British professional swimmer Isabella Hindley, remarks on her experience of swimming through the pandemic and advises those in a similar position…

What was the impact on your swimming through the pandemic?

"I was in Tennessee before everything kicked off, and just off the back of a great competition, the TYR pro series in Iowa. I swum all best times - racing and training well, full of confidence. It was perfect leading into the trials; I was in the right headspace and everything was going super well. Then everything happened at once. NCAAs (US college championships) were cancelled and Tennessee shut down, but they still said ‘Olympic Trials are going ahead” so I thought I'd better get home just in case. I flew back to England, thinking I'd be here for a few weeks and everything would blow over; obviously not! That was one of the hardest things for me, life changed dramatically, from racing best times, best form and shape of my life, to sitting at home not being able to swim. A big change and not swimming was really difficult - everything I constantly thought about was suddenly gone."

How did you feel when you found out the Olympics were postponed?

"It was the weirdest thing, when I flew back to England I was unsure about everything. It was a relief honestly when they canceled trials as I couldn’t train, and was stressing about preparing for one of the biggest competitions of my life. It was upsetting obviously having worked hard all year and given up so much, but in the back of my mind I knew the goal remained the same, I still wanted to qualify for that Olympic team. Just because the timeline had changed and it had been postponed, didn’t mean the goal was gone. It is another year to get better; I've seen how many improvements I'd made in one year and now I get two years to get better!"

What 3 tips would you give an aspiring athlete in the same situation?

"My first is work on your mental game. All those things you don’t have time for with school/work/swimming such as visualisation and breathing techniques are things I've only come to understand after finishing school, but it's easy to cut it out when you don't have time. Focus on the mental side. The whole experience taught me to be more mentally resilient.

The second one would be improvements outside the pool like core exercises, shoulder mobility, stretching and pilates - even though I couldn't swim I could try new things. Cardio gets really dull, but core exercises were one of those things that I never found time to do, but if you put that on the end of a 20 minute row or a run, it doesn’t really feel as long.

The last one would be to stay calm. You are in a global pandemic, so give yourself some breathing room. I remember a few weeks into lockdown, everyone being really vocal about what workouts they were doing and I felt like I wasn't doing enough. I knew some teammates that had been in the pool while I hadn’t and it's easy to be really hard on yourself. You have all this extra time and you want to feel productive, but you need to give yourself a break, put things in perspective. Time out of the water isn't the worst thing in the world!"

What did you learn about yourself over the last few months?

"So much of my athletic and academic career was focused on swimming, through school and university that I never thought about life beyond swimming. The pandemic gave me a glimpse of it; I learnt that life does go on and you can find things to do in those hours where you would be in the pool, like finding other fun ways to work out. I felt swimming was everything, but it was good to take a step back, a break from that mindset, and see what’s out there. There will be a time where swimming isn’t there, and I feel set to deal with that."