Brandon Beack training before lockdown. Picture: Supplied
Brandon Beack training before lockdown. Picture: Supplied

What it's like to be a South African Paralympic athlete during lockdown

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published May 27, 2020

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As a means to curb the spread of coronavirus, many sports activities, gyms and training facilities have been closed.
This has led to many professional sports people with no games, no physical contact with their coaches  and no group training among other things.
For Paralympic athletes, the challenges may be even greater because they have to adjust their training schedule to adapt to home training, which may not be built for that. 

Ntando Mahlangu,  professional South African Paralympic athlete and Under Armour Ambassador, is one of the few athletes that have had to adjust to the new normal.

South Africa’s teenage track star says there are lots of things that are challenging for athletes during this time: “But personally, my challenge  is spending time with my coach on the track fixing up my failures and mistakes I have made previously”

“It has been a challenge to start training but when the announcement was made that we could start exercising outside from 6am to 9am, it’s been great to get out and run to stay fit. I have not done anything too intensive just yet but have accomplished a few slow runs to keep myself fit and healthy.”

“My current training routine is simple. Mornings I do 20min running roughly 5km’s and then after that try to get in a strength session. Basic exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and more.”

Brandon Beack another para-athlete and motivational speaker says having a spinal cord injury has made lockdown period particularly difficult for him. 

“Having a disability often comes with a host of complications and being inactive can often compound these. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in muscle stiffness, pain and spasms which have all affected my general health and quality of life. 

"Being unable to attend therapy sessions at our rehabilitation centre, the Therapy and Beyond Centre, meant I had no access to specialised equipment and wasn’t able to weight-bare for five weeks.  This lack of weight-baring unfortunately leads to decreased bone density and increases my susceptibility to fracture.

"Most notably though, I suffered an injury two weeks into the lockdown which left me mostly bed-ridden. Being unable to train and sedentary all day not only crushed my spirit but led to me losing a lot of strength and cardiovascular endurance. 

Having hit my peak right before the lockdown, it’s particularly hard to see these changes. Now starts the slow process of building both my strength and endurance up again.”

When it comes to adjusting  to routine, Beack says his training has changed: “It now mostly involves me on my indoor rollers in my tiny garage which is quite frankly not the most stimulating way of training and has made my training feel mundane and boring. 

"That being said, lockdown has also given me the opportunity to do the things I never get around to. I’ve been learning to cook and bake, cleaning and re-organising my cupboards, spending time with family and getting back into old hobbies such as playing guitar. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to self-reflect on my life and career and dabble in my other passions and interests.”

His message to everyone: "The most important thing to remember during this period is to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves. We all have different challenges to deal with and we all have different ways of coping. 

"If your way of coping is to pour your heart into working from home, exercising every day and doing home-workouts then that’s great! But if you’d rather take this time to slow down, be with family, and watch series with your dog on the couch then that’s great too!”

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