The Opportunity of Quarantine
For many of us, quarantine involved being at home trying to figure out how to satisfy the urge to work out while, simultaneously, hating working out at home. Granted, the home work out equipment industry exploded for 2 months as individuals searched through the internet and local stores to find exercise equipment to suit their needs. Some adjusted goals. Some tried new work out styles or activities. Others simply gave in and didn’t workout for eight weeks for one reason or another. What I didn’t see much conversation around was the opportunity that time period was going to provide for people’s healing. I use that word intentionally. I don’t refer to only physical healing and recovery, but also the mental and emotional aspect.
I have been participating in adult gymnastics for nearly 10 years. This past 12 months, there were a series of events in my personal life that left me feeling as if I had extraordinarily little to give to the sport. Minus a few random times in the gym, the total of which I could count on one hand, I had no formal practices for gymnastics for 12 months. I was not burnt out on the sport. I just had nothing left to give. The two months that I spent in quarantine was the first time that I began to feel the need to go practice again for the sake of my mental and emotional health. I was not unique in this. I began reading about people needing to go back to their gym/training for the sake of their mental health. I completely understand this. However, in my case, had I not had the opportunity to remove all of the ever-increasing distractions that I had been forcing into my schedule, I never would have had the opportunity to heal, grow, move on, and find my way back to feeling passionate about the sport that I love. I do not say this to negate other’s circumstances or to imply that anyone should reconsider their experiences in quarantine. I am reflecting on my own and realizing, in hindsight, the gratitude that I now feel for having been given a shelter from the storm of my emotional and mental life.
Once that passion was slowly rekindled, I began noticing that there were numerous areas that had been neglected in regard to my sport. If I intended to get back into structured training, then I was going to need to address these first. I had not spent time maintaining flexibility. I had not practiced handstands. I had also not been consistent with prehab exercises. In short, I had neglected the preparation of my body for the sport. The little work that you do on a daily basis is not exciting or sexy. However, it is what can often make or break a career. That might seem like a big statement, but consider the McGill Big Three. Three basic exercises that take less than ten minutes to perform but help in the prevention of low back injury, which can be (although does not have to be) the end of a lifter’s career. Simple and targeted approaches like these are highly effective. What I realized though is that none of these areas required me to be in a gymnastics facility or gym. In fact, none of the little work needs to be done in a gym setting. Ask yourself: are you as mobile as you need to be for your sport? Do you make time for the necessary prehab exercises that will have prevent injury? Have you implemented strategies to correct imbalances or asymmetries? Have you designed a properly formatted warm-up sequence specific to you for each of the workouts you will you be doing throughout the week? None of these require being in a gym. In fact, some of them don’t require equipment of any kind aside from a pen and paper for writing down ideas.
I have always been a strong advocate for the front-end loading aspect of work. Put the time in at the beginning for finding resources and planning, and then the execution will happen more smoothly. This is exactly what the last three months have provided to many athletes: an opportunity to do the front-end work that is neglected often in favor of the more fun and exciting choices, like actually training. The passion to train will always find a way to come back to us. But when getting back in the gym isn’t an option, then the best choice is to prepare the body for the day training starts again.