What Quarantine & Injury Break Taught Me: "Post-Covid" Training Update
Hey friends! Long time, no training update.
But good news! After my last update, things have seriously started to look up!
Outside of being sick for a month and taking like 4 ...(!?)... months off from my typical training load, basically everything in the world seems to be topsy turvy these days. With that, the meaning of "fitness," "training," "athletic goals," and almost every other word in this category has gone through a major whirlwind of changes during the past several months.
But, I wouldn't necessarily say this is a bad thing. For me personally, the opportunity to step ALL the way back and look at fitness from a broader perspective was actually very beneficial. In a typical year, fitness means track and field performance. Period. The times I run and nothing (or very little) else.
Around mid-end of July, I was home visiting my parents (because of quarantine I had no reason to be anywhere so I went home), and I was at long last feeling good enough to get back to "serious" running and build my way back up. I still remember the shock I felt when the response I got from my coach was:
"Build back up and enjoy exercising."
That was it. No routine to follow, no mileage to hit, no times to record.
Enjoy exercising? Excuse me? Yes, I love my job as a runner, but at the end of the day that's what it is, a job. This isn't just a hobby with no consequence, its my passion, my goals, my p̶a̶r̶t̶ full time job.
That leads me to lesson number 1:
A break isn't always a bad thing.
I had been sidelined for so long and you want me to just chill and have fun?! Then the realization hit me: the very fact that I didn't know where to begin to have "fun with fitness" meant that was exactly what I needed to do.
When else during this crazy professional track journey would I ever have such an extended opportunity to do this? Probably never.
So for the two months I was at home, I chose my own training route and just listened to my body and soul. I had felt that I was ready to jump right back into normal training- all the time on the couch had me eagerly itching to go- but it turns out this was just what I needed.
With the outpouring of home workouts and new ideas we all saw from the fitness world during quarantine, I had already been taking advantage of new core routines and other fun things to do in the house. Now, I was literally doing YouTube home dance workouts on top of other circuits and routines I had been trying, and having a blast!
Seriously. Go on YouTube and try some dance routines. I love Madfit's Tik Tok song dance workouts. So fun. And terrible-looking when I do it. But that's okay.
I ran when I felt good. I took days off when I was feeling extra tired. I swam. I did circuits. I went on hikes all across upstate New York. I focused on imbalances I knew I had, like oblique core strength, glute strength, and balance skills. (shout out the Bosu ball I ordered).
It really was fun to find ways to exercise outside of track workouts and have time/energy to really nitpick the little thing I needed to work on. I still mimicked my typical track workouts several times as well, because I enjoy running. But it wasn't because I was being timed, or had a race coming up, it was just to get fit and feel good.
By the time I started getting "real" training instructions again from my coach, I was refreshed both physically and mentally. Rejuvenated. Hungry and ambitious again.
300m repeats aren't all that bad when you've been away from them for awhile.
That being said, its not easy to jump back into intensive training when you haven't been doing it, so lesson two:
You have to practice controlling the narrative.
I started back on a normal schedule at the start of October. I rode a high for the first week or two, but then the exhaustion was real, not gonna lie. I hit a wall super fast and had to pay extra extra attention to recovery.
There is always a difficult build up at the start of a new season after a few weeks of summer break. But this was different for me. I was cut off from training last spring when I was really fit. When I jumped back on the track all this time later, I was coming back from the longest track-break I'd ever experienced.
One day that stands out to me in particular was our first time doing short wickets. (sprints over 30-50m of tiny baby hurdles that helps you focus on form and foot speed off the ground).
Normally one of my favorite workouts, I flailed over each and every rep, bewildered by the awkward movements my body was making doing something that used to be nearly second nature.
My initial reaction was "wow, you've really lost it" and "you clearly aren't the same anymore."
But I switched the narrative. I told myself "it's all a process. You'll be back to where you used to be in no time. It's normal that you feel weird after such a long break."
I told myself "Stay focused on the journey and the little things."
I took a deep breath and attacked the next rep trying to focus on feeling explosive. Even if the whole thing looked worse than it used to, I was going to get better in some shape or form that day. Not let it spiral out of my control into meaningless, negative energy.
Quarantine taught me that you can't always make enormous strides. Sometimes you take baby steps. What matters is that you're trying to move forward and you're thinking about how all the little thing will soon add to something big.
Being in top racing shape is no easy feat. But rolling when I'm sore? Eating the right amount of protein? Attempting the drill? Doing the next rep?
I can do these things all day long. And they'll add up to something big when it truly matters!
Wishing you all the ability to find happiness in the little things on your athletic journeys,