Yiannis Christodoulou

Guest blog: Yiannis Christodoulou

Yiannis Christodoulou is a European & National Aquathlon Champion (Age Group), GB Aquathlon team captain, Representing Great Britain in the 2020 European Triathlon Championships (Age Group). Yiannis has compiled some key information for help those that have been set back by event cancellations to 'Keep calm and carry on'.

Your race was cancelled? Stay calm, stay positive and tips to keep your training going.

There is something at the moment on the news and around the world that we can’t escape and that of course is the Coronavirus. This virus has caused chaos around the world, with countries struggling to control the spread and some countries even gone into lockdown. Many events have been cancelled and clubs are postponing training until further notice and so on. It is tough times and a situation none of us expected or has gone through in our lives. So I wrote a blog on how to keep fit, motivated and what you can do if you’re in lockdown and can’t leave the house to maintain some sort of fitness. As an Athlete and Interim Head Coach of Canterbury Harriers I share your frustration with all of your training and plans up in the air. Please note, no training is a waste. Being part of clubs has changed my life and helped my health and mental well-being. I have made lots of friends too, so it will be hard for a lot of us through this difficult time. Firstly, we must listen to guidelines set by the government so that this can pass quickly. It’s important to Stay Calm, stay positive and keep moving forward so we can beat this together. If you're struggling for motivation just do something even if it’s just for 10 minutes! For example, get outside and go for a run. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes just go home but it’s likely your will stay out much longer, so that’s the first step. Like many of you, my targets, goals and season plans are now all up in air. Training was going well and I was getting ready for my first important race in May. It's ok to feel disappointment about races being cancelled and goals not achieved, but we are all in this together and we can beat this together. At the time of writing this I have been fortunate to train as normal with no pool or gym closures. But I am getting prepared for this. Safety is so important so I will do what I have to do to stay well and safe. So with races being cancelled, parkrun cancelled, the 2020 Olympics postponed, clubs runs cancelled etc, I therefore had to change my training up as it would be too early to peak for the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in August and not knowing if that will go ahead as I can see this being a long period.

The UK government closed pools and leisure centres on Friday 20th March. So how can you maintain your swim fitness?

Well the problem is, unless you have your own pool, it will be a tough one. So you could work more on another area such as running and cycling and focus on that. I started swimming in 2012 and have really swam consistently since with only a few weeks off from it each year. So like many of you it looks like long periods of not swimming is on the cards. However a lot of swim training is also done in the gym. Swimmers call this land base training; you can do a lot at home, even if you don’t have any equipment. If you already go to the gym, you will likely being doing some of these exercises below to make you stronger and keep injuries to the minimal. Try things like press ups, Sit ups, V Sit ups,  Plank, Side Planks, Jumping lunges, Dead Bug, Tread the needle, Alkeanas, Glute bridge, shoulder wall slides - all of these will help you for training your core and swimming. If you have a resistance band you can do Dead Bugs with a band and that will help your core and give your arms some resistance. You could add squats, but don’t overdo it! You can produce a circuit at home, such as press ups, sit ups and Planks x10 reps of each and then do 3 sets and maybe add squats, Sit ups, Dead bug in the same format. There is plenty of strength videos online that will keep you strong and with some small Carido workout. Just make sure when searching the internet you look at the right form and copy as you don’t want to get injured. All of the above exercises can be done without weights, but if you have got weights, you can use them for some exercises.

What about running?

If you have a treadmill you can pretty much do all your runs on the treadmill no problem, or maybe use UK Government advice to exercise outdoors once a day. If you usually run with your club then you might need some sessions. Good sessions I like are mile reps 3x1 mile rep with 3 minutes recovery between the reps and a warm up and warm down either side, easy runs and long runs will get you through too, but I am sure you know what sessions you can do. If you don’t have a treadmill and not allowed out the house but can get into the garden perhaps you can run up and down your garden? If it’s too small, what about doing drills and working on your running form? Good drills I like are high knees, A steps, heel flicks, strides. These will help your form but of course your running fitness won’t be the same. It’s important your training does not go stale so just because you’re not training with others or racing you can change your training up. If you want to do easy runs, time on feet is a good way to train. You could increase you runs by 6-9 minutes each week for three weeks and then hold for three weeks. For example if you start from 60 minutes then go 1 hour 6 minutes, 1 hour 12 minutes, 1 hour 18 minutes and hold that 1:18 for two weeks. Then have a recovery week cutting back to 60 min run or less. Easy runs should be easy and don’t worry about pace the slower the better as it makes you more efficient and faster in the long run. A rough guide on heart rate zones is around 60% your heart rate max no higher any higher you’re over training into different zones such as going in to threshold zone etc. Easy runs in theory you should be fresh legs not sore at all the following day and you can run hard. If you don’t know your heart rate max, zone 2 is the right zone, it might feel slow but your body adapts and pace will come down my coach Mark Sheperd always stresses the importance of zone 2 training. When you do have a recovery week, keep the intensity the same but reps low. Therefore if you normally do 6x1k reps then cut that down to 3 to 4 reps. If you want to stay connected with people, consider mini competitions with friends via Strava as this could be great for motivation. Lastly cycling. This can be done easily indoors with your bike/exercise bike. Your bike will need a turbo trainer or rollers which you can pick up fairly cheap. This allows you to train just like you would outdoors. There are plenty of programs to follow and even virtual rides which will keep motivation high. You can even hook up with friends and training buddies online for some friendly competition. That’s how you can still train, but you need to keep motivated. There are a few things you can do, such as have a break and a recovery week. Use this time to think about what you want to achieve and focus on in the coming months. There is nothing worse than pounding your body all year round and then only resting once you’re broken. Remember that somebody believes in you. This somebody could be a coach, manager, trainer, fellow athlete or loved one. They will have the belief in your ability that you currently may not have. There is no harm in asking them for reassurances. Think in positive ways at all times. Positivity can be developed by assessing each day (training) and competition sessions. Assess your own positivity through forms of achievement through technique, practice and movement. Thinking positively leads to better mind and body balance. Positive thinking enables the neural pathways within the mind to operate with clarity and purpose. Understand that it can be done. Embark on each task as a champion by having a clear and defined plan. Achieve your task step by step. Do not take on a big task and expect to complete it quickly. Have patience and believe in yourself. Stay in control of the controllable. Maintaining the controllable builds self-confidence because it provides you with a sense of focus and directive. Remember that you can never control what others are thinking/doing but you can control what you are achieving. There are a range of variables within running that can lead to performers losing sight of the controllable. External factors/influences will only hinder performance and must be beaten. Recall previous success. A mantra that I use is related to distance travelled. Think about previous successes that you have had. What did that feel like? How were your emotions during this time? Further, how confident did that make you feel? Recall is a positive mechanism to enable one to re-build confidence as it associates with belief. Set short-term goals. Most athletes suffer from low self-confidence because they allow the issue(s) to prolong and as a consequence fail to deal with problems head on. To overcome these issues, set short-term goals that will enable the flow of confidence (no matter how small) to start. Through constantly achieving your short-term goals you will build your levels of self-confidence like a snowball growing bigger. Short-term goals should be related to processes that can be achieved. The World Situation is bad however, exercise wise it’s not all bad. You have lots of options with what you can do if facilities are closed, or if you go in to complete lockdown. I believe it’s important to keep smiling, keep positive in order to move forward as we can beat this but most importantly stay safe. Motivation might be tough but I hope the tips help, setting small goals each week and taking each day as it comes in this climate is a good way to go. I will be posting videos to help with training on my YouTube Channel link HERE please check it out and subscribe.  
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