For many professional and amateur athletes alike, we brought in the new decade celebrating the possibilities of what was to come. We dreamt of a year where we would unwield our finely crafted skills on our goals and competition. Fast forward a couple of months, and we’ve all been forced to push the pause button on our competitions, races, and travel plans. Heck, even the Olympics have been postponed. Quarantine and self-isolation has proven to be a difficult task for mountain hungry athletes and enthusiasts. Unless you’re a robot, you’re at the very least bummed by our current situation. Although you may have to get creative to continue to pursue your dreams, you certainly don’t have to give up on them. I’ve provided three steps for revising your goals during quarantine.
Step One – Let it out. Grieve.
The perceived loss of a dream can be devastating. An entire competitive season has come to a grinding halt. While the loss is not permanent, it is still worth grieving the investment of your time, mental focus, physical exhaustion, and the resources you’ve spent towards pursuing your goals. Your dreams, plans, and expectations are important. You may be tempted to deny your disappointment because you think your feelings of loss are silly compared to others. I’m here to tell you that your losses are valid. As an athlete, you have devoted yourself to training for your sport. Before getting back at it, you must address and grieve your losses.
Stages of grief:
- Denial and isolation
Not everyone goes through all stages, or experiences them in order. Isolation isn’t much of a choice these days, but I encourage you to acknowledge that grief is part of the process. Scream, cry, laugh, let it out, let it go, and move forward.
Step Two – Focus on what you can control
Focus on what you have and what you can control. Come up with a list of training resources that you have access to. Even if you don’t have any training equipment at home that’s fine, you can use this extra time to work on areas of your life that weren’t getting a lot of love.
- Build mental toughness – Fortifying the mind with systems and structures could be one of the most valuable ways to spend your time in isolation. Odds are, you’re already talking to yourself. Use this time to practice motivational self-talk. Focus on speaking kindly to yourself, and harnessing cue words and mantras for key moments in your training. Mental Training Inc has a free mental toughness quiz here and also tips on how to improve it. Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, is highly recommended for further reading on mental toughness.
- Increase mobility – Impaired mobility is impaired strength. You can increase your usable strength by improving your full range of motion. Dr. John Rusin has lots of mobility exercises on his website. Click here for an article on hip mobility. Click here for an article on shoulder mobility exercises.
- Increase mind and muscle connection – Go through your normal progression of exercises and focus on the major muscle groups involved. Notice any imbalances. Increasing the efficiency of your movement can prove to be a challenge even without added weight. For further reading about mind-muscle connection click here.
- Dial in your nutrition – Focus on efficiency. Maintain a healthy immune system and the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve by giving your body what it needs. Keep it simple and aim to get 1.2-2.2g/kg of quality protein (with an emphasis on leucine), eat your green veggies, and add some color to your plate. Try some new recipes or cutting down on meal prep time. If your access is restricted to fresh produce this may be a good time to try out the Gnarly Performance Greens.
Resilience is one of the most important qualities of an athlete. Shifting your attention to what you have and what you can do now will prove to be a better use of your time. Then when you’re released back into the wild, you’ll be able to say that you’ve come out of quarantine with skills you may not have focused on otherwise.
Step Three – Get your head back in the game
Now that you know what tools you have to work with, it’s time to get refocused. Before speeding into a fresh cycle of training, or the newest live IG workout, pause to set your intention and focus. It’s important to have a clear vision for what you want out of your training. One of the best ways to do this is through visualizing with a “life in the future” drill. You can do this with the following 4 step process:
- First, identify your new goal (Notice I didn’t say a new dream). What would you like to accomplish in the next 3-6 months? What is the best outcome you could imagine? How does this relate to your strengths, core values, and dreams?
- Second, visualize accomplishing your goal. Describe what it would feel like, look like, and what would change for you upon the completion of your goal. Now visualize what would happen if you do not achieve your goal? How would you feel?
- Third, visualize the details. Imagine what it took to get there. Who were you with? What were you enjoying? What resources did you use?
- Fourth, work backwards. Start from the end result and fill in the gaps. What would need to happen on a monthly and weekly basis for you to accomplish this goal?
You can still chase your dreams with a little creativity, perseverance, and determination. Using visualization techniques can help you receive clarity in your next steps, and keep your fire alive when the four corners of your quaran-training room seem to be closing in.
While quaran-training and isolation can leave the stoke tank low for the mountain athlete, I believe we can still build steam towards our dreams during this waiting period. Now is the time to fine tune, arguably the most important attribute of an athlete, resilience. Each day we are able to make headway towards our dreams. We just need to let it out, focus on what we can control, and get our heads back in the game. This decade is just getting started. COVID-19 can’t cancel your dreams, it can only delay them for a while.