Transitioning to the new normal – advice for athletes

As athletes across Australia prepare for a return to training, here are some considerations to smooth your psychological transition.

Going back to the new normal

After spending several weeks training on your own and interacting with coaches via video calls, the prospect of getting back to some semblance of normality is exciting. However, our mental model of ‘normal’ may need some adjustment, for the time being at least. I found this out myself as I joyfully booked in for breakfast at my local café the day after restrictions were lifted, looking forward to an enjoyable meal that I didn’t have to prepare myself for a change. The experience of takeaway coffee cups, polystyrene plates and wooden cutlery and the feeling of being in a fishbowl with nobody anywhere near me wasn’t quite what I was expecting and left me feeling a little deflated. As you think about getting back to training, it’s a good idea to spend time thinking about how things like physical distancing will change your experience. How will you adapt to your new surroundings?

What’s stayed the same?

In these situations, it’s normal to notice all the things that are different and unfamiliar and to compare these to how things used to be, often unfavourably, which can lead to us feeling uncomfortable. A good question to ask yourself is “what’s still the same”? Your sport, your team-mates, coaches, session goals, training locations may be the same as before isolation. Paying attention to these things can help remind us that even though some things are a little unfamiliar, much of the training environment is the same as it always was.

Worrying more than you remember

After months of being told to stay home and isolate from others, it can feel a little daunting to head back to training with others. This can result in additional worries about whether we are adhering to physical distancing or if that sneeze that you just heard was a sign of illness or just allergies. Being more vigilant for a period of time is completely normal. As we increase the number of people we are surrounding ourselves with, it can also be easy to judge other people’s behaviour and question whether or not they are following the rules. Whilst this is understandable, first and foremost, we need to pay attention to our own behaviour and ensure we are each doing the right thing so that we keep ourselves and our team-mates safe. 

Doing too much too soon

It goes without saying that doing too much too soon from a physical perspective can result in niggles and injuries. The same is true psychologically. You may feel like you just want to jump back in at one hundred percent, but remember that we have all been operating in a period of uncertainty and added stress for some time and we may find that mentally we become depleted more quickly than we are used to. Make sure that you are paying particular attention to your energy levels, communicate clearly and regularly with your coaches and prioritise sleep and recovery activities.

If you find that you are struggling with your return to training, then remember to ask for help and support.

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