Many of us had goal races postponed and are sitting on peak training shape with no place to express our fitness. And almost all of us are feeling some mixture of anxiety and disappointment as our routines have been completely torpedoed. Dr. Kate Hays, whose psychology practice in Toronto, The Performing Edge, focuses on sport psychology and mental performance training for performing artists, is founder and co-director of the Psyching Team for the Toronto Marathon. We asked her to help us to stay in fighting shape—emotionally—when we’re not sure when we’ll race again, or even be through with this crisis. She gave us nine tips that will help you, today.
1. Breathe: You know the importance of deep breathing for optimal running performance. It’s the key to managing tension as well, whether by itself or as part of a meditation practice. Make sure you do it properly—and always start with a long slow exhale. (Your body will take care of the inhale.)
2. Do the opposite of your natural inclination:
* If you tend to over-react at times of stress, limit your intake of news, learn or practice deep breathing..
* If you tend to under-react, make sure you get accurate information from medical/health care professionals.
* If your natural response to stress is anger, remember that anger is often based on fear. How can you acknowledge and then address the fear?
* If you respond to stress by turning inward and becoming depressed, turn to others (at a distance). Remember that while physical distance is critical, social connection is as well.
3. Remember to be kind—to others and yourself. We’re all in this together. We make mistakes. Forgive others—and yourself. And thank someone for something every day.
4. What are you thankful for? What gives you joy? What did you notice that is beautiful? Create a new habit to write down three things at the end of every day. It’s one to continue, even after this crisis has ended.
5. Exercise daily. If you’re in an area where you can run, go for it—just do it alone. Stairs? Create a workout. Recognize the value of strength training to your running routine. Physical activity is as important to our mental well-being as it is to our physical state.
6. Maintain an attitude of curiosity. What am I learning? It might be about yourself, a new activity, your family’s interaction, how to work from home…the possibilities are endless.
7. Create a schedule for yourself, one that includes both work and leisure. Having a sense of routine and predictability amid all the change is important. At the same time, allow for some flexibility.
8. Set goals for yourself. Various plans and goals have gone up in smoke for now, but adjust old ones or create new ones, whether it’s new race goals or improvement in some aspect of your life. The best goals are often “SMART”: specific, measureable, achievement focused, realistic, and set within a timeframe.
9. And the most important piece, the one you’re especially skilled at: Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Where are the “water stops”? How do you handle “hills”? What can you do now to limit “bonking”? Use the skills you have in pacing your running to apply to your life in general.