The Varsity had an opportunity to speak with Varsity Blues track and field head coach Carl Georgevski about the team’s adapted training routines amidst the pandemic.

The former Ontario University Athletics high jump champion and graduate of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Physical Education and Health — now known as the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education — spoke about the challenges of coaching through Zoom, the uncertainty of returning to campus in the fall, and ways to stay healthy and active while complying with physical distancing measures. 

The Varsity: How has the track and field team adapted its training in light of the pandemic? And how have you been finding the experience of coaching online? 

Carl Georgevski: Track and field is one program, but it’s divided into different areas. So we have our middle distance cross country area; we have our sprints and hurdles area; we have our jumps combined events area; we have our throws area. So each coach has a unique way of delivering the program to the athletes in each area. 

It was easiest to adapt the training of middle- and long-distance runners right from the beginning, since they’re used to running outside on the streets. It was a bit different for our sprint group. You cannot sprint on the hard concrete every single day — you’re going to do more harm than good to your lower extremities, your hips, and your back. So we’ve been holding training and circuit sessions with them on Zoom. 

For jumps and combined events athletes, I send out a weekly training guide, and every Saturday morning I have combined events meetings. Whenever they need a bit of a pick-me-up and a good laugh, I send them videos of me demonstrating the exercise. Then they send me a video of what they’re doing and I go over the video with them to make sure they’re doing the right thing.

On Wednesdays, our strength and conditioning coach holds a Zoom circuit workout with the entire team, so all the athletes can get back together that way. We had an entire team meeting, with returning and incoming students, and it was kind of neat!

TV: When do you expect to return to campus, or to be ‘back on track’? 

CG: We don’t know. We follow the university’s policies and guidelines. Safety and everyone’s well-being is our first priority. In our next team meeting, which is going to happen in a couple of weeks, we should have more information on what things are going to look like in the fall. 

TV: Now that we have fewer options to exercise, but more time on our hands, what are your first steps for readers who are interested in developing a running or workout routine?

CG: Number one: start slowly, start gently — don’t overdo it. If you make a mistake, always make the mistake of undergoing rather than overdoing. If you overdo it, you’re going to be hurting — especially if you’re hitting the streets right now, because the concrete is not very lower-extremity friendly. So, for people who have never done any kind of running, I would even suggest to start walking and gradually transition into jogging. Then, increase the distance that you’ve been covering by half a kilometre at a time.

There are also some great programs online, like “From Couch to 5k.” Even if you have the big aspiration of being a marathon runner, there are beginner programs for marathoners as well. Training hard and smart, that’s the key to success. Why not start off slowly and gradually build and strengthen your muscles and tendons rather than doing it all at once? 

TV: How much time a day would you recommend dedicating to exercise?

CG: If you haven’t ever done anything athletic, take 15 minutes and do something active. In a way this pandemic is a gift to you personally — what else have you got to do? Take one hour a day and totally dedicate it to yourself, even if that means putting your feet up, drinking tea, and not thinking about work. Look after your body; it’s the only one you have. Look after your mind. And the way you look after your mind is by looking after your body to a large extent.

TV: If that’s your coaching philosophy for the pandemic, I’m sure your athletes are very fortunate to have you as a coach. I’m sure a lot of people are looking for guidance right now.

CG: Well, sometimes my athletes look at me and say, “Are you for real?” With the coaching philosophy in our program, no one ever gets yelled at, nobody gets put down, because we’re here to build. We’re here to empower, and the only way that I can empower you is to allow you to feel comfortable in the environment that I set, and for me to challenge you. So, having said everything that I’ve said about our program, what it really comes down to is passion about what you’re doing and having no regrets. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.