In this guest blog, elite swimmer and MySwimPro Ambassador Julie Kamat shares how she has adjusted her training and her mindset due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her advice for swimmers who feel like they have lost their identity now that they are out of the pool.
The entire swimming community has come to an abrupt halt in the last few months, with many of us struggling through various stages of grief while adjusting to our new normal. Perhaps some of us are sitting on the sidelines for the first time wondering, “what now?”
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I’ve journeyed down this no-swim road in my past, having been out of the water for ten years since I was a freshman in college. During this time, I focused on other aspects of my life like academics, my career, friendships and other fulfilling experiences (some of the areas where it’s tough to keep a balance during training season). I learned to code, do zumba, and regularly practiced ballet.
Through these years, I grew a lot as an adult and have many fond memories to look back on. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to explore and broaden my interests during and after college.
Related: Julie Kamat | The #AskASwimPro Show
I kept up with a routine at the gym and lifted a few days a week. I also ran here and there, and completed a few half marathons and 5ks along the way. Staying active and lifting in the gym helped me transition back into competitive swimming after such a long break. I had to build up my endurance again and focus a lot on technique, but within my first year back to competitive swimming in 2017-2018, I was able to swim times that were faster than those I achieved in high school!
How I’m Handling the Pandemic
Currently I’m navigating this pandemic with a similar mindset. I’ve learned not to associate myself with one singular, all-encompassing “identity.” If swimming were my only identity, I would feel out of place. Sure, I’m a swimmer, but I’m also a businesswoman who loves to spend time with my family and friends and have new adventures. I like to think of myself not only as a swimmer, but instead as someone who loves swimming.
My current goal is to reduce anxiety and stay active when possible. I encourage you to find something that makes you happy and helps you decompress. Some days are better than others. It can be difficult to keep up with the altered day-to-day routine with anxiety creeping in from the unknown. Typically, I could take out my stress in the pool or at the gym. With that loss, I’ve had to adapt to a new routine, find a new method to handle my anxiety, and look for avenues to find joy.
I’ve worked on ways to help myself relax including long walks, sitting in the sun on my porch listening to tropical music, taking online classes to keep my mind fresh (MIT has a bunch of free courses online!), completing an at-home dryland workout, or even playing video games.
I also try to keep in touch with family and friends more often – Netflix movie nights help a ton. I like to call these my “distractions” from negatives or overwhelming thoughts. I may not achieve all of these items within a day, but that’s fine. I move at a pace that I’m comfortable with, even if that means playing Animal Crossing for half of the weekend to find happiness in the day.
Seeing the Silver Lining
Losing training progress after months of hard work can be difficult to accept. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to welcome long periods of rest from previous injuries and burnouts. Try to reflect on the benefits of rest or time away from the pool in any situation! I’m usually someone who’s always on the go with work and training, so finding ways to enjoy some of the extra downtime is paramount.
Having navigated through multiple injuries in the past, I like to benchmark where my progress last was, as a stepping stone to get back to. If I was previously at a particular level in my training, I knew that I could get back to that same level (or even better) after some hard work at practice.
Related: Mastering Work-Life-Swim Balance
I’m keeping an open mind for when I return to the pool, and I’m not setting high expectations for myself, so I can be more comfortable getting back into my old routine and to minimize injury.
It may be some time before we are able to get back into the pool and compete, but with hard work, we’ll come back stronger than ever!
Do you have useful tools to cope with stress and anxiety associated with social distancing or the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole? Share in the comments! Follow Julie’s journey on Instagram at @summerjulep.