emotional stability and positivity, reduction in injuries, increased performance) apply to all of us.
5. Give yourself room to fail: We're all facing new and uncertain situations right now. NO ONE has all the answers. When you fail, recognize it as an opportunity to grow. This is easier said than done - when we teach this concept to our young athletes, we use a line from the Positive Coach Alliance that asks "What is the most important play? The NEXT play." This means stop focusing on what already went wrong (you can't change it), and look ahead to the next opportunity (and apply what you learned from the previous situation). This is also known as having a "growth mindset," and it is heavily correlated with highly successful individuals.
6. Connect: Find virtual opportunities for TRUE connection (i.e. not social media) with other people. Have a Zoom party with friends. Find an online game room and set up a tournament with extended family. Call a grandparent living in assisted living. Have a daily video call and "dinner" with your parents. Challenge yourself to really connect with someone every day.
Finally - don't feel like you have to get it all right at once. Pick one thing from this list to focus on this week. When you miss a day or an opportunity, give yourself a clean slate and keep moving forward. Remember, this isn't about getting a perfect score, it's providing yourself with the opportunity to feel better, and do better as a result. Happy training, and I hope we can all go for a big group ride together in the not-so-distant future!