Walk n' Talk with Rhydian Cowley

2020 has provided many new and different challenges.

Victorian Institute of Sport Performance Lifestyle team caught up with race walker Rhydian Cowley, to check in and see how he's going. 

Rhydian, How are you? & what have you been doing recently during lockdown 2.0?   

I’m generally well. I'm doing my best to keep in a positive frame of mind and keep busy with activities that make me happy. I’ve been trying to keep up my routine as best I can throughout the stage 4 restrictions here in Melbourne, with some adjustments. I’m working from home full-time, which has helped me keep a good routine. To fit in double session training days, and long walks in my daily hour, I’ve been hopping on a VIS loaned treadmill so that I can keep up my training and comply with restrictions on outdoor exercise. I’ve also been finding some projects to put time into outside of training and work, such as supporting National Tree Day, RUOK day, and joining the EcoAthletes initiative. So, I've been keeping busy, maybe too busy, but I like having things to do so that's OK.

What have you done to prioritise your own wellbeing and mental health?  What are your key self-care activities? 

Before stage 4 came in, getting regular casual walks outside was a key self-care activity - to get some fresh air and sunshine, since I work full time. I’ve had to move those casual walks to my back courtyard. 

Allowing myself to accept and have down days when they come, but having a plan to pick myself back up the next day. Sometimes you just need it.

Other regular activities I’ve been keeping up have been working my way through a large pile of books, and cooking, especially making home-made seasonal preserves. During this lockdown this has been lemon curd and beetroot relish, but I’m looking forward to making some fruit jams again in the summer.

I like to socialise, so I’ve also found that scheduling regular time to connect with and talk to friends has been very important - while it isn’t the same as seeing people in person, it’s the next best thing. We’re lucky the internet allows us to be together even when we need to keep apart.

How have you kept connected to your family & friends?  

It’s been in a combination of ways - giving friends and family members a call, sending a message or an email, setting up group skype/zoom meetings. Community facebook groups have been good as well for keeping in contact with neighbours  and connecting through shared experiences such as the various spoonville’s that have popped up.

How have you reached out to support others during this time?  

It’s been in a combination of ways - giving friends and family members a call, sending a message or an email, setting up group skype/zoom meetings. Particularly for a few of my older family members and friends, I’ve tried to regularly set aside time to make calls and conversation, so that it’s not just a once off. It’s a chance for both of us to feel a bit less isolated, especially as a couple of them live alone.

If you have a tough day what helps you to re-set and re-focus for the next day? 

Acknowledging that it was a tough day is a good first step. Often the days that I find tough I am also tired and rundown, so prioritising rest and down time, and allowing myself the time to mentally and physically reset is a good way to address that . Being aware of how I'm feeling and why is an important first step towards getting back to a positive, focused headspace. I also try to go back to basics and concentrate on prioritising doing the activities that I enjoy at a structured time, and ensure I'm the most important parts of my routine (exercise, eating and sleeping) well. 

Talking to my parents and my partner also helps me to talk about any frustrations I have in a healthy way and find ways to address them before they grow too big. Verbalising also helps me to organise my thoughts, a key to understanding why I’m finding it tough at a given time - I’m lucky that often the problem is not as big after some thought compared to if I let it simmer and catastrophize unorganised in my head.

What message might you have for the wider VIS community about RU OK? Day and Mental Health awareness?

Everyone is going through some amount of a tough time this year, especially in Melbourne. That’s ok, lockdown is hard. It’s not a competition to see who has it the worst - we all need to help and look after each other, now and in the future. Let’s make a habit of checking in with each other, and with ourselves, not just on this day, but throughout the whole year. Together we can address our mental health challenges earlier and better, and reduce the stigma around seeking help. It's not a panacea, but it all helps to lead to better community mental health. Mental health is as important as physical health, so take the time to look after both.

This Thursday is 'R U OK? Day' and our Performance Lifestyle Team is encouraging everyone to make some time to prioritise your own wellbeing, to reach out and connect with family and friends via phone or virtual communication and ask the question - are you OK? 

The simple question could be very important or vital for someone you know. For tips and resources on how to start and have a conversation, click here.

Olympic champions, Tokyo 2020 hopefuls and a global music star will help empower athletes' mental health this September, as The Australian Olympic Committee released the official lineup of 12 athletes and experts for Wellbeing Week, presented by Allianz. With daily live streamed shows from 7-11 September, Wellbeing Week will showcase how Australians can improve their mental health and wellbeing. Click here and tune into today at 1pm.

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