Prior to March 2020, you may have used the word ‘Zoom’ when describing a fast-moving vehicle. ‘Bubbles’ meant air pockets in water, masks were what children wore at Halloween and ‘shielding’ probably involved medieval knights. Teams were something you joined to do sport and Slack was the opposite of taut. And if anyone had trotted out the phrase ‘social distancing’, we’d all have been highly confused.
How the world has changed. And prior to March 2020, could you have imagined a world where we were applauding supermarket employees for being frontline workers, keeping the country fed? Or where every shop in the country ran out of flour as the nation turned to baking banana cake by the lorryload?
2020 has had so many challenges and strange turns, and it’s hard to remember what life was like beforehand, when we would cram into public transport, or hug elderly relatives, without worrying about the consequences.
But when there is so much disruption, we are tested in different ways. It’s not unrelated to the challenges of elite sport when injury strikes. My attitude then, when plagued with another bulging disc in my back, was similar to the attitude I’ve been preaching during 2020: you can still focus on being good at what you do, only in a different way.
When injured, your training is affected. You may not be able to run, or swim, or in my case, row. But the actual rowing on the water bit is a comparatively small part of the whole puzzle. Performance in sport is made up of a hundred different variables aside from the physical doing of the sport.
Here’s a few: flexibility, sleep quality, endurance capacity, power, mental skills, quality of nutrition, recovery, stress levels and emotional wellbeing, relationships with team-mates and coaches, and clarifying thought processes.
But you miss the actual process and feeling of your sport, whether it’s swinging a tennis racquet or pulling an oar through the water.
Similarly, we’re all missing the human contact of the office. We probably aren’t missing our commute, but we are likely to be missing the takeaway coffee on the way in, or the delicious salad lunch from the deli. Instead, we graze on leftovers and fight our spouses for the last milk in the fridge for another cup of disappointing instant coffee.
When you can’t actually row, you miss it. But that doesn’t mean that everything has to suffer. During times of challenge it’s so important to focus on what you can do, not the pieces that are missing. Human interaction has been taken away from all of us which affects every workplace and industry in differing amounts. But let’s stay thinking about the positive impacts we can make on our lives and our work during the pandemic. Don’t think about what you are missing – stay focussing on what you are doing. If there are pieces missing from the jigsaw, concentrate on making the rest of the jigsaw, albeit incomplete, as good as it possibly can be.
Kinetic PD associate Annie Vernon is a two-time World Champion and Olympic silver medallist rower. Her award winning book about the psychology of elite sport, explores how the world’s top athletes train their mental skills. Mind Games is published by Bloomsbury and is available from all major booksellers.