The sporting world has never seen anything like what we’re currently going through in light of the global coronavirus outbreak. And with every passing day, the 2020 multisport calendar is being decimated by race cancellations and postponements. As an athlete, coach and race director, I’m affected by this from every possible angle.
Many, many athletes have already had their races cancelled while others are in a state of limbo waiting to see if theirs will be too. Two key conversations I will be having with my athletes now will be centred on: ‘How do I structure my training now?’ and ‘How do I stayed focused?’
Firstly, if you’re signed up for a race that is not yet cancelled then you have to carry on training with the right focus to get you to that start line, so continue with planned sessions. You’ll only regret it on race day if you take time off now waiting for a decision.
However, if your event has been cancelled, what do you do?
Now the following may appear melodramatic in the grand scheme of things, but it’s worth relating the loss of your A-race to Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief. These stages can appear in any order and a person can go back to any stage at any time.
1. Denial – This cannot be happening to me.
2. Anger – It’s not fair that it’s my race that is cancelled.
3. Bargaining – I’ll do anything to get my race back on track.
4. Depression – What is the point in training now my race is off?
5. Acceptance – It will be okay and I will be able to race in the future.
Once an athlete is at the stage of acceptance, they’ll be able to move on with their training and recapture their focus. However, this may take time and as athletes we need to continue training to at least be ready to race again when the opportunity arises.
It’s reasonable to expect that in the immediate aftermath of a race cancellation that you take a couple of days off training or at least with reduced volume, but you must ensure that those days don’t turn into weeks. Take a look at your plan and schedule a period of time in which you train for pleasure rather than performance and allow yourself to step away from being super critical of data. This should not last more than a month.
Another key use of your training time would be to go back to basics and work on your weaknesses and technique, this is something that often gets overlooked as we get closer to race day and the desire for speed takes over. Spend extra time on your weakest area of the triathlon disciplines, working at an intensity that allows you to fine-tune your skills. This phase may also be a chance to incorporate more strength and conditioning into your training, as again this is something that gets neglected once the racing season approaches.
In order to stay motivated and maintain your frequency of training, I’d encourage you to look for new short-term, low- key events to keep you race sharp. Also, it’s important for athletes to hook up with teammates and train together; we’re all in the same boat and will all be having races cancelled, so there’s a common bond at this time. Instead of being at home annoying your family with stories of how ‘this was meant to be your year of PBs’, get along to group training sessions, keep moving and have a good old moan to get it out of your system.
Finally, keep the fact that this will pass at the forefront of your mind. Racing will begin again, you will find a new A-race. So keep an eye out for what you fancy targeting next and be ready by staying in shape.