Staying motivated and looking after your mental health through Covid-19

2020 was sure a year not to remember but there are still some positives you can take out of this time period. I have struggled like many others with these uncertain times but I have decided to share some of my top tips on staying motivated and looking after your mental health. I personally believe we have the last bit of the mountain to climb and things will start to return to the new normal slowly.

Firstly, control what you can control and anything else don’t worry about it, it is out of your hands. The stress and worry about something you cannot control is not worth it as it will affect you, so the best way is to relax. What I have learnt over the year is that if I feel anxious or start to panic take a step back for a few minutes, control your breathing by breathing in 4 seconds and then out 7 seconds and it helps calm down the nervous system.

I found having a worry book is very helpful. I spend 10 minutes every day writing in this book my concerns for the day and also how I could deal with them. Once the book is shut, then I stop worrying about things for the rest of the day; I find it very helpful.

Next tip is to get outside daily, just getting outdoors for 5 minutes will go a long way to helping your wellbeing and mental health even if it’s just for a walk. It can give you relaxing time and take in the countryside for example and just getting out in day light will help a lot with your mood. I always find the sun sets me up for a happy day. There will be days you don’t feel like getting out but honestly they are the days which are the best. If I don’t feel like running I force myself to go out and say if I am not enjoying it after 10 minutes I will come back home, but most of the time I stay out longer and end up enjoying it or having one of my best runs. Keep moving don’t just sit about all day if you are working from home – I walk round the house if I can’t go outside for some reason. It’s important to keep moving it will help your health and wellbeing. I always found when I am exercising I relaxed and it’s helping me clear my head and therefore destresses me.

Motivation can be tough without knowing if your race will go ahead or not. Again this is out of your hands and what you can control is your training. Having a goal is very important in staying motivated. It can be something like I want to run a 28minute 5k to I want to podium at the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in my age group. Which is my big goal, and is my motivation to get there. If you believe you can do it then you are half way there and if you keep working at your goal and work hard at it with smart training then you will achieve your goal. Believe me I couldn’t swim in 2012 and in 2019 I won my Age Group at the European Aquathlon Championships. So the impossible can became the possible. Having small little goals too so you can work towards a big goal is a good way for you to work towards and stay motivated.

Breaking your training up with cross training and having a plan to work with I find is also very important in staying motivated. Of course you can work round the plan if days don’t go according to plan as it’s important to be very flexible. Having a plan and breaking up your day is a good way to go and keep your mind busy, that’s how I find it helps me. A good plan should have the right balance of training and structured recovery weeks as well as full rest days etc.

Don’t over train because you will just burn out or give up. Make sure you have the right balance of mixed training with easy training and hard training, the 80/20 percent rule is a golden rule to follow. 80 percent of training easy and 20 percent hard training, this has worked well for me over the years and allowed me to get in consistent training which as allowed me to improve and achieve my goals as well as keeping injuries to a minimal. Mix up training often, don’t do the same things every day and every week, changing this up not only keeps it fun and interesting it’s the way you get better and improve.

I hope these tips are helpful as these are some of the things I have used over the past year to help my training, daily life and enjoy it as well as looking after my mental health. When it comes to exercising we all know how important it is to your health and mental wellbeing so keep moving even if you don’t feel like it. Of course having rest days are important but not too many to a point you stop training altogether. Stay positive and stay safe the good times will come back.

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Controlling what you can control…

When things don’t go to plan do you panic? Get stressed out? Sleepless nights? Loss or appetite?. This is not just for training but in normal life with many issues that can contribute to this. But a lot of these issues that may cause stress are actually out of our control so why do we worry about them?

In training/races it’s important you control what you can control but not just for your training, for life as well. This is a valuable life skill that you should try to master so that it can help you in life and of course in your training and races. If your able to learn this skill you will go a long way in your training and races.

My mindset coach Gobinder told me how to deal with things I can’t control and we have been working together since 2016 which has made me mentally a better athlete and this has helped me in day-to-day life as well.

What do I mean control what you can control?  Well in simple terms you control what you can control and what you can’t control don’t worry about it as you can’t do anything about it. Just like COVID-19 – stressing about races getting cancelled – you can’t control this. Stressing what others are doing in their training – you are your own person so don’t copy others just because they are doing a certain training session doesn’t mean you have to do it.

What I have learnt over the years is to control the controllable which has allow me to be the best I can be. Gobinder taught me this valuable skill. In 2016 It was the day before the World Aquathlon Championships in Cozumel in Mexico. I was staying on the mainland and was told we could get a boat across to the island early morning in time for the race. Well this was not the case and I found this out the day before the race. I panicked big time and stressed so much, I ended up packing my bags with my wife and jumping on a boat to the island to look for an available room; this seemed like an impossible job with over 3000 athletes on a tiny island.  We went looking for a room walking into hotels and asking around and I was getting tired being on my feet for long hours, not eating and drinking enough. I was stressing more and more as the time went on. We found a hotel in the end. But the damage was done as the following day at the race I struggled and was just shattered. I could have controlled diet and hydration. The only thing I needed to worry about was finding a hotel which we found but again I could of relaxed a bit, so learnt the hard way.

Staying calm and relaxed is key and yes you will have bad days in training but learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes is very important because if you learn from them you will improve and these bad days won’t happen again. I find that if you take positives out of anything such as a bad runs, you can turn it into a positive next time.

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