In this guest blog, MySwimPro Ambassador Robert Flood shares how he balances work, his role as a husband and father, and his fitness goals while prioritizing his mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has affected everyone around the world in some form or another, and never has good mental health been more of a challenge. With physical distancing and social isolation, many people have lost the opportunity to do the things they love, which may also serve as coping mechanisms.
For someone like me, who has suffered with poor mental health for many years, it has been especially tough.
Becoming a Homebody
As a job I sell banking solutions for letting agents, and this normally involves a lot of face to face interactions, but when the first round of restrictions came into force, telephone was the only method of business. I’m a very social guy and love meeting and speaking to people both in work and outside of work, so it was hard to be stuck at home day in and day out.
All of this happened before the schools closed, which caused my 3 kids — an 8-year-old boy and 4-year-old twin girls — to be home all the time too.
Swimming as a Coping Mechanism
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For me swimming was a coping method. I have been swimming for about 6 years now, using it to maintain my mental health and well being. I swam 3 or 4 times per week and at this time of the year I would be training for my open water season.
I was fortunate in a way — pools in the UK stayed open in the first few weeks of March, but the time came and my pool ended up closing. This was a massive blow for me. I really needed that time to myself to help me reset and focus on my workout.
The Racing Season that Could Have Been
I had a few events planned starting with the Swimathon Triple 5K (due to take place in April but now delayed until October), The Jubilee River Swim 10K (due to take place in June, but currently postponed with no future date set), Ullswater One Way – 7 Miles (due to take place on 19th July, still waiting on a decision), and Coniston One Way 5.35 Miles (due to take place on 5th September, still waiting on a decision).
With 3 of these events being open water swims, water temperature is an issue, and the longer the COVID-19 pandemic goes on into the year, the less likely these events will happen. I’m pretty devastated that I may not have any open water swimming events this year.
Adjusting to My New Normal
Things got really tough for me when shortly after the closure of pools, schools closed. I woke up on the first Monday and realized that not only was I going to have to work full time, but I’d also have to be a full time Dad and part time teacher, sharing teaching responsibilities with my wife. We prepared as well as we could and moved my little boy up to our converted loft room so we could start using his room as a makeshift office. I can’t imagine how tough it was for him having to move bedrooms, but he seems to be coping really well.
I like to give 100% in everything I do, so not being able to commit to a full working day was my first major concern. I also wanted to give the kids all the attention they need, as it must be tough for them not to mix with friends at school or outside school. Thankfully, their school has provided amazing learning activities every day, but it’s hard to keep them focused at home. My anxiety was peaking.
Our New Routine
Related: How I Made a Swimming Comeback
We slowly got into a routine, completing the Joe Wicks workouts in the morning and then my wife and I would work in 2 hour shifts and spend the rest of our time with the kids. My patience has worn thin a few times with the kids, and it’s difficult to be patient with them while also worrying about work and family members who are mostly based in Ireland.
I had to do something to help cope. Fortunately for me being part of the MySwimPro global community really has been amazing. The team behind my personal swim coach must have worked night and day when they realised the many of us were not going to be able to swim and have put together an amazing series of dryland workouts and training plans which I have been really enjoying. On several occasions the kids have joined my sessions too! We are also loving the live Sunday workouts with Fares and enjoyed dressing up for the World Swim Gala. I wore a tux!
Related: Swimming for Mental Health
Related: My Advice for Injured Swimmers
I also decided to dust off my bike and have been hitting the roads at 6:30am for an hour to clear my head and set me up for the day. It has been amazing to get an hour out of the house by myself. These bike rides, along with the strength workouts, are keeping my fitness levels up.
I have seen a lot of positives out of the current situation. I currently live in Preston, UK, but grew up in Reading, and I have actually connected with my friends in Reading a lot more than normal. We had a Zoom party the last few Saturdays where we did a quiz and just shared a few hours together that we would have normally done maybe 2 or 3 times a year when visiting. It has been fantastic catching up with everyone!
With most of my immediate family based in Ireland, I regularly caught up via FaceTime, but again the regularity has increased. We had our first Online Quiz night with members of the immediate family and beyond, and it was great to see some friendly faces.
I also have a virtual pub meeting with work colleagues on Friday afternoons. We normally get together once a month on a work basis so it was brilliant to share a drink or two and get to know each person on a personal level.
Not physically connecting is tough but I am 100% sure that when this situation is over we will continue our online gatherings with friends who we can’t always see regularly.
On a final note, let’s remember that we are not social distancing, just physical distancing. With our time at home we can still connect with friends near and far. Stay Safe, Stay Home.