It’s been a year since we got thrust into the middle of the global pandemic. Our lives had to take a drastic change. 2020 rightfully earned the name of the worst year of this century. It’s difficult to ignore how it affected our daily lives and training routines. Ultimate frisbee, like everything else, had to come to a standstill. We had to learn how to go about our lives. No more adrenaline rushing through our veins as we chase down the disc. Staying at home and keeping up with training is not an easy task. As it turns out, it takes a lot of self-resilience, especially if your tournament calendar got wiped from existence. How do you go about your ultimate frisbee training? How to keep going without knowing when will be the next safe opportunity to play this social sport?
The isolation you did not see coming
Last year was supposed to be the year. A time of new possibilities and starting over. I was looking forward to my packed tournament calendar. 2020 was going to be glorious. Full of Ultimate Frisbee, training plans, new challenges on the horizon. Instead, one March Friday had me packing all the office work gear back home with no word of ever coming back. The beginning of lockdown seemed so promising, with so many things to do during self-isolation. Introverts could finally show the world that quietude is a good thing. However, even they weren’t aware that they’d be stuck at home, with people from who they’d need, to take their time off. If 2020 was a feeling, it could be depression mixed with new anxieties popping up every two minutes. And if it was an exercise?
Everything moved indoors and even exercises have got confined in too little spaces. Right between work, making sense of life and crafting the vision of the future. The beginning of lockdown had a sense of fear and anxious wait. Every passing day was a dawning realization that things were not going to be the same for quite some time. The first impulse was to do everything as if it was ok. After that, it was easier to find yourself in comfy gym wear and work from a horizontal position. The lines between life areas blurred, making way to easy fixes and bad habits. No wonder some of us could experience a change in our sports life and training routines. After all, Ultimate Frisbee got utterly canceled.
A shift in training habits
One thing’s clear after we’ve settled into lockdown. Our exercise habits changed. During this time, many types of researches about different areas of our lives popped out. Some of them focused on how exercising habits changed and how it affected people who train often. The majority of training people found themselves working out less during the pandemic. An easy answer would be that laziness kicked in and the people don’t commit enough. The complicated answer is that a healthy body means a healthy mind and it takes two to play this game.
Researches such as Michigan Psychiatry Resources for Covid-19 points out these two are a close match. Physical activity and exercise can be effective in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Each day brings another “damage report” on planet earth and training can ease some of the stress it projects on us. It can lead to better sleep, mood and physical health. Support from friends and fitness apps prove to be a great way to enhance consistency and motivation. In sports, such as ultimate frisbee, training with a team plays an important part. It’s not only about the sports part, but also the social experience. Despite the change, working out proves to be just what we need to get through these stressful times.
Training is the key to staying healthy
According to WHO, adults should put into their routine about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week or 75 minutes of high-intensity training. The exercise bundle should consist of two sessions of strength-building activities and at least 30 minutes of movement five times per week. Warm-up and cooldown play especially a crucial role as we don’t move around as much as we should. Mobility and stretching should help with hip and back pains for those stuck at home office work.
Exercising is one of the most powerful tools we have for staying physically and mentally healthy. It can bring us motivation and help us regain a sense of control in the times where there’s little of it left. Remember all those times, when after a tough workout, you felt all those positive emotions floating around? If you compare it with the days spent in lockdown you will see the contrast! During times of this great uncertainty, exercising is the easiest way to help ease stress and anxiety. Exercise proves to be a great mood booster, can help maintain well-being and fight depression. It’s very important for those who find themselves stuck at the home office. Being home 24/7 without changing the environment can turn everyday life into a blur.
How the pandemic affects amateur and elite athletes?
Another research shows that the training world didn’t take it well after the push of the “stop” button. We’re still coping with a lot of uncertainty, but we’re also adapting. Amongst them are so-called fitness freaks, amateur sportspeople and pros. Frontiers in Psychology prepared researches “Physical Fitness and Exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic” and “Amateur and Recreational Athletes’ Motivation to Exercise, Stress, and Coping During the Corona Crisis“.
“Fitness freaks” during COVID-19
The results showed that the disturbance in the routine caused at first motivation to keep training. However, home-based workouts were less intense. As a result, the motivation to exercise started to falter. In turn, it influenced how people felt physically and emotionally. The common symptoms that people experienced were: a change in sleeping patterns, unexplained laziness, mental fatigue, general fear, anxiety, stress and frustration due to lockdown.
The research points out that many people adapted to their situation and found ways to stay active. Instead of waiting for the situation to blow over, people started to look for alternatives to heavy gym equipment exercises. Many decided to dive more into yoga and meditation. The workouts got more home environment friendly with high-intensity exercises. The weights got replaced by heavy buckets or water bottles. The exercises got more diverse and people looked for more varied alternatives to help them maintain the daily exercise routine. It contributed to their physical and mental health.
