Mental training in times of Corona


Today 30th March was the day we were meant to pick up Liberty our boat. But things don’t always go to plan. With the Corona virus, everyone’s course of life has changed, no travel, no schools, no bars or theaters. No one would have imagined our lives would come to a stand-still, but it is essential since health and safety is at the heart of everything. These times have also seen so much support and positivity from society, it goes without saying.

The virus has also had a direct impact on Désirée and her family-in-law, but we remain positive (read her blog), and wish those affected with hope and strength for recovery. As we say in Dutch, ‘roeien met de riemen die je hebt’, in English ‘make the best of what you’ve got’. So although the gym and our rowing clubs are shut, and the fact that we have to sadly postpone picking up our boat, we remain positive and focused. We sport a lot at home and keep connected with video calls. We pep each other up as much as we can in these uncertain moments. Getting through these moments will get us through anything while at sea.

This is an interesting time to reflect on our mental training. There are many similarities of how we can relate to what’s going on currently with C19 and our forthcoming trip. Here are top 7 things that will help us learn from the situation:

  1. Safety first – follow the protocol. We’ll be always harnessed on and hatches will be shut. We can’t deal with ego’s on such a trip. Even today, although we’d like to socialize, we’ll have to put that away in the closet for now and make do with the limited communication means we have. It’s not about ‘I’ it’s about ‘us’ and mankind.
  2. Listen to the captain and work as a team – if the captain tells us what’s good to get through the storm, we do what’s needed. Discipline will pay off in times of turmoil. Leadership in times of crisis relies on good streamlined communication. No room for misinterpretation.
  3. Faith – don’t judge, but act on facts. Be creative to help get you through the difficult times. As humans, we want to be assured that everything will be OK whatever the situation we are in. When we as team Dutchess of the Sea set off from La Gomera, we will be faced with difficult situations and there will be times when things don’t go to plan. Rowing with one oar, rowing without an autohelm, rowing with solar power. But everything is possible if you put your mind to it and think out of the box. Keeping focused on the ‘mission’ is key. When it’s all over it would be absolutely worth it.
  4. Going back to basics. When we started thinking about this trip, the more we thought of how pure this trip would be. Very little contact with others for weeks, eating basic food, limited solar energy, using a bucket as a toilet and only having the bare necessities when it comes to survival. In a way it is very therapeutic to have nothing more on your mind. It shows as animals we can survive with very little (even toilet paper if we need to).
  5. Un-comfort zone – we are currently in an uncomfortable situation? We are not used to sitting at home in self-isolation. Our head, heart and body are conditioned to another pattern. But how to adjust? There will be times out on sea where we will feel very uncomfortable. We can either freeze up with fear, or demand to be picked up from sea. Or we can just embrace the situation and use the learnings to get even stronger. Stepping out of the comfort zone is where you grow.
  6. Think in small steps. If a lock-down lasts 6 or 8 weeks, it does not matter so long as we get to the other side safely. Our trip will also take about the same time. In our rowing shifts of 2 hours, we can only look ahead for the 2 hours ahead. The more we think of the total time the more impatient we’ll get. ‘Letting go’ of time and working in short sprints is an art.
  7. Be mindful. Enjoy the small things in life. Look up to the stars at night, the sunsets and sunrises, the shapes of the cloud, the nature around us and cherish it. We’ll be definitely doing the same on our trip. There won’t be much to keep us entertained, and to be honest, do we need it? We will be getting on with very little, which we are grateful for.

Let’s keep the lessons close to heart and hope we get through this as we make this journey together. Keep safe!