An editorial on Covid-19 for The Sport and Exercise Scientist, Summer 2020, Issue 64
The date is 3 April 2020. Today, worldwide coronavirus cases reached 1 million. In a short space of time, the world has changed immensely. Like many, I haven't had time to stop and take stock. I am throwing myself into juggling work, parenting and teaching. Iím also trying to process that my dad is now receiving palliative care in an isolation ward, having caught Covid-19. The call I donít want is likely to come today or tomorrow.
Itís hard. Itís extremely hard. Most of the time I have no words.
Only a few weeks ago, adults were still at work, children were still at school, pubs and restaurants were busy, sport was being played, I could easily get a next day supermarket delivery slot and people werenít embarrassed at the state of their hair. Toilet roll, hand sanitiser and paracetamol were aplenty. People shook hands, hugged and kissed those they knew. With strangers, maybe a nod, a hello, eye contact, even a smile. People could exercise as much as they wanted without neighbours ringing the police.
With barely noticeable steps, headlines about what was happening in China, Italy and other countries became applicable to the UK. Each day the number of confirmed cases crept up; most tagged with: s/he had an underlying health condition. I will pause briefly on those last five words.
My feel is that someone high up the food-chain believed that ďan underlying health conditionĒ was a key message. It seemed a consistent message; almost a tag line. Perhaps the intention was to try and allay widespread fear and panic? My honest initial reaction when hearing or reading those words were twofold. The first (wrongfully), is that, that personís death isnít as much as a tragedy as someoneís without underlying health conditions. The second is that, Covid-19 isnít relevant to me. I think if the powers that be had focused on a different key message, perhaps we wouldnít have seen such blasť behaviour as on Mothering Sunday weekend. Parks and National Parks were packed - "social distancing" was not being adhered to. Thereís a learning curve here for all of us: words matter; every sentence matters; and key messages really matter. This is perhaps something to reflect upon.
The other issue I wish to briefly pause on is ďbottom lines.Ē When Covid-19 is all done, there will be a total death toll number. What that number will hide is each important individual. It doesnít do justice to the horror of Covid-19 and what ďisolationĒ means to families affected. My family want to be with my dad. We will want to be with my mum but wonít be able to. Itís heartbreaking. So, letís not be in a rush to get to the bottom line of our work and research and miss important aspects. Rich description is important.
Our community has a lot to offer with regards to dealing with the undeniable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on emotional well-being and mental health. Many people donít cope well with enforced change. Many now have considerable financial worries. Most peopleís daily routines are in chaos; interactions are minimal. Social distancing and self-isolation are hard. Not all people are in happy homes.
All competitive sport has been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Athletes, coaches and support personnel are having to reframe. For a while the summer show-piece held out, adamant that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 would run. Lockdown in some countries made it impossible for athletes to train. The uncertainties proving increasingly difficult. With mounting pressures to postpone, the Games organisers announced it will now be held in 2021. Many people will now be busy adapting plans.
Personally, Iíve found a few things useful in adapting to the new ďnormal.Ē A tip from Anna Glowinski (a bike rider isolating in Spain) was to ďmake life about something elseĒ - sheís allowing herself only 5 minutes a day of catching up on coronavirus news. I implemented this straight away and found it helpful.
In addition, my friend and psychologist, Dr Mark Bellamy has done a couple of nice Facebook posts. In the first, he talked about the 4 x 3 format that puts some structure into the day:
I like this and itís working for my family. Our daily outdoor exercise is an essential part of our day. Like many, I will really struggle if this is taken away.
Markís second post was a rework of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It was re-worked so that the base level basic need is ďSupport the NHS.Ē The NHSís message is clear: Act like you have got it. Anyone can spread it. Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
The world has changed immensely in the last few months. This pandemic is affecting everybody, everywhere. We need to remember that not all are affected equally. When things go wrong, inequalities are magnified. I sincerely hope we can emerge from it all with some aspects of life enhanced: being better global citizens; being more community-spirited; and ensuring a better work-life balance.
Dr Claire Hitchings FBASES - Claire is Editor of The Sport and Exercise Scientist. She is a triathlon coach and runs Claire Hitchings Coaching (www.clairehitchings.rocks). She currently lives in a messy house, juggling parenting, home-schooling, working and training.
