I have extensive experience with indoor training and levering the opportunities adversity handed me in 2012. I spent many months safely confined indoors regaining mobility and slowly recovering from multiple and serious ‘life changing’ injuries caused by a careless driver pulling out from a side road, in front of my bike on a Surrey Hills training ride. My comeback and recovery book, Back On Track, published 2015 by Meyer & Meyer.
Here is what I learned as an athlete working through extended adversity, and helping athletes with that I coach:
- It is utterly key to adapt your outlook and mindset in order to avoid undue angst when adapting to the current circumstances. Focus on what you CAN do and not what you can’t do for the foreseeable. The mind is the most powerful muscle and it’s important to keep it focused so it doesn’t work against you. Any set of circumstances can be a lot worse, be grateful that you have your health and can find and undertake a few things you enjoy. Utilise the time to develop or indulge in a passion for something. My focus was two-fold in recovery: 1) work on movement and mobility daily, learn to walk again and regain some sort of independent life and 2) stay positive through the pain and situation by understanding of how nutrition can be used to enhance my recovery and eventually, improve performance.
- Try not to worry about unpredictably. The current set of circumstances are not anything that you are in control of. Operate within parameters you have been given (stay indoors) and identify a new routine as your number 1 priority. Wake, move, nourish. Work, nourish, move. Work, nourish, move, sleep. Substitute work for create, make, read, writing, colouring in, cleaning, washing, cooking, painting, listening to music – if you are not in a position that you are working from home, move for 30-60 min stretch (ROM), walk, run, cycle, functional strength/ core circuit, land swim on stretch cords, trampoline, skip, prehab exercises, Yoga, Pilates and nourish for regular scheduled meals and planning/ preparation and clearing that goes with this essential function. Once you have control of your daily routine, you will feel a whole lot better! Being engaged in a range of activities gives you purpose and as an athlete, losing your regular routine may leave you feeling without purpose. Find a new routine, be adaptable.
- Find opportunity and address areas in your performance that will bring value when you return to your athletic lifestyle. This could be any of the following: addressing muscular imbalances or biomechanics that have contributed to injury risk for you in the past, undertaking a complete program of prehab to deal with injury niggles that surface when you increase your training, improving your core strength, developing overall functional strength for swim/ bike/ run, maintaining your swim specific muscles and movement patterning with land-based training used by elite swimmers on stretch cords, improving your cycling efficiency or hill climbing strength with simulated sessions indoors, developing running strength and muscular endurance using plyometric training and range of movement in hips/ shoulders/ ankles/ feet to address ROM limitations. With so many areas you could be focusing on, indoor time can be used very effectively indeed, with impressive results. My return to training and eventually racing after a program of 3-12 months indoor training provided increased functional strength across all 3 sports and improved range and neuromuscular control of movement.
A prolonged indoor program of exercise enabled me to return to training at a higher level than previously and performance improvements such as improved swim threshold pace (CSS), increased sustained cycling hill climbing (standing) strength, and being able to run distances again after being told ‘my running days were over’ by a consultant. This included lowering my marathon PB to 3:09 (aged 46) from 3:15 (aged 32). All my races in my comeback were set up with an enhanced swim position, usually leading out each wave, and culminated in a faster finishing time at Ironman World Championships in 2016 (10:46:53 and 3rd place in 45-49F) compared with 10 years earlier in 2007 (10:49:04 and 9th in 35-39F) as a much younger athlete.
Indoor training does work, take it from me. If you have the mindset to see past the obvious challenges and appreciate that the situation we find ourselves in is temporary. You will get through this.
Our global health and well being is of primary importance, therefore reduce any risks and identify an area you can realistically focus on. After that, simply get to work on your new routine, adapt and focus on areas you can improve.
If you are struggling with any area of adapting to training indoors I currently have some capacity for new athletes, and can be contacted by email to arrange coaching support via Zoom call (consultation) or sharing my indoor program tailored to your situation (bespoke training plan).