5 Olympic athletes share how they stayed fit during lockdown - from backyard swimming to at-home handsprings

·4 min read
Laurie Hernandez in a gym and Mallory Weggemann at the Paralympics Games.
Laurie Hernandez and Mallory Weggemann both had to train creatively during the pandemic. Getty/Hyperice
  • Athletes across the world had to modify their training routine during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Five Olympians, including Naomi Osaka and Anthony Joshua, told Insider how they managed to stay in shape during lockdown.

  • The athletes said they got creative at home and also enjoyed the downtime and the mental break.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent postponement of the Tokyo games meant athletes across the world had to change their training in 2020.

Not only could the athletes not use their usual facilities, but they had to reset to be in peak condition a year later.

As part of Insider's series The Gold Plan, five athletes told us how they stayed fit during the pandemic.

Naomi Osaka said she enjoyed the downtime

Naomi Osaka serves at the Tokyo Olympics.
Naomi Osaka serves during her opening match at the Tokyo Olympics. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Tennis star Naomi Osaka said she rarely has time off, so she enjoyed the downtime.

"I modified the way I trained and focused not just on the physical aspect of training but the mental and emotional aspects as well," Osaka said.

"As an athlete, you have to mentally prepare for these large-scale moments and there are a lot of pressures associated with the Olympics because your country is looking up to you."

Although it was "tough," Osaka said she is grateful she wasn't as affected as other athletes.

"In tennis, while the Olympics is the pinnacle in my opinion, we are lucky enough to have some other big events throughout the year," she said. "While it was disappointing, I put it into perspective and realize that it was a much tougher year for so many people."

Anthony Joshua said he shadow-boxed over Zoom

Anthony Joshua sitting on the edge of a boxing ring wrapping up his hands.
Anthony Joshua trains in a public gym. Alex Livesey/Getty

Former Olympic champion boxer Anthony Joshua isn't competing at the games this year, but he's still been training hard.

When UK gyms closed, Joshua was stuck at home with just a skipping rope to keep in shape, plus shadow boxing with a coach via Zoom.

As "a man of routine," he found it tough, but decided to embrace the relief from the mental pressure.

"Mentally it helped me a lot having time to myself and to rethink," he said. "I had to think about new ways of training."

Laurie Hernandez said she attempted back handsprings in her living room

laurie hernandez
Laurie Hernandez isn't competing in the 2020 games due to injury. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

At the start of the pandemic, gymnast Laurie Hernandez flew from California to New Jersey to spend lockdown with her family.

Without gym access, Hernandez initially took some time off and then did as much as she could from home, stretching and running through routines in her head.

"I put rugs and mats on the floor in the kitchen and tried to do some aerials and back handsprings in the living room, just so I could keep my body going," she said.

After a few months, she got access to a gym where she could train alone. Unfortunately, Hernandez suffered a knee injury in June and pulled out of the Olympic trials.

Mallory Weggemann said she swam in a colleague's backyard pool

Mallory Weggemann with a gold medal and flowers at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Mallory Weggemann won a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Clive Rose/Getty Images

Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann had no access to a pool for three months.

She eventually got back into the water, using a colleague's backyard pool to train.

"I trained on a resistance band tied to their diving board for about five weeks," she said, before finally being able to go back to a lap pool and gym.

Weggemann "backed off training" for a while to allow her body to reset, before ramping things up in preparation for the postponed games.

Karsten Warholm used the extra year to get better

Karsten Warholm lacing up his trainers on a running track.
Karsten Warholm has his sights set on the Tokyo Olympics. Puma

Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm wasn't as badly affected as some athletes, he said, and only had a couple of weeks without access to a running track.

"Training is what makes you better," he said.

"And I got to train a lot more in 2020 given that my competitions were canceled. So I feel more prepared now than ever before."

Warholm said he stayed positive and went with the flow.

"That is what defines the life of an athlete. You can never plan for anything," he said.

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