Maintaining the feel of connectedness
A training routine is hardly successful by pure power of will or motivation. The research group’s motivation was strongly associated with the absence of gym buddies and the gym environment. Without the feeling of connectedness, it’s hard to keep up with the fitness regimen. For many people, it’s essential to stay in touch with a gym or team environment to keep the motivation flowing and maintain the idea of working towards a common goal. “No pain, no gain” has so much more power when experienced in a group of like-minded people. Connectedness gives us motivation, persistence, boosts self-esteem and self-efficacy. At first, the motivation for a home workout might be high. With time it loses its focus because of a lack of the social aspect or the goal being too far off in the unstable future.
During the lockdown, many people were looking for ways to connect and social media played a huge part. Not only did it help to stay up to date with the situation, but also it enabled people to host online meetups. People were seeking ways to connect as there was a lack of face to face interactions and emotional detachment. Social media helped in boosting workout motivation, making the exercise experience more interactive and positive. People used the platforms to research training techniques, virtual fitness classes and fitness apps.
Athletes facing training hardships during lockdown
Another questionnaire focused on 95 amateur and recreational athletes during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Germany.
The first stage of lockdown included a whole lot of negative emotions and consequences. Less motivated athletes felt more negative emotions, which lead to lower motivation and problems with relaxation. According to research, female athletes were less motivated to train, than male athletes, because their stress and anxiety levels were higher. Elite athletes were worried about the future of their sport and it made them feel more anxious and depressed.
Communication with the coaches and the training quality and quantity decreased. The absence of a training schedule, teammates, or training without a coach caused that the feelings of competence were decreasing. It proves how important it is to stay connected with the sport’s environment and it’s connected to another conclusion. Those who received emotional support from family and friends found dealing with lockdown far easier. Athletes least emotionally affected by the pandemic and the lockdown showed a more stable motivation towards training.
Mental game is the future of training even in Ultimate Frisbee!
Athletes become more invested in self-improvement and regularly take time to work on their mental game, which is a positive result of the lockdown situation. Monitoring thoughts and feelings became relevant and there was a higher demand for online psychological counselling. Recommended techniques included mindfulness, guided performance imagery, re-setting goals, revisiting competition plans, affirmation exercises and discussions of holistic life balance. It shows a great need to improve focus on athletes’ well-being in the near future.
What distinguishes amateur and recreational athletes from “fitness freaks” is an athletic identity. It can be defined as the degree to which a person identifies with the role of being an athlete. Those with no change in motivation showed the highest values in athletic identity, engagement, goal setting, task-oriented coping, agreeableness and consistency.
Because of closed down sports facilities, social distancing and limited interaction with the coaches was highly problematic, athletes had to come up with their own coping mechanisms. They organized themselves via routines and schedules, trained using online tools and watched previous competitions. Some even took up new hobbies and it proved to be working well for them.
What elite athlete research can tell Ultimate Frisbee players about the importance of post-lockdown training?
“Elite Athletes and COVID-19 Lockdown: Future Health Concerns for an Entire Sector” covers concerns on restarting the sports world. Elite athletes, despite professional staff working with them, still face the risks of hasty returns. In usual circumstances, they avoid long periods of rest during and at the end of the competitive season. The reduction in training intensity varies from two to four weeks and doesn’t severely impact physical fitness. However, with long periods such as during our current situation, the concerns lay elsewhere. The prolonged pause leads to a decline in maximal oxygen consumption, the loss of endurance capacity and a loss of muscle strength and mass.
A fast re-start in sports raises doubts about its safety because the risk of an injury is high in these conditions in non-contact and contact sports. For example, everyone would love to go back to ultimate frisbee as fast as possible and it seems like the health of the players may take a backseat. While the sport mostly attracts amateur sportspeople, the risks of muscle-skeletal injuries are even higher. There’s mostly no staff to back up the training re-start and people might be too eager to jump back into their cleats. Teams planning to go back into the game should consider safely levelling up their ultimate frisbee training for injury risk reduction.
8 tips on jumpstarting your Ultimate Frisbee training
Did you “check” a few boxes while reading the above-mentioned facts? I found them comforting and I can see some patterns in my training routines from the past year. It felt like all my plans and training efforts for the ultimate frisbee season got annihilated. There’s no denying that physical exercise boosts how we feel. As athletes (even amateur) we need to keep our workout routines to ensure a quick and safe return to ultimate frisbee or other sports that we can’t live without. Here are a few tips to keep that motivation going!
1. Make a plan for training days
A training plan means consistency and it’s a challenge on its own. To stay engaged in your workout, prepare a plan for those days. Base it on your energy levels, time available and make it up to date with your health. Fatigue from covid-related stress is a thing. Switch it up a strength or high-intensity training with a relaxing yoga workout. While making a plan, make sure to prioritize your workouts by checking how much time you’ve got available. As most of us had to change our lifestyles, it’s not a bad thing to start small and build up gradually with training intensity.
