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During this lockdown period which has brought many changes to our lives, some good and others not so good, we have more free time but the quality of this time is obviously not the same as when we were able to leave our homes. Another of the things that has changed is the resources when it comes to training or doing sport, and if we also add to this the uncertainty of when we will return to compete, it can mean a difficult mental battle of managing our day to day lives.
For this reason, today I will try and contribute something regarding this topic, some tips of how to generate the habit to continue training, in the event you already did so, or to start to do so for those who, up until now, have not done sport.
Just like before this lockdown, we were driven by objectives: a training routine, a race that motivated us, a route that we really wanted to do etc. Now we should do the same, which is why, the principle would be to set an objective, my recommendation is a timetable. Having a routine in our day to day encourages us to keep an eye on an objective: cooking, training, watching a film, etc. and it also provides us with lots of boosts during the day, since every activity we manage to carry out within our timetables will mean a new boost for us, and therefore our motivation will reap the benefits.
Once we have this timetable, we should try to follow it, although it is important to bear in mind two concepts:
Food habits, rest, sport and work are the main items of our timetable.
It should be achievable, it is a source of help and structure and not to induce stress
(If beforehand I trained 5 days, I should not train 7 days for the first weeks because I have more time, but 5 at the most). I give myself leeway to carry out a specific activity and each week try to be a little stricter with it, trying not to generate stress.
The objectives we are striving for on a psychological level with sport will be to maintain or generate the habit of doing sport or maintaining enthusiasm for training when this lockdown is over.
To do so, we should bear in mind*:
That we don’t have access to many incentives like we did outside, therefore, during the first weeks we should start little by little, even if we usually train a lot, we are facing a new situation.
That we have more time, and this can play tricks on us.
That the mental load can be higher now we are confined, this mental load is the mental fatigue that we see after training. This cognitive load ends up being a factor to bear in mind in our training, given that if this load increases and we don’t bear it in mind, we could become fatigued and feel a certain apathy without realising.
We should generate the habit of training “in lockdown”, which is why we should train little by little in the first weeks and cause the body to ask for more, and not the other way round.
It is therefore important to generate a new habit where we will get used to this new situation, in order to feel that sensation of “my body is asking me to train”, but for this we leave you a series of TIPS to increase the likelihood of reaching this sensation, always bearing in mind the 5 previous points*.
How can I manage to feel this sensation?
In my routine, the time I dedicate to training should increase over time, if I was already training before lockdown, reducing the time or at least not exceeding this time (or the number of days). If I didn’t do sport, introducing a few minutes the first days. By having more time we can be tempted to train a lot that first week. Added to this, it is a new situation and the novelty generates expectation, it is very important to have patience, to create the habit little by little and after a few weeks we will be grateful we held back in the first few weeks.
Introduce the training at the time when it’s easier for me to do it and always try to do it at the same time, that way I only think about training when it's time to do it and I don’t have to worry too much about the time. (In some cases it won’t depend on oneself, which is why, in this case try to adapt, counting on the fact that the mental load will be a little higher than for those who have a lot of time).
Do dynamic training sessions, the more dynamic the training sessions are, it will be easier for us to do them, there are lots of resources on the internet to make our training very entertaining.
Take a record of the Mental Load of each training session, so I don’t become excessively fatigued since, as we mentioned earlier, now it is higher than before lockdown. Below you have a series of recommendations of how to record it.
Advice on how to record this mental load:
After each training, record from 1 to 100 how fatigued/stressed you feel after having done exercise.
This record should be done when we finish the training since, if we do it later, we will be recording a mental load that isn’t real, and it can play tricks on us.
If the training requires it and we reach 90 or 100 of mental load., we should bear it in mind to be able to reduce this load the next day using these TIPS* (that we can see further below).
Record this mental load in Excel, to obtain a graph like the one below, it should follow a pattern like the graph we have above.
I should bear in mind that the longer and harder training sessions, I should not be faced with a mental load of 80/90 since I could end up fatigued above 100 after finishing.
If the training requires it and we reach 90 or 100 of mental load., we should bear it in mind to be able to reduce this load the next day using these TIPS (that we can see below).
And what if my Mental Load is very high?
To be able to reduce mental load, if one day I notice that it is very high, I could:
Reduce the training time or, if I am above 100, rest (whichever is the most effective and will help me to unburden my mind).
Do relaxation sessions at night.
Introduce some incentive that makes training more enjoyable (video call with a training partner, virtual programme that enables me to train with more people or a live virtual class, since social support at this time can be a great motivator/boost for example).
Do the session at the time of day which is easier for me, if I am used to training in the mornings, but it’s hard to do, I could change this training and do it in the afternoon.
Boost that training with a treat when the cognitive load is high, for example, an ice cream, or aonther treat we like.
Here we leave you with a graph (Blue is the training time each day, orange is the mental load after training) where we can see how a runner has gained the habit of running on a machine, in the space of 15 days he has managed to train for more time without the mental load increasing significantly, managing this load to perfection. On day 1 he ran 21’ with a mental load of 60 and on day 14 he ran 40’ with a mental load of 65.
Finally, in terms of the “grey” days, those days when it's harder for me to follow my training plan or my routine, my recommendation is that on these days we try to leave that unpleasant feeling behind of “today is a grey day” and we try to assess why we do sport, value the fact that the really important thing about doing sport is the well-being it will provide us with and that thanks to the fact that if today, with these difficulties, I train then tomorrow will be much easier, and the habit will be much closer. If doing this, I still find it hard to train, I would try to do “something”. In other words, do what I can, but keep myself active if my routine allows for it.
Allowing ourselves to have a bad day is trying to follow routine and see that tomorrow is another day, and if I have followed the plan I had set myself, “Tomorrow will be a better day”.