We all knew from the start that it was going to be a long-haul operation to beat this virus, and the process has been compared to running a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon is a good analogy for lock-down and social distancing.
by Jaron Steffens
P.G.Dip Sci (Psychology), B.App.Sci (Psychology), Dip Child & Adolescent Psychology, Dip Tch (PE & Health), Cert Personal Training, Holistic Lifestyle Coach
Okay, so the world just flipped on its axis and we are all now living a strange new reality. For many of us this means that much of the physical activity that would be a part of a normal week is no longer available to us.
With the closure of sports fields, gyms, mountain trails, etc, some people have gone from 100 miles an hour in their level of physical activity to a sudden stop, with no figurative seat belt to hold them back. This can cause anxiety we usually see in individuals who have to stop due to overtraining. Let’s call it lock-down physical activity anxiety, sorry, I couldn’t find a cool acronym. If you have done your best to continue with your gym exercises at home and have been running, walking, or biking around your neighbourhood, but still worried that you are not doing enough and will have turned into a gelatinous blob by the end of lockdown, you may be suffering from, uh, LDPAA.
Most of the stuff we do for fun and fitness has been cancelled with the lock-down in place. This involves team sport, training in the local gym, riding or running on mountain trails with friends, swimming in public pools, kayaking, rowing, and the list goes on. It is our social responsibility to stay away from these activities for a bit. We now know that if we all do this now, for just a few weeks, it will save the lives of many people, and as a bonus, allow us to return to this activity sooner.
The fear factor
Understandably, for many of us, this change in the level of physical activity can cause anxiety based around losing condition and wasting all the hard work that has gone into getting where you are. Many people who have worked hard to gain and maintain a level of fitness will be fearful that hitting pause on their normal activity will result in a big backwards step in fitness. Couple this with the lack of endorphin release our body rewards us with when we exercise, and you create a person who may be very difficult to live with during lock-down.
Look at it differently – as a ‘transition phase’
The temptation is to try to alleviate the anxiety by doing more with the limited resources we have available, but unfortunately this has little effect. The best way to deal with this anxiety is to change the way we view the lock-down time. Instead of wishing for the return of the things we can’t do for now, look at lock-down as a transition phase in your training.
Let me explain: an elite athlete, let’s pick on a Super Rugby player, will have phases of training to allow them to be at their peak when it is needed, and stay injury free. October to December would be the off-season phase for this player, where they would be building a base of strength, cardio, core strength and flexibility. Pre-season training phase would be January and February where the focus is more on strength, condition, speed, agility and skills more specific to the game. March to August is the competition phase where training is more team based and game specific. September, then, is left to be the transition phase of their training year. This is when the player is encouraged to stay active, but using activities that are lower impact and different from the rugby specific training done during the rest of the year such as swimming, cycling, yoga, etc.
Many of us non-elite-athlete people tend to do the same training week after week for years without any of the phases. This type of training leads fairly quickly to a training plateau, where we stop making any gains, and can lead to overuse injuries if there are no breaks in the training. This is also coupled with a fear that if we do stop, we will lose condition and need to return to the start if we take a week off.
Treat this time as an opportunity
So, when it comes to fitness training, treat the lock-down as an opportunity for you to have a well-deserved transition phase. You can be confident in the knowledge that this may be the bump that your training needs to get through to the next level. It is important to stay active during a transition phase. So, be creative when you are trying to find activities around the home that are different from what you normally do, and explore some of the exercises that you have not considered before. This way, you are having the transition phase you probably need and still getting the rewards from your body when you make it move. This will help not only you, but also those in your bubble, get through this strange time.
Make a new plan
If you can see the benefit of training phases, you could use the lock-down time to plan your training phases for when we get the all clear to return to social activities. Your sport may not have a specific season, or you might just be training for general fitness and well-being. In this case, plan your training into blocks where, for example, you do three weeks of progressive training followed by a week of active rest. This active rest week, as with the transition phase, allows you to avoid overuse injuries and recover properly from your training to allow you to continue progressing and avoid hitting that plateau.
You can do this!
We have all had to make dramatic changes to our lifestyles for the last couple of weeks, and have more weeks to come. This should be proof that you can make changes to the way we live our lives. Lock-down can provide an opportunity to plan other lifestyle changes you want to make, watch this space for ideas on how to make lifestyle changes stick.