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Being an athlete in the COVID-19 pandemic: a time to protect and try to thrive rather than strive

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09.05.2020
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Dr Rebecca Robinson has been a doctor since 2006, and is a consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine. This involves managing injury and illness for athletes, from Olympic level to people who are active in the community. She has an active interest in female athlete health as a developing field in science and medicine. She believes that the more we can learn, the further and faster female sport can progress.

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“At a high level of exercise, combined with stress, exercise can blunt the immune response and could increase illness susceptibility.”

WILD.AI — How should we approach our training right now during the coronavirus pandemic, and why? Should we be doing anything different to keep fit and healthy?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — From the postponement of the Olympics to the cancellation of club training sessions, it’s been a time of disappointment and it’s natural to lose focus at first. Now getting back to the sport you love can really help. Keep structure, but don’t train for a specific event, or to gain peak fitness. Focus hard on recovery and aim for an extra rest day each week. Take time to add stretching, yoga or pilates to keep healthy.

Home-based exercises are really effective as an alternative to the gym and if you can access a personal trainer remotely, I’d advise this to prevent inadvertent injuries and improve form. Try new activities but nothing too extreme. And if you do pick up an injury, see your physio online.

WILD.AI — Could you tell us anything about how immune function is impacted by training and what athletes should be aware of to stay fit and healthy?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — There’s good evidence that being physically active improves immunity so encouraging everyone to take daily exercise within safe limits is important. At a high level of exercise, combined with stress, exercise can blunt the immune response and could increase illness susceptibility. It should be noted that the fittest athletes seem to sustain immune health better, but it’s still a time to protect and try to thrive rather than strive.

If you become ill with coronavirus, please stop all training. You’ll need a minimum 10 days’ absolute rest, and then at the very least a week of very light activity (walk, don’t run) backing off if symptoms recur. As far as we know ‘mild’ (non hospital) coronavirus can still significantly impact the lungs and heart, so check with your doctor before returning to your sport activity and do this slowly.

Dr Rebecca Robinson is running a non-charge remote clinic for athletes and all active people returning to sport at the Centre for Health and Human Performance; because as a sports doctor, she’s concerned that no-one takes risks, but that all get back to sport safely — so if you’ve any questions get in touch!

WILD.AI — What advice would you give to female athletes in the current situation?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — One important area people ask me about is coronavirus and the risks in pregnancy. This is a question best met by your gynecologist based on international guidelines but to date, we haven’t seen a significantly increased risk for pregnant mothers or babies. However if coronavirus means that plans change, for example around birthing and support networks, it’s OK to acknowledge feeling sad before focusing on the positives.

We don’t have enough evidence to show differences for men and women in this illness, but looking after your health is still key. Training around the phases of the menstrual cycle with WILD.AI is really helpful so continue to do this to structure training, nutrition, and recovery. It helps you structure your days to increase intensity when the body can take it — and reduce when needed, resulting in a potentially increased immune system.

WILD.AI — Could you tell us about how your athletes are training during the quarantine?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — The athletes I work with have been very philosophical about the changes, even though the focus of four years’ has dramatically shifted. Across the Olympic sports I work in, athletes have moved from elite training centers to train at home, but several are now in key worker roles too. The team behind the Olympic athletes has worked with them to transfer their training programs and we’re fortunate to have holistic support for mental health too.

This is a time of uncertainty and we have to work hard to understand when it’ll be safe and healthy for elite athletes to return to their normal training venues, and for everyone to resume sporting events, but in these unprecedented times health always comes first.

To contact Dr. Rebecca Robinson at the Centre for Health and Human Performance info@chhp.com and Twitter @rjprobinson

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1_FMj9DIvHxIkrdWCHV-geFQ.png

Dr Rebecca Robinson has been a doctor since 2006, and is a consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine. This involves managing injury and illness for athletes, from Olympic level to people who are active in the community. She has an active interest in female athlete health as a developing field in science and medicine. She believes that the more we can learn, the further and faster female sport can progress.

2_FMj9DIvHxIkrdWCHV-geFQ.png

“At a high level of exercise, combined with stress, exercise can blunt the immune response and could increase illness susceptibility.”

WILD.AI — How should we approach our training right now during the coronavirus pandemic, and why? Should we be doing anything different to keep fit and healthy?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — From the postponement of the Olympics to the cancellation of club training sessions, it’s been a time of disappointment and it’s natural to lose focus at first. Now getting back to the sport you love can really help. Keep structure, but don’t train for a specific event, or to gain peak fitness. Focus hard on recovery and aim for an extra rest day each week. Take time to add stretching, yoga or pilates to keep healthy.

Home-based exercises are really effective as an alternative to the gym and if you can access a personal trainer remotely, I’d advise this to prevent inadvertent injuries and improve form. Try new activities but nothing too extreme. And if you do pick up an injury, see your physio online.

WILD.AI — Could you tell us anything about how immune function is impacted by training and what athletes should be aware of to stay fit and healthy?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — There’s good evidence that being physically active improves immunity so encouraging everyone to take daily exercise within safe limits is important. At a high level of exercise, combined with stress, exercise can blunt the immune response and could increase illness susceptibility. It should be noted that the fittest athletes seem to sustain immune health better, but it’s still a time to protect and try to thrive rather than strive.

If you become ill with coronavirus, please stop all training. You’ll need a minimum 10 days’ absolute rest, and then at the very least a week of very light activity (walk, don’t run) backing off if symptoms recur. As far as we know ‘mild’ (non hospital) coronavirus can still significantly impact the lungs and heart, so check with your doctor before returning to your sport activity and do this slowly.

Dr Rebecca Robinson is running a non-charge remote clinic for athletes and all active people returning to sport at the Centre for Health and Human Performance; because as a sports doctor, she’s concerned that no-one takes risks, but that all get back to sport safely — so if you’ve any questions get in touch!

WILD.AI — What advice would you give to female athletes in the current situation?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — One important area people ask me about is coronavirus and the risks in pregnancy. This is a question best met by your gynecologist based on international guidelines but to date, we haven’t seen a significantly increased risk for pregnant mothers or babies. However if coronavirus means that plans change, for example around birthing and support networks, it’s OK to acknowledge feeling sad before focusing on the positives.

We don’t have enough evidence to show differences for men and women in this illness, but looking after your health is still key. Training around the phases of the menstrual cycle with WILD.AI is really helpful so continue to do this to structure training, nutrition, and recovery. It helps you structure your days to increase intensity when the body can take it — and reduce when needed, resulting in a potentially increased immune system.

WILD.AI — Could you tell us about how your athletes are training during the quarantine?

Dr. Rebecca Robinson — The athletes I work with have been very philosophical about the changes, even though the focus of four years’ has dramatically shifted. Across the Olympic sports I work in, athletes have moved from elite training centers to train at home, but several are now in key worker roles too. The team behind the Olympic athletes has worked with them to transfer their training programs and we’re fortunate to have holistic support for mental health too.

This is a time of uncertainty and we have to work hard to understand when it’ll be safe and healthy for elite athletes to return to their normal training venues, and for everyone to resume sporting events, but in these unprecedented times health always comes first.

To contact Dr. Rebecca Robinson at the Centre for Health and Human Performance info@chhp.com and Twitter @rjprobinson

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