Posted on 31 March 2020
Double Down on Lockdown.
I want to be of more use and am in awe and admiration of friends in the NHS or schools or supermarkets preparing for a coming storm. I pray more than usual at the moment. But athletics is what I do, so as far as I can I will keep doing it, taking things day by day like on training camp.
As a student-athlete, the University holidays are usually the time to get away and focus on training for a few weeks. We’ve all remarked how being ‘limited’ to one exercise per day has actually meant that people are getting out running, walking and cycling far more than they did before the national health crisis of covid-19. Instead of spending April benefiting from the high altitude and warm weather of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I’m spending the foreseeable future at my parents place in Cambridgeshire.
Obviously this is a stressful time. We don’t like feeling helpless and the uncertainty about the immediate and long term future can leave us struggling to keep doing the things which give our days structure and joy. I’m worried about family members in isolation and University work requirements changing. I want to be of more use and am in awe and admiration of friends in the NHS or schools or supermarkets preparing for a coming storm. I pray more than usual at the moment. But athletics is what I do, so as far as I can I will keep doing it, taking things day by day like on training camp. So here’s my take on working from home: Double down on lockdown.
Check. Getting away on training camp means avoiding the temptations of friends, family, pubs and clubs and five-a-side football that consume your time, steal your sleep and add a risk of illness and injury. With grandparents in isolation, friends at a distance and everything shut, the lockdown routine is pretty similar.
When there’s little to do but run, sleeping becomes a true highlight of each day; books and TV series become fascinating opportunities to engage and reflect. On the last training camp it was the Netflix series, ‘Messiah’, this time it’s the 10 o’clock news and Richard Askwith’s ‘Running on Clouds’. The trick is to make each activity take as much time as possible, squeezing out all the juice, to pass what are often pretty dull days.
In January I travelled with a group of training partners to Murcia, Spain. Self-catering is a primary concern on camp, as you spend the first few days figuring out what food you can source at the local supermarket and what the word for ‘steak’ is in the local language. This trip in particular also presented us with the puzzle of a very empty kitchen. How exactly will you prepare a meal for six using your ingredients, a butter knife and a wooden spoon?
We’ve all been dealing with a similar situation recently, walking into supermarkets to find aisles of empty shelves. How do you fuel 70 miles of running a week without access to rice, pasta, eggs or fresh meat in the local Spar? Getting creative in the kitchen has been another common feature of training camp and lockdown. Yesterday I stuffed an aubergine, a great recipe for the future. Here’s hoping we keep getting the food in, I just know my Mum’s got a tin of spam from her student days that she’s dying to treat us to once rationing kicks in!
Pushing Physical Limits
Training camp is a time to test yourself. There’s no point spending time and money on going away if you’re not going to work hard. In January we dug deep, pounding out miles on the track and trail. One of these runs was the longest of my life, trying to hang on to a group of really elite athletes for 18 grim miles. It changed my perspective on what was possible in a training week.
While doubling down on lockdown there’s a comparative opportunity to set new challenges in training. Used to training twice a day, Boris’ instruction to limit outdoor exercise to once a day came as an exciting new challenge for me. How much can I do at once? I’m experimenting with pace variation, and new training strategies, to try and include top-end speed at the same time as building a decent volume of mileage, really getting the most out of each daily excursion. It’s been great to see other people doing this too. The lanes around Royston, usually busy with traffic, now have their silence interrupted by the slapping of trainers and the whir and mechanical clacking of bikes which are really in dire need of a service.