by Ben Hoffman
As professional athletes, we train to be ready for the pain and suffering that will inevitably arrive on race day. We put in the hours every week to be ready to handle the predictable and unpredictable with equal grace, executing performances that we can be proud of, and that pay the bills. Somehow all this mental and physical training seems to come up a little short when something as unexpected as a pandemic strikes, and there are many days when I find myself riding a rollercoaster of emotions right now. Of course I am not suffering to the same degree as many others, but we are all affected in some way by this extraordinary moment in time. One thing I believe to be true is that we share many commonalities that can bring us together and help navigate the uncertainty. I have put together a small list of suggestions that has helped me better deal with the ups and downs.
Normally this time of year I would be into race season, having built up and targeted my first important full-distance race. However, with the continuing cancelations and postponements, there is nothing on the calendar for me until at least until the end of the year... and even that may be optimistic. Usually our daily lives revolve around working towards a very specific goal and that's why my first suggestion is: let go of any immediate race goals and adjust your training accordingly. We are in the midst of a major viral outbreak, and that means pools are closed, stay at home orders are in place for most, and many people's work schedules are drastically altered. Do not try to keep the same intensity and volume as before with no clear end in sight and with such a wildly different dynamic in place. Pushing too hard right now might leave you tired and more susceptible to illness, and burning too many matches now might mean you don't have much left when races come online again. Recognize the situation has changed and take a deep breath.
Do keep exercising and moving, try to maintain a healthy diet, and get good rest. Physical movement and exercise are some of the best stress relievers available, so get creative and figure out a way to keep moving while staying safe. I am doing the majority of my training from home, and I am enjoying the shift and new stimulus. I'm taking the time to address some weaknesses and experiment with some virtual racing and other online platforms that allow for some "socializing" while training. When it comes to diet, moderation is key, so keep alcohol and caffeine intake on the lower side, and keep a balance of healthy, fresh, whole foods on your plate. Finally, get good sleep so you restore the body's energy for the challenges of each new day. I am making sure to stay on top of my body's health by keeping the same structure of daily measurements on my Cercacor Ember device. If I see any warning signs of a drop in SpO2, Hemoglobin, or Pulse Rate Variablity, I know my body might be overly stressed. Overlaying my physical parameter measurements with the ability to input emotional status as well gives me a complete picture and helps me stay in touch with my overall health.
Don't get down on yourself when you have a bad day, but instead allow yourself some leeway and flexibility. I don't look at this as a time to set records or be in a competition to see who can be the most productive. Set reasonable goals for each day/week/month, and then chip away at them. If you need a day to relax and recover, that's ok! Tomorrow is always another opportunity to get back up and have a great day if you've had a bad one.
Find a way to stay connected. I believe humans are social creatures, and the new restrictions with social distancing and the need to avoid direct human contact is a tough new reality. Use the tools at your disposal to stay connected in whatever way you can, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling or lonely. There are many people experiencing similar challenges, but together we can find a way through to the other side. I hope everyone is doing as well as can be expected during this challenging time, and I'm sending my thoughts and energy out to those who need it most. I look forward to the day we are beyond this as a global community, and until then, stay safe.