CHENNAI: For athletes in the Anju Bobby George Sports Foundation, it is about a fresh start.
After eight months, 13 girls resumed training under Robert Bobby George at the Sports Authority of India campus in Bengaluru last week (they will go back to training in Anju's academy once renovation work is complete).
The primary challenge for the former long jumper is to get her wards back in shape after they lost a significant amount of body mass during the lockdown. In order to make sure the girls did not drop their fitness level during the lockdown months, athletes were handed training schedules on WhatsApp every day.
They were encouraged to send videos of their training for evaluation. However, keeping track of their diet was not possible for Anju. "We had some control over their training in these months but not in the diet. Most of them were consuming only vegetarian food at home. That was a bit of struggle for us," said the 2003 World Championships bronze medallist.
"When they reached our academy, most of them had lost their muscle mass. Due to months of inactivity, everyone is in different shape. The workload now varies from one athlete to another unlike before."
After the athletes joined the academy, the technical assessment with sports science equipment was undertaken to understand where they stood in terms of fitness to chalk out a fresh training regime. The priority was to start gradually to ensure no athlete suffered an injury.
"In athletics, an off-season will be for a maximum of one month. The issue with this prolonger period of being away from the sport is that we need to teach the kids everything from scratch, including the running technique. Long jump is a highly technical event. It takes time to impart that knowledge and then for them to execute it perfectly. But we need to take it slow," added the 43-year-old.
The resumption of activities was not smooth though. Despite only a handful at the centre, an athlete tested positive for coronavirus. The rest of the athletes then underwent two weeks of isolation before they regrouped in the last week of November.
"She was asymptomatic and was admitted to the hospital immediately once we got the result. Other athletes who returned negative tests have begun practise and are following the protocols. After clearing all the tests, girls are not worried about their safety," Anju said.