COVID-19, WHERE DOES IT LEAVE AGE GROUP ENDURANCE ATHLETES?

Over the past week/s we have really started to see and feel the real impact of the Coronavirus in Australia. We first started witnessing it in the supermarkets with many staple items becoming low or out of stock. Something that many of us jeered at when people first started to stockpile (in particular toilet paper!) but now is a real concern for many, including the vulnerable and the elderly.

And now this week the Australian Federal and State Governments have directed that all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people be suspended from tomorrow along with recommending social distancing. Schools, may be closed for extended periods of time, gyms and play centres could close. Some may not even survive just as we have already seen in the hospitality industry. This is unprecedented and will probably not be seen again in our lifetime. The Government and Health Authorities action is to reduce the SPEED of the spread and the impact that it has – not just on the health of individuals, but on the economy as a whole.

Sporting events are now being impacted too. This week alone we saw the NBA put a hold on their season, the Formula 1 cancel the Australian GrandPrix, and closer to home for us as endurance athletes, Run for the Kids, and the remaining races of the local 2XU Triathlon Series have already been cancelled. Ironman also sent out an email whereby CEO Andrew Messick said:
We expect that there are going to be substantial and widespread event postponements in the coming weeks and months.”  This comes on the back of Ironman already postponing 70.3 events in both Greece and Puerto Rico.

Given the Australian Governments action to date, and the advice coming from the World Health Organisation, there is a real possibility (and reality) that some – if not the majority of endurance races and events in the coming months to be cancelled / postponed.

SO – if this does happen, where does that leave age group endurance athletes? What does that mean for the remainder of the season ?
(NOTE: I haven’t even touched on the impact this has on professional athletes who rely on races / racing for their lively-hood, or the impact on the broader triathlon / endurance community)

Some athletes are already feeling a little ‘lost’ – their A race/s taken away from them, their season abruptly cut short and so now even after just a couple of days are already feeling a little ‘lost’ or unmotivated. And that’s not to mention those athletes who seasons are still up in the air, with uncertainty on whether their upcoming races are even going to go ahead (ie Ironman Port Macquarie and Cairns and Challenge Shepparton to name a few) I see the same / similar feelings emerge after an athlete finishes an A race, a big goal or at the end of a season. When all an athletes training and focus was on one (or more) targeted race/s and the sudden loss / end of of the main purpose on what fueled their daily training has now been and gone – OR taken away in the scenario we are now finding ourselves in.

So – the question is, what now? Where do we go from here? How do we come back from this?

Adjust your training
Firstly, you will need to adjust your training to reflect the changes in your race plans – whether the change was in your control or not, you can control how you react. Remember – you want to be peaking for your races, not for races that are now not to be. So this may mean heading into your recovery phase OR starting / continuing your base preparation phase instead of continuing your current race / competition phase.

Firstly – recovery at the end a season or major race is extremely important and can look and feel different for every athlete but generally should include a reduced load, focus and / or structure. Sessions during this time should be light, with a focus on active recovery, refreshing the body and the mind. Even if you didn’t get to finish off your race season, it is still super important to include this phase in your season. So don’t skip it..

If you have already served out a recovery period after your last A race and feel refreshed, ready and motivated, then get stuck into your base preparation phase. This phase aims to develop your base endurance while developing and correcting technique and refining your skills – it underpins your whole season. So great news is, you now have extra time to spend in their all important training phase!

So if your race season has been shortened, then now is the perfect time you should either kick start your post season recovery or dive straight into your base preparation training phase. This is the PERFECT time to get a head start on both!

If your races are still uncertain….
If you have a race in the next couple of months that have yet to announce a cancellation or postponement, then continue your training / build as normal. It’s all systems go. What may adjust ever so slightly though is the underlying factor and that base endurance is key, and reducing intensity if needed. This can help ensure that your immunity isn’t compromised too much in a time when the virus is at it’s peak, along with continuing to work on the foundations of endurance sport – aerobic strength and conditioning. So work with your coach, ensure you continue towards your goal, and cross the bridge of any announcements when they come to light.

Review your season
Just like at the end of any season or major race of your season, it’s the perfect time to sit down and review your goals for the past / current season. So now is your chance to sit down with your coach and evaluate your year / season. This is important to make certain of your continual development and progression and ensure your next season is even better than the last ! Again, don’t skip this part of your season..

Shift the goal posts
Just because your race day may be shifted, it doesn’t mean your goal has to. You can still have that goal of your first triathlon, your first Ironman, you can still go in search for your next PB, of qualifying for a World Championship – these goals don’t need to change. They can still happen AND if you think about it, may even come about bigger and better than you had planned. Giving yourself more time and more space to really hone in on your goals through further progression in your underlying base endurance, technique and mastering the skills of triathlon / endurance sports.
So even though the race may not happen when you planned, your goal can and still will be achieved regardless of when.

Stay healthy
During a health crisis such as we are experiencing, it is important that we keep ourselves fit and healthy so that if we do get the virus, our immune systems are in a good position to fit it off quickly and/or lesson its impact. So ensure you are doing all the right things such as good wholesome nutrition, sleep and recovery, maintaining our hygiene and exercising (read training).

In saying all of that, we should all be following the advice of the Department of Human Services – Victorian Chief Health Officer, so if you feel unwell, or if you have been in close vicinity of someone who has the virus, you should isolate yourself until you are all clear. More info is available here.

Remind yourself of WHY you train
Of course having races and goals to train towards are a big part of that, BUT remember the underlying factors of WHY you love to train and the value it adds to your life and how it makes you feel. There are so many benefits to training, including the feeling of being fit and healthy, the social interaction, the sense of accomplishment… the list is endless. Enjoying the process of training and learning provides so much more. It’s not just about crossing that finishing line, collecting a medal and posting it on facebook / instagram! 😉

So don’t use the Coronavirus as an excuse to drop the ball on your training, health or fitness. See it as an opportunity for extra time to improve your strengths, work on your weaknesses, hone those skills that need extra refinement and become even stronger and more robust than before – so when we do race again – you will be your strongest and fittest yet!

Ultimately – the decision is yours…




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