FORMER Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “There is no education like adversity.” Almost 140 years after his passing, these words spoken in a political context may resonate with us as athletes and coaches and of course outside of the ‘track bubble’ more than ever.
The position of the governing bodies
In response to government advice concerning non-essential travel and contact, on March 17 the home country athetics federations advised that all face-to-face activity, such as club training sessions, events, competitions, club committee and face-to-face meetings, athlete camps, running groups and social events be suspended until at least the end of April.
This advice, of course, is subject to monitoring and review.
The statement went on to advise that where possible “athletes and runners at all levels are encouraged to maintain their own personal fitness and keep active during this time” while continuing to follow revised government guidelines about safe distance and safe exercise environments.
Public Health England has defined measures pertaining to social distancing as spending more than 15 minutes and within a two-metre distance talking to someone. So, adherence to this guidance makes normal group training or competition impossible. This means that as athletes you will have to work alone which may be a challenge motivationally.
That being said you can still train outside but only once a day. This is significant because we know that being outdoors boosts the hormone melatonin and this is correlated with the functioning of the immune system. Additionally there can be that simple feel good factor derived from being in nature. Some have drawn parallels with the approach taken during the influenza pandemic of 1918 and that of open air therapy.
Diet and nutrition
When we are stuck indoors for weeks or potentially months, this can lead to depression and one of the side effects of this may be compulsive behaviours, such as binge eating. So, the challenge for us is to continue to choose foods which boost our immune system and help to keep gut bacteria healthy. This should be something we routinely do but in the absence of any fixed competition dates, it is easy to fall into bad habits due to a potential loss of motivation.
All athletics events involve an interplay between aerobic, lactate (linking) and alactic (ATP-CP) energy systems. At this stage when we are at increased risk of infection, training loads should be easy light-medium, which will stimulate the immune system. Whilst heavy training loads and prolonged working of the lactate system may perceptively “feel good”, this will potentially compromise the functioning of the immune system. Running may be one of the few options available to all athletes (whatever the discipline) but it needs to be done circumspectly.
At the time of writing competitions, in April and May have been cancelled so it may well be that you don’t get to compete until at least June or July. So, this may mean you defer moving into your precompetition phase of training later than usual.
At present athletes will be recovering from a winter season on the mud or the indoor boards and will be moving into a specific preparation period of the cycle. If you get this wrong you risk not being fit for competition when it does potentially resume later this summer.
The way forward
You may wish to categorise your activity as displayed in the pyramid (figure 1). So “events” are a no-go area at present – you can’t compete. You may wish to defer Competitive Exercises which replicate the competitive movement pattern and intensity because of the suspension of competition until at least later than the normal commencement of the track and field season, as previously discussed.
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