Physical restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have meant a serious rethink of how people behave, move and exercise.
And as the circuit breaker in Singapore kicked in, Olympic Champion Joseph Schooling realised that he wouldn’t be able to swim for at least two months, the longest he’s ever been out of the water.
For the average person, trading a gym session for an at-home workout already requires a shift in mindset. So how do professional athletes, who have been displaced from their usual training grounds amid global lockdowns, stay mentally and physically strong?
In this episode of “In The Moment”, Joseph shares how he overcame uncertainties, the new skills he picked up and what lies ahead.
According to the 25-year-old, the key is to recognise the lessons we can take from overcoming obstacles: “In every hard situation, there's always something that you can take out of it to apply to life. And I feel like this period that we've just been through, has been a huge learning curve.”
But Joseph admitted that it took time before he achieved this mindset: “I had a really hard time trying to internalise not being able to swim for that long. Like, ‘Is my fitness ever going to come back? Am I ever going to achieve the same speed I want?’ Your mind starts playing tricks on you.”
So what steps can we take during challenging times, to achieve a more positive outlook? Here are five tips, from an Olympic champion:
1. Set small, attainable goals
“The trick is to take each day one step at a time, by setting small goals in what you want to achieve out of it. For example, today I felt a little sluggish. I felt like I wanted to go faster, but for some reason, today was just not the day. But the most important thing is to be consistent, to be content with whatever you put out, and to be honest with the effort that you put out. And I think if you can tick those boxes, you're going to find a lot of happy people out there. Even if you don’t reach the levels you want to reach, you’ve given it your all.”
2. Move past your comfort zone
“I've never been out of the water for this period of time, almost 60 days. (So I had to) shift focus and find better ways to get better in the pool, while (not having) a pool to go to. More cycling, more land exercises, even meditation. These are things that are out of my element. It was really hard for the first few weeks. But going forward, I can see the benefits that it gives me for the future, even now when I'm back in the pool. I can probably bike around Singapore in four hours.”
3. Learn a new hobby
“I love cooking now, especially steak. I'm a huge meat eater, and I love my steaks. I actually watched how to sous vide things non-stop, especially steaks, when I first came back and was on my stay-home notice.”
4. Help others
“If you have something to give, and if you can afford to give something, now is a great time. We’ve donated to a few charities revolving around this cause, more along the lines of families that are in need, families that don't have money to buy food. For example, on my birthday, we bought a few families enough food from the grocery store. And that's something that we do every single year, mom, dad and I, on my birthday. These families need something like that. So just having an open heart and open mind to certain things, is more integral now more than ever, in such a divided society.”
5. Lean on loved ones, physically or virtually
“It’s so important to have great people around you, a great support group, like your parents or friends. Stay in touch. These are really things that we go through daily, and things that we're used to. Anything to do to keep that sense of normalcy going on. As human beings, we like physical interactions, we like seeing people in person. Having to talk to my friends through a tiny phone screen is definitely not as fulfilling as seeing them in person. But at the same time, you start to adjust your goals and your expectations. And after a while, you start to gain happiness from it again. It starts being normal.”
And finally, Joseph shares that determination is an important ingredient in overcoming challenges: “The determination aspect has really played a huge role in my ups and downs over the last few years. The main goal is to not stop until you achieve what you want to achieve.”
“Just keep going, don’t give up.”