Mental Health is a hot topic at the moment, and rightly so. This week is mental health awareness week and the theme is kindness, which seems particularly appropriate at the moment. It’s important to be mentally tough, but are you being too tough on yourself? On top of everyone’s daily struggles, a global pandemic was not on anyone’s planning sheet for 2020. This has left many athletes feeling de-motivated and aimless with all racing cancelled for the foreseeable future, and goals disappearing into the sunset, or 2021 if we’re being less dramatic.
There are numerous and complex reasons for feeling de-motivated. Many people have found their priorities radically changed with friends and family to take care of, or themselves for those with underlying health conditions. Some people have been furloughed or worse still lost all their work, others have found themselves with drastically increased workloads related to Covid-19.
Some of us have found ourselves with way more time on our hands due to not being able to rush about at warp speed, but then unable to travel and train in our usual favourite places. This has led to training being sidelined and de-prioritised in some cases.
There has been a lot of pressurised posting on social and mainstream media to turn this episode into a life changing, positive experience. Learn a new skill, do all the jobs you’ve put off, do twenty zoom quizzes with your friends and family and on top of that, emerge the other side as a ripped god/goddess ready to take on the next Olympic trials and possibly take up a side line in modelling and utilising those new found extra hours to become a human rights lawyer.
STOP! For most of us this has come as abruptly as someone sticking a foot out to trip you up unexpectedly. Just getting through each day might be all you can handle right now and that’s okay. For now there is no pressure to perform, enter races, smash yourself in training or to rush about to faraway places. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy what’s on your doorstep, including irritating family members, loud children and dogs that won’t leave you in peace.
I have found time to read and listen to lots of interesting podcasts. Most recently I listened to a Training Peaks Podcast featuring Olympian Joanna Zeiger, author of The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness. This was an inspiring listen about overcoming debilitating health issues to compete at the highest level. She has done some interesting research on mental toughness including developing The Sisu Test, which measures mental toughness and highlights areas for improvement. This can be very useful, indicating specific areas to work on. This isn’t limited to sport and can be applied to everyday life.
I recently completed an online certificate in Mental Wellbeing in Sport and Physical Activity with UK Athletics. There are lots of good courses to have a go at for coaches and some like this one are short and manageable for those of us with short attention spans or busy lives.
For those whose races have been put back or completely cancelled, it seems an impossible task to stay motivated for that length of time when your goal is so distant. So use the time to reframe the WHY of why you train and compete. Do you actually enjoy training or is it purely to race? Is it for your mental health? Sport fundamentally should be enjoyable so go enjoy it! Ride to new places, run for the pure hell of it, and run downhill like a lunatic!
If your goals are performance based, you could use this time to allow niggles to settle down and to work on weaknesses. There are lots of exercises you can do at home to improve strength and core stability which will improve your technique and make you a more robust and resilient athlete in the long run. Something is better than nothing, so if you complete a run, do a garden workout, or 3 minutes of balance exercises while the microwave pings, give yourself a pat on the back, because in these strange times, it is enough.
If you are really keen to maintain fitness and aim towards a longer term goal, one way to improve motivation is to be accountable for your training. With this in mind, having a coach can help, with an expectation from coach and athlete to complete sessions and someone keeping you on track can be extremely beneficial. Check out HP3 Coaching for more information on coaching, plans and classes.