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Erika Kelly's Covid-19 blog

RL360-sponsored race walker Erika Kelly shares her thoughts on the effects of Covid-19 on her daily life and training schedule

How I’m feeling:

Overall, I am doing relatively well within the given circumstances. After suffering a meniscus tear in my knee in February, it turned out (in some ways) to be good timing, as all my races for the foreseeable have been postponed or cancelled. It has meant that the focus has shifted from trying to be race-ready and fit, to more of a rehab-oriented approach and getting on top of all the weaknesses and abnormalities that could have led to the knee injury in the first place. It’s not always the case that we have the time to apply such a focus with the hustle and bustle of life getting in the way, so the opportunity to slow down, has proved to be of significant benefit. Moreover, it has been hugely advantageous towards getting me to sit still and finish up six years of a Psychology & Counselling degree, through completion of a dissertation exploring the effects of running upon elements of mental illness.


What I’m doing now:

With races being cancelled left, right and centre, rehabbing from the knee surgery has taken centre stage. It’s been a daunting time, and having never experienced an injury like this historically, it’s been a huge learning curve, which has truly tested both my physical and mental resilience. Fortunately, and compared to ‘normal’ training, I have been able to fulfil similar quantities of time to training per week, but these are no longer all race walking based. Cross-training, hiking and strength & conditioning sessions are in full swing, and I’ve become an avid fan of cycling and the virtual scene of Zwift – if you have an opportunity to try it – DO! I try to remain grateful for the fact that I am still able to train, even if it isn’t quite to the extent that I would like it to be. It’s 100% better than not being able to do anything at all! One thing’s for sure though… I won’t be taking the ability to race walk pain-free, for granted again. It’s been quite humbling to strip the training back to the fundamentals, because normally, we would never have the opportunity to do so, so I’m embracing it with open arms.


What I’m doing to fill the days:

With my temporary role with the IOM Government completed, I had been spending a lot of time concentrating and working on getting my final assignments and dissertation submitted, which hopefully concludes my degree and six long years with The Open University. Now I’ve finished up studying for a few months, I have applied for a number of voluntary mental health roles, in the hope of gaining some work experience, before working towards a Masters and PhD in Clinical Psychology. This is proving somewhat tricky within the current climate however. 


As mentioned above, I am enjoying mixing up my training regime, and being more flexible with when I carry it out (i.e. late morning, as opposed to not having to get up super early and out the door!). This has really helped to maintain sanity and some structure into the day. It’s also been a great opportunity to take the dogs out and explore new hiking and walking routes on our doorstep, which we’ve never really had the time to properly do. Honestly, just 10 minutes of exercise can really make a bad day seem so much better and fulfilling! In addition to this, I’ve really been enjoying baking and cooking more - baked goods coming to RL360 when lockdown is over! 



What are you finding hard to deal with?

Honestly, not being able to race walk every day, twice a day, has been much harder than I would have ever anticipated. I had never really comprehended how much I love and rely on the sport for a number of things – happiness, fulfilment, routine, and the general feeling of feeling strong, healthy and fit. But it’s been an important reminder of the fine line in which athletes find themselves operating on. Thankfully, being able to train in different ways has been eye-opening and similarly physically challenging. Concentrating on completing University has provided as a wonderful distraction, in addition to drinking copious amounts of coffee, reading, baking/eating the baking, and playing harp. Applying perspective: ultimately, this is not the end of the world (I know this intuitively, although sometimes it feels like it), and if there was ever a time to be injured, it is now, with the racing season diminishing before our very eyes. You have to try and make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation, and knowing that the bigger goals (qualifying for the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and European/World Championships) remain the same, helps hugely with staying on track and motivated. 


Not being able to see friends and family, hug them and hang out, has also been challenging. Thank goodness for technology like Facetime, Zoom and being able to send cards in the post! It helps to hold on to knowing that this won’t last forever – we will be reunited again, and it will be so, so wonderful!


What are you enjoying if anything?

I’m super grateful to be living with Ollie, and very, very fortunately, we have experienced some lush weather, which I’ve been enjoying training, and sitting out in that when I can. As already mentioned, this time really has been the best opportunity to really knuckle down on my body’s weaknesses and work on getting them rectified. Normally, I would be trying to balance studying with working, whilst trying to get the miles in on the road and track, with the aim of getting race-ready. It’s been somewhat comforting to have the pressure taken away, and simply find enjoyment in the training being carried out. 


More than ever, I am incredibly grateful to have the support and backing of RL360, especially with the current challenges being faced. It has really helped with keeping motivated, to rise above, and continue striving for the big goals. Thank you so much RL360 – your assistance has, and will continue to be, invaluable!