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A cup of coffee with…Vicky Holland

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Vicky Holland has been a Pedal Cover ambassador for some time now. We caught up with her recently to see how the global Covid 19 pandemic and numerous national lockdowns have impacted her. 2020 was meant to be a trip to Tokyo for her third , and perhaps her last, Olympic Games, and so, when all the racing was cancelled, it was certainly not the year she had in mind.

Here’s what she had to say about her plans, as well as some tips for the rest of us to help us keep motivated during lockdowns.

How did you cope with what Coronavirus has thrown at you?

“It’s a big question, probably needs a big answer!”

I had tonnes of feelings and emotions that went into dealing with the Olympics being cancelled. When the news broke, and the pandemic started taking off, it became clear that it was going to be increasingly difficult to plan anything given all of the restrictions that were put in place, My main concern at first was how on earth I was going to train with swimming pools closing.

I had just come back from a very successful trip to Australia where I had put in my best ever winter of training – won a World Championship race, which was a really nice sign as had not targeted the race; I had just trained really hard, and won.

I then came home to all the chaos unfolding and restrictions and question marks…

The day after lockdown was announced in the UK, the Olympics were cancelled. It was a real mixture of emotion. If I’m honest, mainly relief to start with as I realised that I was not going to have to deal with training for the Olympics with all the restrictions but also gutted, I’m not a young athlete, I’m towards the end of my career, and to have that suddenly taken away; goal posts not moved but shifted into another field; was hard to process.

I sat down with Rhys (my husband and coach), and made a plan. There was no chance of meaningful racing, and Olympics was now over a year away, so we decided that actually the best thing was just to back it off – and took 2 months off.

I kept “training” for mental wellbeing but I’m so much better with a goal to it was mainly for pleasure. Also, at that point, so little was known about Covid, but what I did know what that having a low immune system was not good, and training really hard knocks immune system so we decided to back it off. I was the longest break I’ve ever had – I missed 3 months of swimming, I’ve not missed that much since I was 6 years old!

There was one race in Hamburg over the summer, so went into 90% training but was not sure whether to fully invest in the event. I didn’t do that well, but, I was not that surprised but great to do a race, and it also allowed some closure to the non-existent 2020 race season.

There’ve been 2 more lockdowns since then, and we’re deep into the most recent one.

However, things are different this time. We have access to the pool now, which we are really grateful for so I can train as normal, (well, it’s very restricted though – the protocols to get into the pool now are insane!). I’m lucky though that I can continue to train with my training partners here in Bath, and keep in touch with the rest of the GB Elite ladies digitally.

It’s going to be the weirdest build up to an Olympic Games ever!

All I can do now is to train as if it is going to happen – the 6 month count down has started!

How are you dealing with your Tokyo prep (for heat)

It’s too soon for that. We did lots of prep for the test event in 2019 so we are well rehearsed for what we will need to put our bodies through in order to cope. We won’t’ actually start that until the beginning of June.

Our training will ideally be done in a heat chamber, but that might not be possible so if that’s the case, we will be doing DIY element – a greenhouse, bathroom etc.

I did all 2019 prep on the bike – during that time I was on a training camp with no heat chamber and so I learnt that put my turbo in a bathroom with a heater and a shower for humidity, it did the job nicely!

!! But please do careful with electricity in the bathroom !!

Is there a plan in place for what you will do if there are no races?

Whatever happens with racing this year, it’s unlikely there will be an equal playing field this year! Some will be able to do more racing, and others perhaps, won’t get to do any.

There is definitely a chance that we might not get a race in before Tokyo, and we are planning for that as well. If there are no international races, then I’m sure that British Triathlon will put on some domestic racing ahead of the big day. This will give us the chance to simulate race day in the home environment (as much as we can!). We’ll have the chance to do the prep would expect to do in the week before the race – eat the same meals, same training, timings etc. It’s so important to know what you need to do and get these things right.

We just have to take the cards we are dealt, and the federation will support us and facilitate something if racing does not re-open on an international level ahead of time.

Luckily, I’m not someone who relied on 10 races to get fit, however a few would be great! We just have to be chameleons these days and adapt to what we’ve got.

I don’t cope every day and I know that is normal, and everyone is feeling with things like this all the time. If I have a bad day, I give myself some time to deal with things, and the ever changing landscape around me.

We can’t change anything, or even go and do anything anywhere so we just have to deal with what we have and make the most of it.

Do you have any tips for spending time alone when training?

Look at your time outside as being a bit of a solace at the moment. We’re spending so much more time inside, when you are outside, it is your freedom! People doing a lot more inside (weather, safety etc.) so I do have some tips for indoor training:

  • Make your set up as comfy and sustainable as possible. We converted a room into a gym. Didn’t spend much but we put some matting on the floor, painted the walls and bought a cheap TV, does the job!
  • Use a digital platform like Zwift for training with others. You can have a virtual meet up every day with people on Zwift – and if you are going to meet up with people, set up a video call so you can talk to them while you are riding.
  • Binge on TV or podcasts – there are loads of good series on TV to keep you occupied. I do love a podcast too. I should say I listen to educational stuff, but I prefer funny, rude podcasts!
  • Don’t worry about trying to log loads of hours at the moment. Setting to bar too high brings you down – don’t feel like you have got to train, anything is better than nothing.
  • Train because it makes you feel better, thinking to yourself I’m on that bike because I love that bike not because I have to, is a much healthier approach at the moment.

What is the best thing people can do if you have no access to water for swimming?

  • Don’t stress about it!
  • There are a few things that you can do to improve shoulder flexibility and strength – exercises that work well on your lats (lattimus dorsi), deltoid and trapezius are key as they are the big ones they use when swim and keep you most flexible. Tap into what is available online as there are loads of great resources available now.
  • Flexibility and strength – really are best things for helping you get back into the pool

What would you say the best strength for triathletes?

Yoga: I cannot recommend Yoga highly enough! It’s amazing for mind and body, great for strength and flexibility, but also allowing me some space to decompress

Plus, you can do different sessions to target specific areas of the body too.

Stretching: Try not to neglect your calves in particular – most common injury for triathletes is a lower leg one. Stand on a step and do some single leg calf raises. Start 20 reps on each leg x 3 a few times a week. Straight and bent leg. Can then progress to add in weight – will really reduce likelihood

Indoor riding tends to create stiffer, tighter quads and ITBs as the riding is more consistent so load can be a lot more. Here the good old foam roller or another self-massage tool will stop other little niggles. Quite often knew injuries are because of tight quads.

So, there we have it, a real insight into how Coronavirus has impated Vicky’s schedule – on the surface, it’s so easy to just look at the cancelled races, but there is so much more – physically and mentally – that goes into preparing for an Olympic Games.

We wish Vicky well with her preparation for Tokyo and look forward to catching up later on in the year. If you have any questions for her, please feel free to drop us a note on Facebook or Instagram.

Vicky’s home and bicycles are all covered at home, and abroad on Pedal Cover’s Home and Bicycle Insurance.



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