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Staying focused: How Pro Athletes Are Adapting

It’s a challenging time at the moment, but athletes are used to dealing with challenges. We asked Team On pros how they are adapting to the current situation.


Unprecedented challenges and uncertain race schedules mean runners everywhere need to change things up right now, but if you’re a pro then it’s particularly challenging. We caught up with elite On athletes to see how they’re adapting and staying positive at this tough time. 

Rachel Cliff, Marathoner


“I haven’t met a single person whose life and immediate goals haven’t been impacted by the Coronavirus. For me, it started quietly on February 17, when I learnt that the mass participation at the Tokyo Marathon would be canceled. After that we made some alternate plans but they were quickly uprooted again with more cancellations.


“Initially, I didn’t appreciate the severity of the situation but as the virus spread I quickly came to understand how critical these cancellations are for protecting public safety.


“I took about two weeks to sit back and hit the reset button which I think was important. While I’m sad to not be able to race, especially in such a big year, I am trying to regain a sense of normalcy and keep focused on my own goals. There’s been some need for adaptation – I’ve been hesitant to go to the gym to do weights for example – but I’m trying to do more core exercises at home to make up for it.


I’m trying to find joy in my training and enjoy the art of pushing my body in workouts, even if it’s not immediately clear what my next goal is.


“I’m constantly reminding myself how important social distancing is to protecting the health of others and the capacity of our medical system. I’m taking pride in doing my part and having faith that a race opportunity will eventually provide itself.


“The great thing about running as a sport is how adaptable and independent it is. Getting outside and going for runs has always been therapeutic for me, and now, more than ever, I’m appreciating my time on the trails. Even if you’re forced to stay inside you can still set your own indoor fitness goals. That’s one of the best things about this sport, it’s all about pushing your body and, if you still have your health, there’s no reason you can’t continue to do that, even if you have to be a little bit creative. I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to be an athlete.”

Bart Aernouts, Ironman Triathlete


“I’m currently in training camp in Lanzarote and we have been quite lucky so far. Up to now I could do all my planned training sessions. Of course this can change at any moment.


“My next race, 70.3 Oceanside in California, is canceled so my training plans changed as well. It’s hard to adapt as we have no idea about the next months so the main goal is to stay fit and wait for more news in order to start planning again.  


“I know that I was already in a good shape thanks to my victory in Dubai and I just try to stay motivated to keep training so I don’t lose this good shape. Apart from that, I’m also blessed to be healthy at the moment and I always think that there are worse things than adapting my race and training plans.”

Chris Thompson, Distance Runner


“Focusing purely on the training and racing aspect, yes, training for races that have already been postponed or are in danger of postponement is a frustration. That initial emotional feeling of disappointment and wasted training is a natural response. However, this gives us a good opportunity to remind ourselves of why we run and the 'other' advantages to training – keeping fit and healthy.


“Yes, we like to have progress goals, aims and objectives. With the ultimate dream of P.b's or achieving landmark goals. But the underlying foundation is for a healthy lifestyle and good habits. Never has this been more important. By keeping those skills going and continuing to practise good habits, leading by example, you can remind yourself of the massive positives we can sometimes take for granted: feeling fit and healthy and ready to fight off anything with a strong immune system.


“Reconnecting with the basics and foundations of a good training plan and habits obviously has its positives during this time. It keeps us hungry for when a racing program can be set once again, hopefully feeling possibly even more ready than before.


Positivity is within us all. Accessing our own positive mindset will often come by reducing a lot of the 'noise' that surrounds us.


“‘Controlling the controllable' is a good way to do this. Often we feel overwhelmed by outside factors we have no control over. I like to think about the things I can personally do to make my situations better or easier and focus on those. Alongside 'keeping my desk clean' where I try to tackle one thing at a time, again helping me manage situations in bite size amounts. This in turn will help me find a way through difficult periods and find positive ways forward time and time again. 


“Small habits like these help me to maintain a positive attitude as much as possible. This in turn has helped me create instant positive reactions especially in high stress or emotional situations like racing. When your body is trying to stop you hurting yourself I have created natural coping strategies and a 'headspace' which I can use to keep the pressure on.”   

Alicja Konieczek, Steeplechaser


“It is a really tough time right now [regarding racing], I was really disappointed at first and heartbroken. When I heard that the NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the US) is canceling all events, it affected me as well as I was planning on starting my season at some of the high-level collegiate meets.


“My training continues normally. I was planning on running a fast time at the beginning of May, but in this new scenario, I will keep up the volume training for a longer time and continue to do lower intensity, long workouts. 


“I keep telling myself, ‘you got more time to get better’ which turned out to be my new motivation. Trying to turn this scenario into an opportunity is the only way to not to break mentally.” 


For inspiration and advice about adapting for your athletic goals, follow our social media channels  

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