Living in NSW or Victoria has been more than difficult over the last 3 months, and I am pretty sure everyone knows why this would be the case. Many aspects of my life changed across this period. Seeing friends and athletes over zoom calls became the new norm, especially since I am living in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA (which was placed under harsher restrictions for the most part) and given that none of my school/uni/work/training mates live within 5km of my house. Although most of my working hours were reduced because I couldn't coach face to face, the university workload for completing my masters kept me busy (and still is) during the lockdown period, and have been privileged to host zoom online strength sessions. These zoom sessions have been fun, trying to demonstrate/critique multiple exercises from my bedroom has definitely been a unique experience that I will learn from in the future.
However, one of the aspects that have been impacted most throughout the lockdown has been my training, both in a positive and negative way. I am really keen to start up training again with my mates and having some banter with the group, keen to see all the athletes I look after and all my other mates I haven't seen face-to-face in, what feels like, forever!
So, as NSW is planning to come out of lockdown on the 11th of October, this blog is all about reflecting and learning about what I have taken away during lockdown, and how I aim to further develop my athletic & coaching abilities.
I'd prefer to start with the negative so I can get it out of my system and focus on the positives.
I am sure I am not alone, but I definitely missed training with someone next to me when getting my sessions done. Yes, I would bump into a few people I know within the area when training, but some sessions felt like an absolute grind to complete all on my own. I always like running with someone, not only to keep me company and have banter with, but to help me push myself in each session to be the best that I can be. I definitely felt in some sessions that I could have run faster times if I was in a group training setting. It would feel like I am running a quick time over a given distance, only to realize that I was running slower than I anticipated. Often at times, I would feel a little frustrated with myself. I know that's a bad thing to do, but I would like to be running faster times over the track season and sometimes I would feel like I wasn't getting the splits I needed to develop a strong aerobic base.
Then when the 1-hour outdoor restrictions came into effect training got really difficult at times. I had to warm up on my elliptical, get my drills done at home, then drive to the park and get my strides & session done before cooling down until I reached 1 hour. If I had a double run, I did the first run on the elliptical so I didn't miss the session. And I had to shorten my long run and add in a strength/aerobic circuit at the end to get me to 90 minutes (how long I would usually run for). Although this only went for 2(ish) weeks, I started getting more and more frustrated with training. Like I said before, I really wanted to develop a good aerobic base, and the self-perceived barriers kept piling up.
The gym sessions I had to develop for myself now became more limited than usual, as there is only so much you can do with a pair of 8kg dumbbells and a 9kg med-ball. I really miss using a barbell to get deadlifts and a variety of squats done, it doesn't feel the same. I am not really complaining here about this, as I can alter the sets, reps, duration, isometrics, it would've been nice to have more variety with my own gym programming. I had to think of combining different exercises that would be challenging enough given such light-weights available.
I also missed the opportunity to coach, not just on the track, but in the pool as well. This probably sounds cliche, but I love coaching every squad I coach. I love the opportunity to correct one's swimming technique, provide encouragement and advice to my runners, seeing how everyone is coping with school/work/life. These aspects when coaching a session often get taken for granted. There were times when I got really bored at home and wished I could be out coaching or training with mates instead. I also missed the opportunity to see my TGS athletes in action at CAS for the second year in a row, which is arguably the biggest competition of the year for those boys. I know those boys have been working extremely hard throughout the lockdown period, and I commend those boys who have been putting in the work, I assure you boys it will pay off eventually.
One of the things I learned about online communication was that it can be very hard to get responses out of your athletes via online platforms. I am not too sure if that is because 90%+ of my athletes are under 18, but I always felt that getting athletes to check-in was always a constant push from my end, and I think is certainly much easier to do when face-to-face.
Although I did get the chance to coach some of the gazelles over zoom, it would sometimes be difficult to watch an athlete complete and cue the exercise, whether it was because of bad internet connectivity or if the camera wasn't in the right position. Don't get me wrong, I know there will always be challenges when trying something relatively new, and I have been exposed to online training before, but this was with a different population group entirely to what I experienced during my undergraduate degree. So it was almost like I was starting from square one. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, demonstrating exercises in my bedroom was also a unique experience, especially as my room isn't exactly the largest space to get this done. I would often have to show my camera to the floor to show my leg position, then might have to move the camera one or two more times to demonstrate the exercise. I definitely got the explanation bit right (I would like to think), but having to move the camera multiple times for multiple exercises at once was sometimes annoying.
Now that I have let out my frustration at some of the negative impacts of the lockdown, I think it's time I focused on the positives, the things I can take away, and learn from this.
Although I did mention the negative impacts on my training, I was able to finally find a set structure to my training regiment and stick to it. Overall throughout lockdown, I have only missed 2 sessions and they were all due to getting covid tests and awaiting a negative result. I am pretty proud of myself for sticking through the schedule and getting all the sessions done. Training at multiple parks also showed me that there are multiple areas I can get my running sessions done at. In particular, Olds Park and Bland oval are 2 parks within 5km from my home, and if we ever have to go into lockdown again (which I really, REALLY, hope not) I can use these park areas in the future.
Another positive experience I had was being able to coach gym sessions via zoom. In the past, I haven't really had the opportunity to implement and coach resistance training sessions for runners, and throughout this lockdown period, I finally got the chance to do this. Seeing familiar and new faces (via the Maitland crew) was exciting and got another opportunity to provide simple and effective ques, especially to those in the team that haven't really undertaken resistance training before. Getting the opportunity to enhance and develop a system for programming resistance training sessions has also been very valuable to me, and aim to further develop this process in the future.
Another aspect of my life I have been able to work on is my sleep patterns. Due to the nature of my weekly schedule pre-lockdown, my start times were always very different and the time I would spend sleeping would very every day. However, during this period I was able to develop regular sleep and wake-up times, sleeping for ~8hr each night. This has helped me stay more focused on tasks during the day and feeling fresher overall. I have been very happy to finally have a good sleep schedule that I can continue to develop as we head out of lockdown and finally back to work.
Although there have been some negative aspects to lockdown, I have also been able to find positives that I will carry on through post lockdown and a covid world. I am really keen to catch up with both athletes, friends, and family face-to-face again, and continue to coach all my squads in person once again!
Keep up the running,
Some training photos throughout lockdown