Lockdown with Shauna Coxsey
- Monday 20th April 2020
As the UK Government extends lockdown, Climber talks to Shauna Coxsey, Britain’s climbing Olympian, to see how her psyche is holding up, how she’s spending her time and her thoughts on the Tokyo Olympics postponement.
Had the coronavirus pandemic not swept across the world the Tokyo Games would now be less than 100 days away. As it is, in late March the IOC took what was widely regarded as the inevitable, yet wholly unprecedented, step to postpone the 2020 games for 12 months. Shauna, like her fellow Olympians and climbers everywhere, are now adjusting to a new norm – life within their own house with whatever training facilities they might have and with whom they live.
In Shauna’s case, she’s in lockdown in Sheffield with her partner Ned, dog Arthur and two housemates Gracie and Kieran. We pick-up with Shauna in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic is worsening and numerous countries are going into lockdown. Shauna, a regular social media poster, appeared – quite naturally - heavily impacted by the rapidly deteriorating situation. As an athlete and an Olympian – and remember the Games hadn’t been postponed at that point – she was still in full training mode but it wasn’t proving easy though...
On March 16th, seven days prior to lockdown, you posted that although switching into ‘try hard mode’ hadn’t been easy amidst the escalating situation with the coronavirus you’d hit a new Speed PB. That’s a massive positive to have had in the circumstances and one worth stashing away?
I never thought I would say this but I love Speed Climbing and I love exploring a new aspect of our sport. My performance on speed was great to see everything start to click into place but for now, it is a case of keeping fit during lockdown and working with my team to develop a new plan for Tokyo.
You’d had a knee operation in late 2019 but seemed to be over that OK and presumably, your Olympic preparation/training was going well?
Yes, I have been working with a great team around me who have supported my rehabilitation and pre-season preparations were going really well until lockdown came into effect.
In general terms, how as lockdown been for you so far?
I am really fortunate to have boards in my basement to train on and my partner and housemates are some of the most psyched people possible so I never lack the motivation to train. One of my housemates is learning to play the Ukelele which is making lockdown a little challenging though!
We talk training specifics later but what does a typical lockdown day look like for you?
My training varies from day to day but the main focus for me at the moment is continuing my rehab for my knee and training as well as sustaining my overall fitness. I have also been doing loads of work on the house, filming for my YouTube channel and cooking and baking too.
What are you doing for relaxation?
Arthur has been getting a lot of walks from myself and my housemates as we are all getting out for our daily exercise! I have been busy launching my new YouTube channel where I aim to share some insights into my life, my training and yes some baking too! I have been reading a fair bit and doing loads of house jobs that I thought I’d never get around to.
What do you miss most being in lockdown; wild swimming perhaps?
I miss not being able to get out into the Peak District. It makes you realise how fortunate I am living in Sheffield to have a place to climb, walk and swim out on your doorstep.
OK, let’s talk specifics then starting with the Olympics. On March 24th, the day after the UK Government introduced lockdown, the Olympics were postponed. As an Olympian the unfolding events had ripped through your life and changed your entire focus yet you found the energy and presence to post saying ‘Now more than ever, we must think of others’; brave and compassionate words but you must have been totally gutted as an athlete?
Yes, the current situation has created massive disruption for me and my team but when you think of people whose lives have been lost to the pandemic and the workers who are literally putting their lives on the line to help those suffering then my own feelings as an athlete get put into context.
I have had many setbacks in my career through injury and as a team, we are good at changing plans quickly and dealing with those changes.
Sometimes there are silver-linings in the strangest of places; do you see any advantages arising to you personally from the postponement of the Olympics?
I think I am still processing it all really. I am generally a really positive person. I try to always look on the positive side and learn from every experience.
Have you been able to establish a revised training strategy to handle the postponement?
With no exit strategy from the lockdown available yet, it has been difficult to create a strategy taking us through to Tokyo but currently, we are using the time to support rehab recovery and maintain overall fitness. I feel very confident in my team and I can’t wait to get back to full training.
Understandably your psyche – like that of many - took a battering as we approached and went into lockdown. However, you were soon training again after a few days. Did you start with a favourite session to ease back into the training and how’s it been going since then?
As I said earlier, I am really lucky in that my housemates and partner Ned are some of the most psyched people I know and it’s so nice to be surrounded by such enthusiasm. I took a few days off as it was a lot to take in, accept and adjust to. I have set some goals and set out a rough plan but I am still listening to my body and mind and trying to look after myself. Some days I don’t train at all and other days I’ll do 4 sessions. It definitely helps to have psyched people around and some tunes on real loud!
Can you outline what training facilities you have at home; a home board, weights and (obviously) a Beastmaker or two perhaps?
Yep that’s right we have a few Beastmakers up and other bits and bobs for hanging plus a bar for pull-ups. We have 2 boards and we also have weights, yoga mats, swiss ball etc. for S&C exercises.
Do you train alone? Music on or off?
I do a few bits on my own but I mostly train with my housemates. ALWAYS music on. Well apart from when I’m doing the long boring endurance sessions and then I have Netflix on.
Based on your home set-up and latest posts it looks like your recent sessions have ‘strength workouts’ written all over them. Would it be fair to speculate that you are cranking the intensity pretty high right now in lockdown and are you relishing being able to focus on that?
Not really. I do a lot of conditioning and I am also doing loads of endurance training. I am really psyched to climb on our home boards so it’s possible to have easier sessions on them. I’m definitely not pushing myself hard right now!
The last 12 to 18 months or so you switched your training to include more endurance/route-based climbing as well as speed climbing in preparation for last year’s Olympic qualification events. Are you missing that broad spectrum of training right now?
I love training. It’s weird as I’ve never had this much time. On the one hand it’s nice to have the time and space to do other things but I also really miss the routine and structure of training full time.
Can you give us an overview of your workouts and say roughly what the split is between them?
I am trying to do something every day - even if it’s just a mobility session. I always do mobility and a bit of conditioning before any training session too. Each week I am doing 3 sessions of aero on a fingerboard and one a cap session too. I find the fitness sessions easy to do as they aren’t super hard they just take time and patience. I do at least one max hang session, one weighted pull up session, one board session. The intensity of these sessions depends on how I am feeling. Some weeks I do more but this is the minimum.
Have you set yourselves some specific training goals that you want to achieve during lockdown training?
To stay healthy and be ready to jump back into training when the lockdown is lifted.
What’s the first thing you think you’ll do once the current lockdown ends?
I really don’t know. I guess it depends what the end of lockdown looks like and if we're able to get back to normal. I’m looking forward to getting out in the Peak District though.
Having spent considerable time and effort on C.A.C. (Climbers Against Cancer) and the Women’s Climbing Symposium in the past presumably you’ll continue working on those projects/causes going forward?
Yes, we have big plans for the WCS this year being our tenth year of the Symposium we are so excited to celebrate so post lockdown hopefully this will be a big opportunity.
Accepting that the next 12 months or so are all about preparing for and doing the best you can at the Olympics how do you see your climbing after Tokyo 2021? Are you planning to maintain your focus on competitions or do you want to spend more time on outdoor objectives whether that’s bouldering or doing routes or even trying projects such as Hubble?
I really don’t know. For pretty much my whole life I have had a plan and my climbing and training has always been focussed on competing or projecting. I love being in that space but I don’t know what post-Olympics will look like and I find that so exciting!
Below is the first of Shauna's YouTube videos that will prove useful during lockdown. Below that is an interesting video explaining what her body goes through whilst climbing.