'It's tough for athletes to stay mentally tuned when training in isolation'

'It's tough for athletes to stay mentally tuned when training in isolation'
Racewalkers David Kenny, left, and Brendan Boyce, right, with coach Rob Heffernan, centre, during a training session at Fota Island before the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak is impacting on everyone’s lives, including elite sportsmen and women.

Inter-county GAA hurlers, footballers, camogie players, ladies’ footballers, professional rugby players, and others must do without the standard Tuesday and Thursday night training sessions and the game at the weekend.

The outbreak came at the start or the middle of the playing seasons, thereby causing maximum disruption.

“You’d wonder what the absence of a dressing room will have on them mentally, over time?” asked Jonny Holland, well-known nutrition, and health and wellness expert.

The former Munster rugby out-half is Cork GAA’s performance nutritionist, working with the county’s senior hurlers and footballers and is well-placed to talk about the current difficulties.

“I was listening to Joe Canning, on radio, saying training on your own isn’t the same as going into battle in championship,” Holland says.

“It got me thinking, because I was always part of a team sport, though I always enjoyed training on my own, as well.

“When I was playing, I was part of the group, but since I retired, I’ve trained on my own. It’s difficult for sports people used to groups, but not individuals, for example, who are preparing for an Olympics,” Holland says.

“They are trying their best to keep their activity up by training on their own, which is hard motivationally.

“The intensity is not going to be the same as on the pitch, with a team, competing against each other.

“It all depends on the individual’s set-up at home, what they’ve got set up in the garage, and some are finding it harder than others.

“They can still all run and, I suppose, they can find a green space somewhere, but it’s getting the weights done which is the thing; trying to maintain muscle mass,” Holland says.

“They must try to match their nutritional habits with their activity habits and I think it’s about keeping fellows in shape.

“I don’t think you’re going to get phenomenally stronger, fitter and faster, but you definitely want to maintain what you have for as long as possible.

“We don’t know how long this is going to go on for and it looks like a good bit yet,” Holland adds.

Not knowing when collective training and games will resume is adding to anxiety levels.

And it’s not like flicking a switch, that once the country is given the all-clear, that elite players can simply get back playing straight away.

“I don’t know if there will be time for another pre-season when games eventually resume.

“Everything is up in the air, at the moment. They will probably be given a couple of weeks before getting back into game action,” Holland says.

“The strength-and-conditioning coaches are up the walls, trying to find different ways of keeping the lads training and fresh enough, within certain constraints.

“If you come back to training de-conditioned, all of a sudden you can pick up injuries by spiking their load and fellows going at it too hard.

“It’s a difficult time for them, because they don’t know what they are training for,” Holland says.

Holland in his playing days with Munster.
Holland in his playing days with Munster.

“You’re trying to keep your motivation high and your intensity high, but it’s hard. It’s going to be difficult in the next few weeks. I’ll try to talk to them remotely, keeping in touch to make sure they are not forgotten.”

Maintaining the same diet as before the shut-down is one of the main things Holland is stressing. “Proper nutrition allows you recover quicker, build up more muscle mass to become stronger, fitter, and faster,” Holland says.

More in this section

Sponsored Content