Maintaining Athletic Focus While Navigating the New Normal

2020-04-27 15:23:04

Adversity is a common theme, both in the racing world and in life. The COVID-19 pandemic is relevant in both contexts, especially for passionate cyclists and racers.

Joel Harwood, Owner and Coach at Blueprint Athlete Development, and trainer to some of Norco’s fastest riders, shares how athletes are dealing with the pandemic, and makes a few suggestions on how we all could frame social distancing as an opportunity, rather than as a setback.

Words by Joel Harwood

Right now, every cyclist is experiencing a loss of identity to some degree. In some cases, bikes are simply a vessel for fun, for others they're transportation, and for a select few it is an occupation. Regardless of which category we fall into, we're all grieving some kind of loss due to social distancing, event cancellations, and trail closures.

For Norco racers, both amateur and elite, their daily routines and process have been structured by 2020 events for weeks, months, and in some cases, years. The loss of these events can leave riders feeling uncertain about their next steps, which further underscores Haley Smith's mental strategies related to mindset, mental flexibility, and hope that she discussed last month.

For this reason, the focus for most Norco athletes has been to maintain a flexible mindset and to shift sense of purpose for the time being. That doesn't necessarily mean the cessation of training, but it absolutely means that things look different.

It’s important for athletes to take some time to relax, recharge, and reflect on their new reality. Finding new hobbies to suit their unique lifestyle, remaining optimistic and excited for whatever unfolds with competitive seasons, and balancing their sense of social-emotional belonging within their respective communities.

At Norco, our team athletes are all doing different things to address these needs, but the themes remain the same. With minimal equipment, now is a great opportunity to work on new parts of athleticism such as speed and agility, flexibility, coordination, and new activities. With less access to riding, now is the perfect time to master the wheelie, explore areas within our own backyards, and to ride simply for the joy of it without the worry of an upcoming competition.

Beyond training, the team has been taking this time to enjoy new hobbies, connect more frequently with family, and engage more with the collective cycling community.

Without a doubt, there is a little bit of a void at the moment without racing on the calendar for the foreseeable future. That said, everybody has the potential to emerge from this adversity richer from the experience. For those so inclined, this time can be utilized to work on riding skills, athleticism, flexibility, and the life skills required to excel at racing's highest levels.

The main obstacle to working on these things tends to be time, and for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has given them exactly that gift. Once athletes have recharged, the process of preparation for racing begins to repeat itself, albeit modified to respect health recommendations, individual training environments, and trail access within each athlete's community.

Any amateur cyclist can use this time to thrive in the same manner as the Norco athletes. Finding a new sense of purpose, engaging in new hobbies, cross training, and seeing this time as an opportunity for self-improvement as an athlete, family member, friend, or community ambassador. Broaden the things that give you meaning, define yourself in new ways, and focus on the positives that can come from the experience.

Unpredictability can be quite a curve ball, which makes a flexible mindset the most important trait not only for Norco's Factory Team, but for everybody. We're all in this Alone. Together.

Blueprint Athlete Development / @blueprint.athlete.development / #blueprintathletedevelopment