This editorial will be published in The Sport and Exercise Scientist, Summer 2020, Issue 64. Published by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences Ė www.bases.org.uk
RIP Dad - you had an innings to be proud of! I will miss you. xox
Returning to training after a long lay-off is an interesting one. Part of you is chomping at the bit to get back and the other part of you is dreading it, as you know all your numbers are going to be p@nts!
Fortunately for me, the part of me desperate to get back is definitely winning over any dwelling on poor numbers. Iím back and Iím totally loving it.
Iíve got a slightly altered attitude to training in that the odd time it feels a bit like a chore I give myself a slap! Then I focus on being grateful to be able to get the feel-good hormones Iím addicted to; and actually, that feeling is the same whatever your wattage or pace.
A while back, I watched an interview with Jess Ennis-Hill and her coach about her returning to training and racing after having a baby. Their strategy was to have post-baby PBs (personal bests) and not to compare to her pre-baby PBs. In a similar way, Iíve made a conscious effort to do different training sessions and ride and run new routes. Even when I felt my running was at a stage that it was worth doing some 5ks I deliberately chose a parkrun Iíd never done before. Limiting opportunities for comparisons has definitely worked as Iíve loved this block of training.
Also, there is a positive of being a bit p@nts: each session you get a little less p@nts! Gains are a bit easier than when you're flying.
And to the person who has been Hitchings Strava QOM huntiní during my hiatusÖIím back hon! 😉
So, I havenít blogged in a while. Mainly because I wanted to blog when I was feeling a bit more upbeat and also because rehabbing my collarbone (complicated by a frozen shoulder) doesnít leave much free-time.
Iím now 14 weeks post-op (20 weeks since the break). Pre-op, all I wanted was to be back riding my bike. Post-op, I had to quickly re-calibrate my hierarchy of needs.
Pain and Sleep: I was totally unprepared for the level of pain. Unfortunately for me, I had really bad side-effects from all the strong painkillers I tried. So, I had to settle for ibuprofen and paracetamol. I was also totally unprepared for the lack of sleep. Anyone that knows me well, knows how much I love my sleep! 9-10 hours please! Post-op, a typical night for me has been bed at 10, then awake midnight, 3 and 5 to take painkillers, mobilise my shoulder and heat up my beddy-teddy for comfort. Then, up at 7 to face the day, bleary-eyed and spaced out. My body reacted with constant cold sores and mouth ulcers. Not the best!
Hot tub and Love Island: Getting a hot tub has been great as I can do a daily hydrotherapy session in the privacy of my own garden (I look a total dork at the swimming pool). Hydrotherapy is physiotherapy in a pool and involves doing various weird-looking exercises. I would say this has definitely fast-tracked my rehab. Rehab exercises get very dull without distraction so, Love Island has been my guilty pleasure. Donít knock it until youíve watched it!
Bike riding: I got back on the turbo at 4 weeks. Initially, riding in a (very sweaty) sling and then slowly but surely my arm had enough mobility to reach the handlebars! Yey! 10 weeks post-op, I started running (with a slightly weird asymmetrical arm swing).
Racing: I plan to race a 2020 World Champs qualifier at the end of September - a road sprint duathlon. Iím not quite sure what form Iíll be in but Iíll have to race with what Iíve got. Bike-wise, Iím pushing nice wattageÖactually really nice wattage. Running-wise, itís all still quite ploddyÖbut I'm enjoying getting endorphins in the Kent countryside.
Another operation: I need another operation to remove the hook plate, so I will be sliding quite spectacularly back to the bottom of the mountain I'm slowly climbing ☹.
The consultant reckons 18 months post-the next op to get strength and mobility back to close to normal. I can well believe it as even with all this rehab my mobility is depressingly poor and Iím currently using 2 kg weights and thatís an effort. The hazy days of bench pressing my own body weight of 50 kg are well in the past!
So, the goalposts have changed a bit since the original diagnosis from the consultant who said 4-6 weeks full-recovery; all very straight forward!! ???
Anyhow, for the moment Iím enjoying taking little steps with big smiles. Onwards and upwards.