Diary of an Olympian: Focus on the how and not on the what

Continuing our series, “Diary of an Olympian”, Ollie Cook shares another insight with us. 

I am immensely lucky. I am a part of the GB Olympic squad which has meant I can carry on training through this current lockdown. I can exercise, do the sport I love, and do it alongside a fantastic group of fellow teammates. This past month, though, didn’t exactly go to plan. Towards the end of December 2020, I tested positive for Covid.

The good news was that my symptoms were really mild. And, there was no chain of transmission to or from anyone in the squad. Nonetheless, even with mild symptoms, I was placed on the “return to training from Covid protocol”. This meant stripping training right back for at least two weeks after symptoms pass and the isolation period ends. Taking time out of training in the Olympic year felt like a disaster. I could feel my conditioning, the months of work put in so far this season, start to slip away. And then there was the worry that my symptoms could develop into “long Covid”. I felt like I was in a catch 22; I needed to train, any time that I was not, felt like the time I was wasting, yet I was told that I must not push my body too quickly or too early. For a moment, I was worried that my Olympic ambitions were unravelling. I could feel myself getting hijacked by the negative storyline.

That moment was just that, a moment. While it was true that I had gotten Covid and I couldn’t train in the way I wanted to. It was also important to not overthink or dwell on the situation too much. I reached out to people I knew who would have had a great perspective and advice on what to do. Their message was simple: focus on the how and not on the what. This means that whatever you do you always have the choice over how you do something. If my training for the day was restricted to just a sixty-minute walk, then I could still do that as well as I possibly could. I could still keep a daily routine going, breaking my day into three sessions, even if these sessions were just a stretch, something I found really useful. Ultimately, it was important to take control over how I was going to manage my recovery and my return to training. I had to take the story away from one about unravelling to one about overcoming the challenge of recovering from Covid.

My return to training went well enough for me to join the GB team on training camp, at St. George’s Park, the home of England football. It was really special to be there for two weeks; to use the same facilities and equipment as the England teams, and to be made to feel so at home by the staff there. We normally travel abroad for a training camp in January, usually either to South Africa or Namibia. Of course, this year that was out of the question. Nonetheless, a training camp at this point is an integral part of the season. When we arrived the staff had a surprise for us. They had produced personalised England shirts with 21 on the back for each of us. The shirts look awesome, although thankfully for England there is no chance once people see my football skills that I would ever be mistaken for an England footballer.

Oliver Cook: GB Rower, World Champion and Boat Race winner. Eton Bridge Partners are sponsoring GB rower Oliver Cook in his ongoing training as part of the Team GB squad in the lead-up to the next Olympics games. Since the games have been postponed to 2021, Ollie is continuing to give us regular updates on his progress and performance, and the grueling mental and physical challenges he faces as part of the Olympic squad.

Ollie’s last blog:

Diary of an Olympian: Amor Fati