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Weekly routine, distancing from mobiles: Mental conditioning coach helps athletes cope up with COVID-19 lockdown stress

Visualisation techniques, distancing mobile phones: Mental conditioning coaches help athletes cope up COVID-19 lockdown

New Delhi, March 26: The sporting fraternity is one of the worst-hit sectors due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown as the athletes are confined to their respective houses or facilities with very little physical activity. Keeping mental and physical fitness is a gospel truth behind the success of every athlete but the shutdown is taking a toll on both these aspects.

The Tokyo Olympic games suspended for another year came as a major jolt to the athletes who were setting their sights on the quadrennial event and aiming to hit their peak in the days to come. But the players also understand the importance of staying indoors and enclosed themselves in the comforts of their houses.

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However, coping up with such unprecedented times isn't easy for the athletes who spent a large chunk of their lives on training or playing. In such situations, the role of mental strength and conditioning coaches gets pretty important as they help the athletes remain in the right state of mind.

Pune-based NGO Lakshya, which ensures world-class training to the players that will help in enhancing their performance in the respective sports, is doing just that to help the athletes associated with it.

Lakshya is a professionally managed not-for-profit organisation and extends holistic support to more than 80 sportspersons from eight different disciplines. Five of Lakshya's players have represented India in the 2012 London Olympics, seven at Rio Olympics 2016.

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Currently, the NGO's sole objective is to keep all of its athletes in perfect shape, both physically and mentally.

Dr Swaroop Savanur is the Mental Conditioning and Peak Performance Coach at Lakshya and he currently caters his services to the likes of paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal, boxers Pooja Rani and Simranjit Kaur, Sunil Kumar wrestler (Greco-roman).

Dr Swaroop Savanur, who has worked with several Olympic-bound athletes in the past and helped them overcome troubled times, is counselling the athletes to successfully combat the challenges they are facing during the shutdown.

Responding to MyKhel's querries Dr Savanur said it is not the physical aspect of the athletes he's working on these days, his sole focus is to keep them in a better mental state instead.

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He said he has created a personalised weekly mental routine for the athletes based on the specific challenges a person is facing. He's suggesting Mental Imagery and visualisation techniques to the sportspersons to maintain their muscle memory and also advising them to maintain good sleep and food habits. Apart from these, Dr Savanur has also asked the athletes to strictly control their mobile phone usage which he terms 'mobile off' time.

Here are the excerpts from the telephonic conversation with Dr Swaroop Savanur:

MyKhel: These are unprecedented times, how challenging it becomes for mental conditioners to keep the athletes motivated?

Dr Swaroop Savanur: Personally, it's not been differently challenging than normal days when I am working with Olympic and other elite athletes during their training time. For me, just as athletes have a process to follow, I focus my energies on understanding the challenges and providing the best possible solutions and strategies to my athletes, of course, customised based on their individual mental needs. The current lockdown presents a different set of mental challenges for the athletes and the strategies are provided likewise.

Of course, for athletes, this lockdown presents a unique challenge. Athletes train to get ready for important events in their calendar, including the Olympics this year. Unfortunately, all of this has come to a sudden, unexpected pause. Suddenly, athletes who are used to having a routine, train and expend their energies on the field are confined at home, feeling lost and helpless.

MK: How are you helping the athletes to keep themselves focussed as they are not accustomed to sitting idly at home for a longer period of time?

Dr Swaroop: First of all, I am focusing on impressing upon them on how to view these days. My emphasis is on making them understand that the lockdown days are a physical break, but not a mental break. Their training will start immediately after the lockdown is over and before they realise it, there will be even more competitions than before that they will have to participate to compensate for lost time. They will need to be ready for that. Thus, in the lockdown days, they will have to follow a routine.

MK: Any activities you are suggesting the athletes so that they are in a better frame of mind?

Dr Swaroop: Activities are via a weekly mental routine that I create with the athletes and is based on the challenges that the athlete is feeling. Some might be related to resetting of goals, having a daily physical training routine that their trainer has given, Mental Imagery and visualisation techniques that they can use to 'maintain their muscle memory', maintaining good sleep and food habits but most importantly, controlling their mobile usage by strictly following a 'Mobile Off' Time.

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Story first published: Thursday, March 26, 2020, 14:03 [IST]
Other articles published on Mar 26, 2020
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