As an Athlete and a Health Care worker

by Katherine Moskal, Team Rev3, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Sad Mermaid

COVID-19 has shaken up our world. We each have our own perspective, our own experiences, and our own opinions about how we should be handling it. This post is just about mine and in no way represents anyone else’s but mine.

Who am I?

I am a certified athletic trainer, I am a former competitive swimmer, I am an average age group triathlete, I am an Irondistance triathlete, I am a health care worker, I am a health educator, I am a Rev3 team member and a member of the Base Performance team, but I am also a human being. 

I currently work in the medical field, I am not on the front line in the hospital, I work in a primary care office with a family medicine physician who also does non-surgical sports medicine as well as an orthopedic surgeon.

My Days now…

I am still required to go to work every day. I sit at my desk, in front of my computer, I have probably spoken to 100 patients this week, responded to 100 messages, and set up 100s of prescription refills for my MD to fill. Some patients I have spoken to, to indefinitely cancel their appointments, some to make an attempt to reschedule their appointments for 3-6 months down the road in the hopes that we will be seeing patients in person by then, some to schedule phone visits, and then there are all of the patients calling with symptoms who are truly scared, don’t know what to do, and just really want a calm voice in the storm.

There are some patients who unfortunately do not understand that there are specific guidelines that must be followed and not everyone can get tested for COVID-19, so we are all just doing our best to reassure people that they are going to be okay, to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the DPH and to just keep us posted so we can help, even if it is just a calm voice in an unsettling time. 

We are also seeing some more urgent patients. We are doing our best to keep patients out of the office and do things by phone, but there are patients who really do need to be seen. We as health care providers are taking every precaution possible! Things like getting patients immediately into a room, using masks, washing our hands, always in front of the patient, using hand sanitizer, and getting patients out of the office in the most efficient manner possible while still meeting all of their needs. This is not an easy task, but we are doing the best we can. The one thing that we ask is that you as the patient are patient and allow us some grace as we are navigating uncharted territory!

How training has changed for me

Now, for me as a triathlete – swimming is my happy place, so having swimming taken away from me has been mentally difficult. Swimming is my sanctuary, I love being in the water. I live in New England, so I am not quite ready for open water, but it will be coming sooner than years past if this hangs around.

I do most of my training alone, so as far as training goes, the social distancing hasn’t been quite as hard, but I can say that the creation of Strava groups, Zwift no-drop group rides, and just overall camaraderie has demonstrated to me how comforting friends, teammates, and training partners really are.

Racing has become uncertain this year and to be honest personally, I am okay with that! I love training, racing not always so much – I tend to put a couple of races on my schedule because I like having something to look forward to in order to culminate my training, but the stress of racing sometimes gets to me. I worry about disappointing my coach, my family, those people who support and encourage me along the way so being able to train with race uncertainty is ok with me.

What training does provide for me is a way to release my stress from the day or to start my day in a positive way. My biggest downfall is the guilt I feel if I don’t get a workout in, if I miss something that my coach has asked me to do or put on my plan and that I will beat myself up over this – even without a race on the calendar!!! What becomes difficult is when I have to balance the work life and additional stress, the potential that I may eventually be told to work from home or God-forbid exposed and told to completely quarantine for 2 weeks with my training.

I have to go in early, I have to stay late, I have to reassure constantly and sometimes, I get tired and I just want to stay in bed instead of getting up at 5AM or I want to come home and just put on my sweats because I had to stay an hour late or I didn’t get to take lunch because we had 50 phone calls in the queue that needed to be answered or addressed.  

Why do I tell you all of this you may wonder? Well for a few reasons #1 so you all can understand, as medical professionals – we want to help you, we want to take care of you, we want you to be healthy while being reassured and comforted, but we are in uncharted territory and we do not have all the answers. Things are dynamic and changing daily, so please bear with us! We understand that you don’t feel well or that you are in pain, but please understand we want to keep you as healthy as possible so putting off your appointment if it is not urgent really is necessary to help flatten the curve!

#2 I personally understand your need to want to workout, to train, to have your normalcy – I get it, but please think before you go out doing something. Stay inside for your bike rides and if you do go out, please please be really really careful – I KNOW – you want to go outside, I get it, but the hospitals do not have the capacity to deal with bike crashes right now and if you have an injury that is not urgent, you are not going to be seen in a timely fashion. I am still running outside, but running only in daylight, running either alone, or with 1 other person at a safe social distance and what I can say is please please just be smart!

Don’t try to train through an injury, instead be smart about it – MDs cannot get you in the office, physical therapists are not seeing patients in person, massage therapists have been forced to close for now. Access to healthcare is limited!!! We know this, we understand this, and we sympathize! 

So, what is my advice?

Don’t stress about races being cancelled, to be honest – this just isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things and race directors are doing everything they can. Do what you can, allow yourself grace in this time of uncertainty, stay healthy, control what you can and let go of what you cannot and no matter what WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

My friends, this too will pass and we will be stronger and more resilient for it.

Peace, love, and Tri-on

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