LaSalle's Kylie Masse powers through Olympic training, despite uncertainty of the games
The Olympian says training during the pandemic is challenging
With the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics just months away, Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont. has been rigorously training for it, but the pandemic has made that a bit more challenging.
Despite the uncertainty of the games, Masse said she's trying to stay positive. While the times are frustrating, an optimistic mindset is one that can help athletes get through the unknown, according to one psychology fitness expert.
But, Masse said it's not always easy to stay upbeat.
"Because there's so much uncertainty, we never know if we're going to be in the water tomorrow, if we're going to have to be out of the water for a couple of weeks, depending on the different lockdown rules and stay-at-home orders," Masse said.
"It's always up in the air every time there's a new announcement whether we're going to still be allowed to train or we're going to have to sit out for a couple of weeks."
The world backstroke champion said it's tough trying to train for the Olympics which might get postponed again or cancelled — some athletes are even retiring partly due to the delay — but Masse is trying to stay optimistic.
WATCH: Kylie Masse speaks about the challenges of training for the games during the pandemic
"I like to just keep things in perspective and be grateful that when I am able to train, I am in the water and be grateful for my health, the health of my support system around me, and my family and friends. And ultimately, the global pandemic is so much bigger than sports," she said.
"So I like to keep things in perspective, and that's mentally how I kind of stay engaged and stay grateful and thankful to be swimming."
This optimistic thinking is what Toronto-based therapist and emotional fitness expert Dr. Natasha Sharma urges athletes to do. Sharma is the owner of NKS Therapy, a private psychology and therapy practice.
"There is bound to be some frustration on the part of athletes who are unable to access their regular training and conditioning facilities because it's not something you can easily put on the back burner or to decide. It is something that requires a certain type of consistency in terms of your upkeep of that conditioning. It's very much the mind and the body," she said.
Sharma said athletes that perform at elite levels, like Masse, have already tapped into a version of their higher selves, and she urges them to stay on their "mental game."
"That means remaining positive and hopeful and focusing on what you can control and not dwelling and getting bitter or upset," she said.
"So my advice is also to try not to assume that your window is closed forever. Again, this is sport dependent. I understand some sports have shorter windows than others, but really, you won't do yourself any favours at all if you are making yourself miserable in your mind by focusing on what you can't do and what's negative and what's lost in your life."
Sharma recommends professional athletes acknowledge the possible reality that they might not be able to compete in the Olympics this year, but she says that shouldn't stop them from being grateful and focusing on controlling their physical and emotional conditions.
'Beat your personal best,' says therapist
"When you're an elite athlete, a lot of your focus is going to be a meditative experience in your relationship with that sport," she said, adding that while it's "unprecedented" to train for a competition that is not guaranteed, athletes should stay motivated by trying to outperform themselves.
"Certainly having a goal to work toward for all of us is a huge motivator ... but what I would recommend is you, yourself and your performance become the new goal," she said.
"You're not necessarily working toward the certainty of an event or competition or the Olympics or the U.S. Open. What you're working toward is to beat your personal best, your most recent best performance. That's your new benchmark. And that might be your only benchmark, but it's a really powerful one," Sharma said.
"Do better than you were yesterday."
She also urges elite athletes to avoid "overidentifying" themselves to the sport.
"You are not your sport," she said. "You are thought, your body and your mind, but you're not what you do and you're definitely not your sport. So be careful about identifying overly with that because that can be damaging as well."