In these challenging times, many people are struggling with their sense of purpose as the majority of normal routines have been put on hold while the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of these changes are being keenly felt among the elite athlete community as sporting competitions all over the world have been suspended, postponed and cancelled in order to stop the spread of the virus.
For athletes who have trained for months and years to peak at a certain time and are now unable to compete or continue their usual training routine, there are specific challenges to be faced.
With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021, athletes who were preparing for the Games are faced with a sense of loss, as in many cases they have been training for four years to reach this momentous point in their career.
UNSW’s Elite Athlete Program (EAP) supports many of Australia’s best and brightest athletes across a wide variety of sports.
All of the EAP members are being impacted by the global shutdown of sporting activity, but are powering on by adapting their training and continuing to work on their skills and fitness at home.
They have shared some of their best tips for staying active at home and how they maintain motivation without regular training or competition to work towards.
Georgia Winkcup – Bachelor of Arts / Law, 3000m steeplechase athlete
Winkcup has been training hard towards qualifying for Tokyo, which will be her first Olympics if she does qualify once competition resumes. With the postponement of the Games, she has overcome her disappointment by stepping up her home training regime to ensure she is fit and ready for the 2021 event.
“My favourite at home workout is jumping on my exercise bike,” she says.
“But for a great equipment-free workout I absolutely love this core workout that I found on YouTube. It’s super old but I find it really challenging and it definitely hurts.
“I think that the best way to stay motivated at home is to make sure you make time for and actually schedule at-home workouts so that you don’t keep putting them off throughout the endless and empty days.
“I also find it easier to stay motivated by rewarding myself with a snack afterwards! It doesn’t have to be an unhealthy snack but it definitely helps to give yourself that trade-off, a workout for a snack.
“I’ve also really enjoyed trying out the home workouts that athletes and influencers have posted online because they help to add a bit of variety to the things I’d otherwise be doing and help to break up the day.”
Olivia Coleman – Bachelor of Criminology / Criminal Justice, Netballer
Coleman is a rising star in netball, playing with the Eastwood Ryde Hawks in the NSW Premier League and being selected as a NSW Swifts training partner for the Suncorp Super Netball.
With all netball competition and training in Australia currently suspended and the Super Netball not able to start before 30 June, Coleman has had to step up her home training and adjust to being outside a team environment.
“I am fortunate enough to live in front of Queens Park [adjacent to Sydney’s Centennial Park] so have been doing sprints there as well as using the Coogee stairs to maintain my cardio fitness,” she says.
“With weights training, I have no equipment so have been doing banded work and also body weight exercises, such as push-ups, squats and tricep dips.
“The best tip that I have to stay motivated is to not watch screens all day.
“As hard as it is, go outside while still following social distancing rules and go for a walk. It’ll make you more proactive and you’ll get more out of your day.”
Susie Douglas – Bachelor of Exercise Physiology, Sprinter and Hurdler
Douglas is in her second year of study at UNSW and has been progressing quickly along the Athletics Australia pathways.
In February she competed in her final NSW Junior Championships, as she moves into seniors next season, and won gold in the 400m hurdles.
Her training needs to be fast and explosive to help her maintain her power during this period.
“My favourite at-home exercises are stair runs and jumps,” she says.
“All you need is a couple of steps and you can do sets of runs up and some squat jumps for some plyometrics. It’s such a quick and easy way to keep fit and strong.”
She concedes that motivation during this time can be difficult but has held on to her sense of purpose.
“You just have to have faith in your process and know that the work you put in now, even if it doesn’t feel like much, is going to give you that edge when this is all over and ensure that your return to full training is going to be easier and quicker.”
Amy Ridge – Bachelor of Arts / Law, Water Polo player
Ridge is another athlete affected by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. Her Aussie Stingers water polo team had already qualified for the Games and Ridge was strongly in the mix to be selected in the final squad.
Although she is disappointed, she is staying motivated and ensuring she is on top of her fitness for the new Olympics dates in 2021.
“I’m a morning person so I enjoy waking up early and running to the beach at sunrise, when there aren’t too many people around to ensure I’m practising social distancing,” she says.
“Then I’ll do a few laps of the bay and throw a ball around. The most important thing is to exercise every day, so I don’t feel cooped up at home.
“Running, ocean swimming and body weight exercises are great supplements to my normal routine with pools and gyms being closed.”