LUMIE: Fiona, we got in touch at the tail-end of winter, when you felt you needed a boost to help you thrive as you prepare for the Olympics and wanted to experience the benefits light therapy offers when it comes to energy levels, mood and performance. That of course was before the whole world came to a halt so to speak – and we will touch on that later on – but first, let us hear about your typical day. What did a GB rower in training for Tokyo 2020 get up to daily?
FIONA: Yes! Well, before everything changed for so many of us, I stayed at Caversham together with my team and coaches. Typically, I would wake up about six o’clock in the morning, have a breakfast and go to a rowing session which would start at 7:30 am. I like rising early because I feel like it takes time for my body to wake up, and I prefer to have a bit of downtime before everything kicks off for the day. After the first training session of the day I would have my second breakfast, usually a fry up. Then we go out for another session, either on ergo or on the water again, before we come back for lunch about one o’clock.
I’m in awe of this schedule already – especially as everything seems to be aptly punctuated by mealtimes… It must feel pretty rewarding to sit down and enjoy good food after all this training!
Haha, yes! Martin, our chef, makes the most amazing dishes, and I must admit I am missing those a lot….
I bet! Okay, so what happens after lunch?
At about 2:30 pm we have a strength and conditioning session – we typically train with weights. After that I would come home, have a snack, and spend the late afternoon winding down. When I am training properly, I usually eat my dinner quite early, and go to bed at nine. At the moment it’s quite hard to go to bed this early – as it is to keep my schedule so well organised!
Do you find it easy to fall asleep?
Usually I am very tired and fall asleep easily, although I sometimes struggle to go to bed as early as I would like to in the summer months, either because of the temperature or lighter evenings.
I think I too would be out like a light every night after three intense training sessions! It most certainly sounds like a tough daily schedule. Do you ever struggle with fatigue during such intense periods of training?
I do. In fact, when I contacted you, I was quite honestly in despair! It felt like everything was getting on top of me. I was going through the Olympic selection process, and although I really was doing fine, I felt like in my head I was not doing quite as well as I wanted to. It was then that I started to research ways in which I can boost my energy levels and improve my overall well-being, and my cox recommended I try Lumie lights. At the time, I really felt like I had no energy (it was still in the depth of winter, mind!), and I really needed to get through all the racing feeling fresher and more motivated in order to achieve my goals. I was quite stressed, and I felt as if everything was boiling over, but mainly I was looking for something that would help boost my energy levels, because I thought that will then have a positive ‘domino effect’ on all the other things I was finding hard.
I am so glad your cox recommended Lumie lights! Many athletes use our light therapy devices to tackle these exact same problems. You opted for falling asleep and waking with Bodyclock Glow 150, but to counter the fatigue and low energy levels, we recommended you regularly use a bright light therapy lamp daily too (Lumie Vitamin L to be precise). How have you found it so far?
I love it. I absolutely LOVE it! Vitamin L is my favourite one. I would sit in front of it whilst having breakfast at six in the morning, and my energy levels would increase as I sat there and enjoyed my food. It would make me feel awake and alert and ready for the day. Honestly, it was a revelation. I think waking up with light helped too, although I have got to say that before lockdown, I have never struggled with falling asleep and waking up; probably because I had the routine down. At the moment however, I am using my Bodyclock religiously, as it’s helping me maintain the structure when it comes to my routine. Without a necessity to show up for a 7:30 am training session, it has been a real struggle to get out of bed early during lockdown. Same goes for going to sleep at night – since the home-based workouts do not seem as strenuous as our group sessions, I have found it harder to nod off as early as I would like.
The lockdown must have been a shock to the system when you are in training for the Olympics (well, it has certainly been a shock to the system to us all, but you know what I mean!), not just in terms of the change to your routine but also the uncertainty for the first few weeks as to whether Tokyo 2020 was going to be postponed. As a professional athlete, you work towards a goal and, as we have seen already, everything in your life is carefully structured to support your goals and to help you cross that finish line. Tell us a little more about how has this affected your training, but also your well-being?