If you’re working from home, you’ve probably noticed a deficit in moving around, especially during the autumn and winter months. Working out in the morning can energize you and set a positive attitude for the rest of the day. If you notice your energy flagging, take a break from work or set up a challenge every hour to do some “microwave” exercises. Every time you find yourself waiting for something, add an exercise. For example, while waiting for coffee, you might as well try some burpees or squats.
2. Re-establish your ultimate frisbee training goals
It’s a good thing to update your training and re-asses your ultimate frisbee goals. It’s hard to tell when it will be safe for the tournaments to return in these conditions. You can focus on what you enjoy in training and set up reasonable goals. Instead of setting a goal for staying in a good athletic shape, set a goal of walking outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Are you worried about injuries creeping back into your life? Set a strengthening and mobility routine on certain days and stick with it. Are you trying to master certain throws? Set a throwing session once a week if the situation allows it. Do you want to level up your game and delve into the world of game strategy? Choose a day, join a specific ultimate frisbee group, so that way you can learn about from the best!
3. Train with apps and workout programs
Often the home-based training might feel less engaging, especially for those who find themselves motivated by a charismatic instructor or the fitness class environment. The intensity of such training usually makes us want to force us to do better. Even building your own training routine may not be that easy. After all, you can’t be an expert in everything. Workout programs with trainers can make it easier to know what you should focus on and train more effectively.
If you’re aiming for consistency, you can try training apps for running and even ultimate frisbee oriented workouts. You can try anything and see if it works for you. I found Nike Training Club and Disc-In keeping me engaged and as for intervals, I’m still looking forward to using Zombies, Run! Gamification keeps things interesting.
4. Keep your health in check
Moderate physical activity supports immune functions, but overdoing it can have the opposite effect and your organism may rebel. These days maintaining the same level of training activities may be difficult. Instead of forcing a high intensity of training, listen to your body’s needs and try something else. It’s better to pay more attention to the quality of training than forcing it. Instead of forcing that 10 km run, focus on your breathing and technique. Sometimes it’s wiser to stop and fight another day. I’ve learned it the hard way. I was trying to force my body to cooperate before I’ve learned I had anemia striking back and my thyroid joined the party to push on the breaks. So, if there’s anything that ails you, remember that it’s not a bad thing to slow things down and it’s a not weakness.
5. Find a training buddy and connect with your ultimate frisbee community
Staying connected with your friends, team and the community can help you get through this hard time. It’s important to support each other and celebrate together. Social distancing is still important to keep yourself and others in good health. There will be time for bigger gatherings and team training, but it doesn’t mean you can’t meet people. Just keep it safe. A training buddy can help you keep your training on track and you can make a habit of meeting two times a week for workouts. You can even try online training to keep you motivated or simply establish an online doc where you’ll be logging your progress along with others. I found it helpful to join a motivating group on Facebook called Ultimate Frisbee – Social Distance Training Tips – from the UAP.
6. Keep things interesting
The lockdown reality makes it easy for a routine to set in as the days blur together. The things you do are one and the same. Training becomes a thing that you should do instead of something you like to do. Slowly, the living room couch claims your life with a promise of binge-watching. Doing the same exercises over and over leads to lower levels of commitment while you’re stuck in the same environment.
If you feel your motivation flagging, focus on how much better you’ll feel after you move a bit. Don’t be afraid to change it up! Instead of cardio try dancing workouts. If you’re going on your daily walk then try visiting a new neighbourhood or explore forests. Training can be whatever your soul desires. If you want to dance then do it. Want to wander the forests instead of beating your best time for a 5 km run? Do it.
Celebrating your achievements is an important part of wherever you are in life. Don’t dismiss even those small accomplishments. Reward yourself. You might even find it helpful to practice gratitude. It may help you appreciate stuff you have and feel happier about your life. For example, I’m really grateful for my cat being such a clingy beastie, because she makes me laugh all the time. Remember how research showed that many athletes started to turn their attention to mental training? Consider it a part of your daily work out. You can find your own celebration recipe and it can be anything as long as it makes you smile. Remember to share your goals, routines and progress. Support and encouragement are all we need. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll inspire someone with your training?
8. Be kind to yourself
Lastly, but not the least important, don’t be hard on yourself. That inner critic can be quite a vicious beastie, so don’t let it bully you for not sticking to a training plan or failing to excel on a bad day. Just because you can’t do something right now, it doesn’t mean you should put yourself down because of it. You’re stuck with yourself forever and that’s why your own happiness is essential. That’s why you should be kinder and more understanding. It’s always easier to say it to someone else. Perhaps by practising a nicer approach toward yourself you’ll be able to see yourself in a better light. Perhaps your inner critic will learn to be more forgiving and constructive once you stand up for yourself.
Hopefully, you’ve survived this long post. It took me a few months to start writing again and a year to post something new. The satisfaction’s so much greater. I’d love to hear from you about your training hacks and routines. Is there anything in particular that helped you to survive the pandemic in the past year? How’s your ultimate frisbee training in times of the pandemic?