Five things athletes should do during lockdown

NEW DELHI: Unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures. The world has confined itself to limited spaces. An invisible enemy, the coronavirus, is threatening the planet; and there is no definitive treatment for the respiratory complications it causes. A bio-medical emergency has locked the world down. And if you happen to be an athlete hoping to play in the Olympics, postponement of Tokyo 2020 by a year has made life in confinement a little more challenging.

The world of sports has come to a standstill, with tournaments, training and camps either cancelled or postponed. In the case of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee and the government of Japan took a call to postpone the Games to 2021.

The Olympic flame, though, will continue to stay in Japan, which can be a motivation for players in lockdown, who are forced to deal with the stress of confinement and the disappointment of the Olympics being pushed back by a year.

So what should athletes do while in isolation so as to not lose their focus?

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Timesofindia.com spoke to Dr Swaroop Savanur, Mental Conditioning and Peak Performance Coach of the Lakshya Foundation, who is the consultant for some of India’s top players like Sharath Kamal (table tennis), Simranjit Kaur and Pooja Rani (boxers) and Sunil Kumar (wrestler), all of whom were looking good to feature at the Tokyo Olympics.

Dr Savanur touched upon five aspects that athletes should be mindful of while they remain under the 21-day lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Enjoy the time with your family

“Use this as an opportunity to spend quality time with your family and siblings. Look at this (time) as a godsend to reconnect with your family. After all, it is because of the support of your family that you are having an opportunity to make sports as a career. It’s time to give back to them by helping them with their chores, talking with them and being happy rather than cribbing about the current situation and being lonely.”

Reset your goals

“Think positive – like all this will be over a month from now, your training will start soon after that and before you realise it, there will be even more competitions than before. Set a goal, about how you need to feel after this break. It will motivate you to focus on a routine, knowing that a lot of competitions will start soon. Rather than feeling under-confident and anxious because of this break, you should feel ready, confident and fresh. That is only possible if you are motivated to follow a routine at home – every day!”

Study the competition and yourself

“Make the best use of this opportunity by studying various videos of your sport and how the top athletes play in the competition. Look at your game videos objectively, to analyse your strengths and weaknesses and areas you want to improve on. You never know, this single step can be a game-changer for you in your sporting career, because of the understanding of a small change that you needed to make or by observing that specific weakness in your opponent.”

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(Dr Swaroop with Achanta Sharath Kamal)

Control your diet

“Being home means enjoying food cooked by mom. But you need to realise that this is not that kind of a break. This is not the time for increasing your weight and more importantly, changing your food habits. The delicate balance that you have so painstakingly achieved can quickly go haywire and before you realise it, the weight can show up. This, in turn, can affect your confidence negatively and create doubts about your post-break performance. So, look at the lockdown days as a physical break but not a mental break.”

Make a clear routine

“Athletes are slaves of routine. Without that, a sportsperson can feel helpless. Create a routine that has the following elements:

a. Physical-training Time: An hour of specific strength and conditioning training activity that your trainer has given you or something that you feel you need to work on.

b. No-cellphone time: Mobiles are a waste of time beyond a certain limit and can be mentally draining and habituating. It’s important not to succumb to that.

c. Technical-training drills: Whatever sport you play, there is always something that requires some technical self-work. Do your technical drills with the precision of movements and self-corrections, observing changes that you need to do. You can also do this in front of a mirror.

d. Sleep time: It’s tempting to sleep late nights and if that happens once or twice because of some family chat, that’s great, but not because of using your mobile for social media or binge movie-watching.

e. Study time: Observing videos of your opponents and/or your own videos and analysing them, as mentioned above.

Whenever things get back to normal, nothing will be more important than feeling right the moment an athlete returns to the training ground. It will then lead to the right mindset at the right time, for competitions, when it matters.”

Indian athletes should surely find these expert tips helpful as they try and turn the lockdown period into a time period that helps them become better, more well-rounded athletes.

Remember, there is a theory that when Shakespeare was quarantined during the time of the 17th century plague, he wrote ‘King Lear’.

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