The past nine months have changed our societal, cultural and familial norms as we have previously known them. It has been a time of uncertainty, isolation, worry. It has also been a year of strength, perseverance and creativity. Like many of my personal athletes, I have spent days on end trying to find a new balance in my effort to support those I care about emotionally and physically while also taking care of myself . There has been a drastic change of perspective and routine in our lives. In my specific case, I am trying to find creative ways to continue coaching my athletes in a personal manner while following state mandates for Covid19. Now, I do so in conjunction with being at home and helping my sons learn remotely for school. This is challenging for me but luckily very doable given our personal circumstances. But, this is not true for everyone. The new balance some of you seek is much for difficult to obtain and much more frustrating to try to achieve. One of the most important parts of teaching and coaching for me is the interaction and bond I develop with those with whom I work. The transition to a completely distanced format has been hard emotionally and psychologically. I know this is true to for all of us. As the weather has turned cold and icy here in Colorado, I am now coaching sessions via ZOOM rather than outside. I miss the personal interaction. And, I know that my athletes are struggling with a lack of motivation and a feeling of isolation right now.
As the Covid19 vaccine becomes more available in the coming months, there is the hope for a new “normalcy” in our lives. We all look forward to resuming the things we love and to do so without the fear of Covid19. In the meantime, we can continue to build on the coach/athlete relationship and stay on track for future events and specific goals. I have some key takeaways which I find helpful not only as a coach myself but also as an athlete and a parent.
Find the Balance
There is a lot of stress in the world right now. It’s more important now than ever to take care of ourselves psychologically, emotionally and physically. Finding something you love to do and making it a priority in your life right now will help your mental health. Carve out the fun and embrace it hard. For me, I love the chance to see my friends and take walks in the neighborhood or hikes on the trails. I try to meet up with a friend and socially distance for an outside exercise date. The fresh air, companionship and exercise always makes me feel better. Yesterday, it was 20 degrees outside and the roads were super icy but my 4 mile walk with good friend Janet was an absolute highlight of my week. I came home feeling refreshed, calmer and happier. And, as a result, I was more productive! I worked for several hours on training plans and created workouts for my ZOOM strength and conditioning program. If you are feeling like you are living the movie “Groundhog’s Day”, try to change things up a bit and give your mind and soul a break from the monotony.
Many of us are used to a set routine and we like it that way. Endurance athletes are used to creating schedules and sticking to them like clockwork because we have a lot to get done- work, family, training, social life. For those triathletes who dedicate themselves to long course racing, training can take on the feel of an additional part time job. We schedule our workouts in advance and our weekends often become long training days. But, what happens when events are canceled and we are in the midst of a pandemic and we lose that focus? It’s uncomfortable and stressful. And, those are the feelings on top of all the other stressors we feel economically and emotionally due to the uncertainties of Covid19. Creating a more flexible mindset can help you work through this challenge. Instead of sticking to a rigid training plan focusing on a specific goal/event, I have adapted workouts to emphasize wellness and stress reduction. The focus is on staying fit for future specificity in training but doing so in a way which leaves my athletes feeling motivated, healthy and refreshed. These past 6 months have been a great time to work on limiters- more flexibility work, meditation and yoga for mindfulness, stability and strength routines, form focus runs, hikes and trail runs. Keep your body moving in ways which make you happy and make you feel good. As 2020 comes to a close, it’s looking like we might resume racing in 2021. Time will tell. Reach out to your coach and see when the right time is to start building back into your specific goals and intensity.
Challenge Yourself in New Ways
For those of us who are competitive by nature and have a harder time slowing down, there are options to satisfy that craving to race while restrictions are still in place. We all want to push ourselves and see what we are capable of accomplishing. That does not stop just because a pandemic hits. I have been riding on my trainer a lot the past few months and enjoying scheduled “Meet Ups” on Zwift with my personal athletes, team mates and friends. I have set some goals for myself in virtual events to keep me motivated and in shape since I have not been able to race in my scheduled 2020 events. This has not been a fun and helpful way to expand on my own capabilities. My personal goal has been “How can I make myself better during this time?”. I’m not talking about just as an athlete but even more importantly as a mother, wife, coach, friend, team mate. How can I support others through this time and help them find success? I decided early in this pandemic that if my children were going to be learning remotely, so was I. So, I have used this period of time to invest in myself and get two new coaching certifications and to work on my business programming. Choosing some new and different paths in my life has been rewarding and helpful these past six months.
Know that You Are Not Alone
Finally, know that you are not alone. One of the most reassuring things I can do for my children right now is to remind them that they are not alone in their frustrations and fear and boredom and feelings of isolation. As a mother, I see the emotional toll COVID19 and life changes have taken on the younger generations as they navigate new norms. This very much carries over into all of our lives. All of us have personal worries about our children, our older parents and our friends. We have our concerns about our jobs and financial security. Simply reaching out and supporting one another during this time can make a huge difference. It’s so easy to self-isolate and let our emotions take over. Our mental health is suffering. Know that you are not alone. Reach out to others and lend support and reassurance. Listen to others. Listen well. Be sure to surround yourself with those who understand how you feel and are there for you. I had individual conversations with each of my sons last week and they all ended with tears being shed. My boys just needed to vent, to express their frustrations and fears, to let out all the emotions which were bogging them down. They each had different perspectives and different stressors and different reactions to what has been happening in their personal world. And, they all needed someone to listen. I am grateful to be that person to them. I try to do the same for my friends and my athletes as well. We all need people. We all need companionship. We all need support. I find this to be the most important part of my role as a parent and as a coach in this current pandemic – being a part of the support network and being available as someone who cares.
Thanks for taking the time to read today, friends. It’s been awhile since I have sat down at the computer and put my feelings into written word for this blog. It feels good.