We got sent home from Caversham straight after the Olympic testing took place. I had already been using Lumie lights for a while then and managed to get to a place where I was pretty happy with everything. The Olympics was still in sight, we were given training programs to follow at home, I had a crew I was part of and thought to myself “Okay, it’s business as usual, it is just that I have got to be at home”. However, I kind of knew the Olympics may not take place this year given everything that has been going on, and having been told the Olympic selection was over, I did not really feel anything (like, I should have felt joy and celebrated the fact that “I made it!”), but seeing as I had a feeling Tokyo 2020 will either be cancelled or postponed, the feeling of “making it” was very odd, just the weirdest experience ever. But to begin with, things were fairly easy, I just trained as much as I could and to the best of my ability without being able to access all the usual facilities, but then the uncertainty went on for quite a while, and all of us were like “just please, make a decision, put us out of our misery!”.
What happened after you found out the Olympics were postponed to 2021?
When that decision was made public, we were told the Olympic selection – everything -is going to have to happen again next year, which in itself is quite stressful. My first thought was “I cannot go through this again!”. These last few weeks have definitely been about coming to terms with that – that I am going to go through it again, in the depths of another winter (though at least now I have my Lumie lights, and I will definitely be using them all the way through autumn and winter!).
What have you been doing in order to keep the right mindset throughout lockdown since then?
I have been prioritising keeping a structure to my day and to my training – though it has really been tricky. I definitely am so thankful for the Lumie lights which have really been instrumental in helping me keep that structure. Without my routine I would really struggle. What also helps is that we have regular Zoom meetings with our coaches, but when it comes to the day to day it is my choice when I get up in the morning. Waking up with Bodyclock has helped me stick to my regular morning routine, and then I’ll come down and have breakfast in front of the Lumie Vitamin L lamp. I really think Lumie lights have really helped me get through the lockdown so far. Isolation training feels much tougher on the greyer days – and I have noticed my energy levels and my mood go up and down with the weather. Just to give it a little bit more context, we have two training session we need to complete each day, and optional third, which I have not put too much pressure on doing every single day. However, when the weather is great, I am much more likely to do my third session (it could be a bike ride for example). When the weather is not that good however, I do struggle, but I feel the lamps have been helping me cope better.
That is brilliant to hear, thank you! And do you try and mimic the structure of your day as if it were business as usual, or do you make it up as you go?
I do try and stick to the schedule – and get my first session done in the morning, the second one just before lunch, and the third session in the afternoon, similarly as I would have before. It does not always pan out – there has been days when I did my third session at 7 pm! I am doing everything I can, to the best of my ability at the moment, and I really believe it will pay off.
I imagine typically outside your sessions you are encouraged to get plenty of rest and recovery. What does that look like now when you are in your own home during lockdown?
Being at home has definitely been different, I don’t tend to spend much time here during the spring and summer seasons typically. I am obsessed with cleaning and gardening, and I have been getting lots done around the house, which has been a great way to switch off and enjoy my downtime. I have also really enjoyed the walks, runs, and mountain bike rides that I had the opportunity to savour recently – I have now lived in Henley for five years and always been too tired to explore the area the way I have in the recent weeks. I certainly am appreciating the scenery around here more now than I ever have before. I also purchased an inflatable kayak recently – I need to get out on the water somehow, seeing as we are not rowing!
Oh of course, being out on the water pretty much daily is a huge part of your life as an athlete. What about other aspects? You row in an eight, so I imagine comradery is an important part of your day to day.
We have Zoom meetings with the girls, and that has been really great. We have had many amazing conversations which we just would not have otherwise, and we are all recognising that. We have been quite honest about how we have been feeling, and there have been quite a lot of ups and downs (understandably).
It has definitely been a roller-coaster for everyone - thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Fiona. It has been a pleasure speaking to you. Best of luck with your training!
Thank you! Rest assured, I will definitely need my Lumie lights this autumn and winter if I am to go though another selection process. Looking forward to smashing my goals!