Paralympian Lex Gillette

We are indeed in unique and turbulent times. As we were all gearing up for Spring, words like Coronavirus or COVID-19 were not part of our lexicon. Move United, our Member Network, and adaptive sports organizations across the country were gearing up for Spring and Summer programs, including the various regional games, Paralympic trials, and other normal activities.

Although this pandemic has disrupted our lives in many different ways, it doesn’t have to impact our physical and mental well-being. During these challenging times, we want you to be safe, be active, and be connected.

BE SAFE.

Without a doubt, the term or phrase of the year will be social distancing. We do need to maintain a safe physical distance from others, with the recommended six feet apart. If you are sick, stay home. Please note that we are in an ever-changing environment with this outbreak, so please adhere to all CDC guidelines as well as local and state policies when it comes to their recommendations. Check out Peter Axelson’s recommendations for assistive technology users to stay healthy here.

Two-time Paralympian and Six Time Medalist Dan Cnossen, who has incorporated meditation into his athletic training, says this is a time to practice mindfulness. “Keep perspective and check-in about the things you are thankful for. That is different for each person. For me, I am glad to be at home a little more.”

BE ACTIVE.

As much as humanly possible, make sure you stick with your everyday activities. Maintaining routine and structure is important as long as it is done safely. This should include some sort of physical activity. Even if your adaptive sports program has temporarily halted or your fitness facility is closed, there are things you can do at home.

For Julia Gaffney, a member of Team USA’s swim team who was preparing to compete in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo (which has been postponed to 2021), she has had to think outside the box in terms of her training. “I have been primarily doing my weightlifting exercises in my room. In terms of cardio, I have been using tools such as a rowing machine as well as getting outside and moving around whenever I get the chance. Another important thing that I have been doing is pushing in my chair more in order to keep my upper body strength up.”

Being a swimmer poses additional challenges. “Not being able to swim has been difficult, but my training is focused on mimicking swimming specific movements and maintaining swimming specific strength. I am not quite sure when I may get back in a pool but exercising as much as I can has helped me maintain a sense of normalcy in these trying times.”

She encourages all athletes to not be afraid to think outside the box. “There are so many different ways to adapt even basic workouts to fit ones needs. It may take a bit of trial and error at first, but fitness is a never-ending journey, not a destination.”

Two-time Paralympian, Bronze Medalist, and former Army Officer Melissa Stockwell, who co-founded Dare2Tri, an Illinois-based chapter of Move United, offers a number of suggestions that you can do at home:

  1. Find an online class or group to workout with. If you are on a bike trainer, Zwift is an amazing resource to feel like you are riding with a group. There are so many other online programs and jump into one to hold you accountable!
  2. Involve your kids! If you are doing strength work at home, challenge them to do a few push ups with you. Or let them watch the clock while you do a certain exercise and tell you when to start and stop. It’s a win all around!
  3. Lastly, stay positive. If you need a break from workouts, that is ok. Take this time to do what you need to do to get through each day as best you can. Find things that make you happy and make them a part of your day. Spend time with your family. FaceTime a friend, take on a home project. Stay optimistic that this will pass and we will get through this together!

There are national fitness chains offering free online programs and a number of other resources out there as well. Move United has also curated a list of online events and activities through its special #Adaptathome page on our website, as well featuring events through our social media pages. Two others that we would recommend include:

  • The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has curated a series of videos that highlight various exercises you can do from home for various abilities
  • Mind Body Solutions offers exclusive video content on their YouTube page, The Hub, focused on adaptive yoga teaching/training videos, mind-body insights, stories of transformation and actual yoga classes filmed in their studio.

If you are stuck in the house and are able, Paralympic Silver Medalist and Long Jump World Record Holder Lex Gillette, who is blind, recommends you make up a simple workout routine. “I think that we as athletes have the ability to adapt and be creative, and those are going to be huge during this time,: he said. “Training looks different given the recommendations and guidelines in place for our country, but you have to keep moving so you don’t go stir crazy. It may be difficult if you have limited space, but the idea here is to try and get some work in, and again, creativity is the name of the game.”

Assuming you are able to do so (check your local jurisdiction for any restrictions), get outside. Cnossen, who waas serving as the platoon commander for SEAL Team One in Afghanistan in September 2009 when he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), ultimately resulting in the amputation of both legs above the knee, tries to get outside every day. Of course, as a member of Team USA’s Paralympic Nordic Ski Team, his sport focuses on the outdoors. “I love being close to nature. I’m always searching for viable ways for me to get into the woods. It helps keep my sanity” Cnossen said. He believes we are all meant to be outside. “Being outside helps with mood, temperament, and outlook. It helps get the blood flowing and increases endorphins. During this challenging time, either start the day, break up the day, or end the day by getting outside.”

BE CONNECTED.

It may be easy to feel isolated in times like these, but it definitely doesn’t have to be. Social media can be a powerful way to maintain relationships with others. We are an adaptive sports community, so make sure you have been in contact with the Move United member nearest you. See how you can help and stay in touch with fellow athletes, coaches, and other adaptive sports practitioners. Being on the email lists and/or following the chapter nearest you on social media will also make sure you get word when programming is able to resume.

Although you should maintain as much routine and structure in your life, consider taking up something new with any extra time you may have. For example, this is a great time to learn something new. Move United’s website has a wealth of information available for athletes, coaches, and other adaptive sports stakeholders. For example, check out various adaptive sports webinars and online training resources (adapt2achieve.org), back issues of Challenge magazine that is chock full of information (challengemagazine.org), and adaptive sports overviews, athlete profiles, and other helpful materials (moveunitedsport.org).

Paralympian Lex GilletteAlso, if you aren’t already following Move United on our various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) or on our electronic newsletter distribution list, we encourage you to do so. As we find additional resources and information we can share with you, we will do so through the various platforms. Might we also suggest listening to the new adaptive sports podcast “Challenge Extended” as well? Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have some fun. And finally, make sure you are checking in with others to see how they are holding up and if they know what resources are available.

Taking care of your physical and mental health is more important than ever during this time. Just know that things will get back to normal. Like all challenges, we will rebound and recover. We are used to adapting and will continue to do so.

“Our world isn’t accessible to us in many ways right now, and it’s frustrating. This is why I speak so heavily on vision. It doesn’t mean that we won’t feel discouraged, frustration, or even fear, but what it will do is help us see hope during times of sadness. Staying locked into that greater vision is a huge way to stay encouraged during this time. We will get through this,” Gillette said.

For links to some of the websites above and other information, visit moveunitedsport.org./adaptathome.

 

(Lex Gillette photo by Joe Kusumoto)