Athlete insights during a pandemic

1 May 2020, 8:56AM

Sport is at the centre of many people’s lives. Yet changed circumstances due to the current health crisis are leaving sportspeople and athletes with a gaping hole where their passion once was, unable to perform for pleasure, or their livelihood, in the same way.

At Bio Concepts, our General Manager of Marketing and Sales, Jane Hermann, also doubles as an Ironman Triathlete competing on a global scale. She shares her experience as an athlete adjusting to this tricky time, giving insight into the impact this has had on her training.

As an athlete during this time, you may not know when you will compete again, yet you also have to be fit and ready to return when the time inevitably comes! Have these circumstances had an impact on your events, and how have you had to reframe your goals?

Yes, as per other major sports, all triathlon events, both short and long course have been cancelled or postponed until at least September at this stage. The winter months are actually the most enjoyable for triathlon training, particularly in Queensland as the weather is a little warmer than the southern states. Training for Ironman triathlon can be relentless and exhausting, so if anything, the current virus has provided a great opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, rest the body a little and really consider what’s next on the calendar.

Gyms and athletic facilities have been closed, forcing many athletes to modify their training in creative ways. As an Ironman, often training in pools and the gym as well as outdoors, how have these changes impacted your approach to training and how have you adapted?

We are very fortunate that in Australia we have not been in total lock-down, so whilst we need to work within the government restrictions, the likes of cycling and running are still allowed. I am also fortunate to have a good set-up at home with a range of dumbbells and strength equipment, plus a treadmill and bike trainer if the weather is not favourable to be out on the road. Swimming is a challenge for triathletes all over the world at the moment; however once again, I am fortunate to live by the ocean, so the highlight of my Monday and Friday mornings is a 2-3 kilometre swim in the open water at 6am as the sun comes up. It’s a magical time of the day – the water is still warm and very clear and I’ve sighted numerous turtles and other marine animals. This just adds to the overall experience and enjoyment!  

Sports people and athletes often rely on people for support, and to train with and compete against, but isolation makes this almost impossible. How have you dealt with social distancing in your training?

As a triathlete, my preference for training has always been either training solo, or with only one or two others, rather than in big groups. That’s because when you are out there competing in an Ironman race and you’ve been going for 10 or more hours, it’s really only you and your mental and physical ability that will get you to the finish line.It’s good to replicate that in training so come race day, you know you’ve been able to push through the ‘hurt-locker’ before! The restrictions with the current health crisis have meant that training is restricted to a maximum of two people. With social distancing rules in place, I’ve locked in a training buddy for the open water swims and the longer rides which is working well.

Access to medical and complementary therapies have been minimised. Have you had to make any adjustments to your therapeutic regimen (such as massage or physiotherapy) that usually support your performance?

Yes definitely! Regular massage and physio are an important part of most long course triathletes’ regime, just to ensure regular body maintenance and that injury niggles are addressed early. The current health crisis has meant that we have had to focus more on injury prevention; more core and strength training and plenty of stretching as well as using the foam roller.

The uncertainty during this time can have a psychological impact on athletes, including stress and worry or lack of motivation. How are you managing your mental health and wellbeing during this time?

My mental health is extremely dependent on the ability to exercise. If I can’t train, it seriously affects my mood. This is all the motivation I need to find novel and interesting ways of continuing my training through the restrictions. For example, I now have a swim training belt which can be attached to my waist and tethered to a fence in my pool at home. This means I can still do a ‘stationary swim’ through the winter months (most likely in a wetsuit) if conditions in the open water are not suitable.

How are you using this time to learn more about your sport and optimising your performance in new ways?

I am very passionate about the sport of triathlon, so continuous improvement and learning has always been a high priority for me. I have a hugely experienced coach who shares her endless knowledge with me, plus I also read obsessively and listen to podcasts from experts and professional triathletes who share their training and nutrition tips and tricks online.

Since sports can often be a single-minded focus for athletes, have you found this time to be an opportunity to focus on other hobbies or interests?

In many ways this virus has come at a good time for me in my training, having just recovered from a grade 4 stress fracture after training for Ironman New Zealand. It has given me more time to do other things, especially jobs and projects around the house that I have been meaning to do for a long time. Plus, cooking…. Obviously, nutrition is so important during high periods of training, but time is always scarce – so to have the time to cook some great meals and other treats has been a lot of fun!

-- Jane Hermann, General Manager Marketing & Sales, Bio Concepts