COVID-19: How to manage the disappointment of sporting events being postponed and keep your training on track

With major sporting events such as the London Marathon, due to take place this weekend, postponed due to coronavirus, Dr Philip Clarke, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, provides advice on how to manage disappointment and top tips to keep your training on track.

As we enter another three weeks of lockdown in the UK, there is a level of uncertainty of when things are going to get back to normal. This can mean that a lot of people who have signed up for key events such as marathons and 5km runs – which have now been rescheduled or cancelled – will be feeling a sense of loss from the community that they usually run with, the experience of competing, or the feeling of completing the distance.

During these uncertain times it is important to keep physically active and keep your fitness levels up, so that when everything returns to normal and events start to get rescheduled, you can get back up to speed quicker, but also to help you get through the isolation period. Here are some useful tips to help manage the situation.  

Accepting the situation

The first important thing to do is to accept the situation for what it is. For some, you may have invested a lot of time before COVID-19 hit the UK in training, feeling that you were making great progress. Now that events have been postponed and cancelled, you may feel a great level of disappointment and may have stopped training completely.

Although it is disappointing, accepting the situation for what it is, and coming to terms with it, will allow you to move forward and start to look at the positives of the situation. With acceptance, it means you can deal with any further setbacks and be adaptive to any changes in the environment.

Remember the benefits of why you were taking part

For some of us, these are sporting events that we regularly sign up to and therefore training, competing in or just completing these types of events have become a solid part of our lives. However, for some, this will have been the first event you had ever signed up for.  

The key thing here is not to lose sight of the benefits you have gained already from being involved in it. This could be losing weight, feeling healthier, more energy or just generally having a greater mental health and wellbeing. Exercise can be a really effective coping mechanism for managing stress which, in the current climate, a lot of us are feeling a lot of. Therefore, even though you may be disappointed, keep engaging in training (of any type – with consideration of government guidance) not only for the performance benefits of keeping fit, but for helping with your mental health and wellbeing.

Reframe the situation

Although it is likely you will see a lot of negatives associated with the current situation, from a performing perspective for your running event this may give you an opportunity to enhance your fitness and be creative in ways in which you get your training completed.

For those with families, this can be a great opportunity to get your biggest supporters involved in training with you. This be anything such as a circuit class in your garden using them as body weights. When it comes to keeping in touch with your friends and running partners, you could try virtual training sessions, comparing times with friends. Furthermore, when it comes to the actual race itself, this period may give you more opportunity to refine your race plan and strategy, and try it out in your training runs in future.

Try new things

A final thing to consider is that the newfound time may allow you to try new and innovative ways of maintaining your physical fitness but also keep on top of your mental health. Trying new activities such as a home yoga session, a body weight workout, sprints in the back garden, are just a few examples of how to stay fit at home. You could also try new sports to get the family involved. This can be a great chance to let your creativity run wild and just have fun with it.  

Need some help training your mind for long-distance running? Check out Dr Philip Clarke’s blog here.

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