Thanks to COVID, the year 2020 has been anything but ordinary. Wazoogles fuels several incredible athletes who have had to adjust their competitive plans due to lockdown and cancelled events. But like this year has been anything but ordinary, so are our ambassadors, and their ability to adapt, accept, and find a way to move forwards in their professional disciplines is nothing short of inspiring. Wazoogles intern, Alex Duffy, chats to South African triathlete, Georgie Grobler, and South African XCO mountain biker Matteo Damilano about how they’ve managed to put a positive spin to this madness. 

How have you had to readjust your training since late March when SA was put in national lockdown?

Georgie: My training readjusted dramatically during strict lockdown (Level 5) as I am a triathlete and therefore normally run, cycle, and swim outside. I luckily had an indoor bike trainer, which I spent many an hour riding on. I started to ride on a virtual platform called Zwift, which enables you to ride alongside other athletes, and this created comradely in a very lonely time. I also decided to Aquajog in my pool as well as stationary swimming. However, the swimming was cut short very soon after as winter progressed.
Matteo: Because all races were cancelled during lockdown I’ve had to go back into a base training period to make sure I don’t over-train or reach my peak too soon. This means I’m doing a lot of long rides on the indoor trainer and a lot of strength work.

What have you found has helped you most during this uncertain time to stay mentally focused and positive with training and nutrition? Georgie: I am pretty much ADHD and exercise has always been my way of keeping sane (and my family). I spent a lot of time on my bike trying to work off the extra energy (as well as chasing my dogs around the garden). I love eating the foods that make me feel energised and healthy and with some extra time on my hands allowed me to experiment and try new recipes that I had always wanted to try. I have an incredible coach who is more of a mentor than a coach who kept my program dynamic and interesting which made it a lot easier to stay active and positive.
Matteo: Zwift is a platform for virtual cycling and running.  I’ve been trying to do as many Zwift races as possible to keep in the swing of things. This way I stay motivated to train and I can keep improving my power. The races help motivate me to train because at least I have a race once every two to three weeks to look forward to.

Have you adopted any new elements to your training regimen during COVID lockdown? 
Georgie: I started doing gym 3 times a week, which was very new to me. During my university life- trying to train 3 disciplines, balance studies, and have a social life, gym is normally the first one to go. However, I started to quite enjoy my gym sessions on video sessions with my mates. Unfortunately, when the hard lockdown was lifted – I spent more time in the mountains trail running and biking than I did gymming… but I think in the end it did help make me stronger and give me that competitive edge (and a new respect for gym bunnies).

Matteo: Previously I only used Zwift to train indoors during a school week when my time was limited.  Now I not only train on Zwift but I also race. This way I stay motivated to train so that I can keep improving my power. These races are so different from my normal XCO (Cross Country Olympic) format of cycling. Technical skills do not help on the virtual platform so Zwift has helped me to improve in areas where before I was not concentrating, like criterium racing.  Power and tactics are at play instead of skills.  I have acquired new skills and techniques which will help me enormously once proper XCO races start again.

What are some of your favourite techniques to keep things interesting on the trainer, or while training solo?
Georgie: During my hard intervals, I just blast music into my ears and endure the pain but on my recovery rides and the longer weekend rides I liked to watch past World Championships and Olympics. My brother also set up his bike next to mine so I also tried to convince him to ride alongside me for some company.
Matteo: Well one thing I certainly had to do was spice up my surroundings so I got myself a good quality Bluetooth speaker and I pump the music while training. Joining races on Zwift and pushing myself in new formats of racing also helped a lot. At first, I was getting crushed by my international competition but this motivated me to keep trying and figuring out how to improve. To my surprise, I now look forward to my weekly Zwift races.

Lastly, if you could say anything to an athlete that might find themselves struggling to stay motivated during this time, what would you tell them?
Georgie: I would tell them to set small goals for themselves such as a 5 km personal record run time or maybe reach a certain amount of skips in a minute. For me personally, I think to keep motivated you have to enjoy what you do – whether it is going for a beautiful hike or trail run in the mountains or maybe a cycle that involves your favourite coffee stop – that’s what gives me the motivation to keep going.
Matteo: Instead of setting huge long term goals, set small weekly and daily goals like improving your average watts every time you do an interval or improving your position in an online race. This way you are not focusing on a race that may not happen. Instead, you’re focusing on something you know you can 100% complete, achieve, and conquer.