Gyms and pools are closed. Open swims and races are cancelled. It is easy to understand why you may lose your motivation to work out. In this unprecedented time with more questions than answers, with no specific timeline, with no specific goals, with new protocols and requirements on pool openings still to be set by each facility, it is essential to go back to the basics and reflect on this important question: Why do I work out? The virus has not voided your answer to that simple question.
Most likely you exercise to improve your physical strength and endurance, your mental health, to manage your weight, to release stress, and to boost your immune system. Aren’t all those things still important and even more so now?
Do not let an obstacle set you back: Our entire world is being challenged right now. You cannot control what is going on. You can only control your response and your attitude. Focus on what you can do. Athletes are used to this. If you are presented with an obstacle, you go around, over or through. Quitting is not an option, so do not give up. Your approach may not be as planned, but nothing is going as planned right now. Adapt and move on.
Do it differently, try something new, but mostly stay active and eat healthy. You might discover your love with some new outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, cycling, golfing. Many of us work out, train and race because of how it makes us feel when we finish. That does not go away just because you must do it alone or differently. You can and should still engage in opportunities that challenge you and make you feel amazing and accomplished. Even though you cannot be with your normal workout tribe physically, you can still be together in spirit. Keep in contact (virtually) with them.
It seems that we are starting to see the end of the tunnel, and pools might start reopening soon. Each facility will have their own new rules and regulations, group workouts might have a different feel and format, but we will adapt. A lot more people might have to swim by themselves and design their own workouts. Here are a few tips:
- Start working back on technique, especially the feel for the water in all strokes. Do some drills
- Progression: if you have not been in a body of water for a few months, start slowly, and progressively build back your endurance. We are adult swimmers, so for most of us our “career” is between 30 and 50 years. So what is a 6 month lapse?
- If your community pool is not reopening and you are trying to experiment with open water swims, always put safety first. Know your venue (entry and exit points) and the specific conditions on the day of your swim (water quality, water temperature, weather conditions, marine life, currents, boat traffic). When in doubt: Do not swim. Develop a flexible workout plan (boundaries, course) and mostly have a safety plan. According to USA Swimming guidelines, safety personnel should be able to reach a swimmer in no more than 20 seconds at any given time. Never swim alone. The best practice is to have somebody in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard follow you at all times. When you are doing an open water race, the organizers have thoroughly designed the safety plan for you, have the safety personnel and equipment ready, and have checked everything beforehand. Here you are on your own and not covered by USMS insurance or your facility insurance. When the sun is shining, it is tempting, but be careful out there.
Do not let this steal your joy and take you down. Yes, it is tough, but you are tougher. You can get through this and maybe even come out stronger on the other side.