Despite having to put plans for the 2020 Paralympics on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, visually impaired endurance athlete Dr Sinead Kane has a refreshingly optimistic outlook. Sinead, who holds two Guinness World Records, a double PhD doctorate and is a qualified lawyer, freelance researcher and keynote speaker, spoke to us about her Paralympics journey and her tips for coping during the lockdown.
Was training for the Paralympics always a dream of yours?
I didn’t get involved in sport until I was 30 and at that stage, I would have considered the Paralympics out of my reach, so it wasn’t always a dream of mine.
My first race was a ten-kilometre charity fundraiser. After that I did the Dublin Marathon (October 2014), again to raise funds for charity. It was after that my coach suggested I try ultra-running. I tried a few races of different distances and duration and realised I had a talent for the longer distances. From 2015 to October 2019, all my energy went into ultra-running and in October 2019 I was selected to run for Ireland in the Women’s Team in the 24-hr World Championships in Albi, France. Competing at the World Championships was a huge achievement given that I was the only person with a disability. It was only when I was made aware of the qualifying standard for the Paralympic Marathon and did some research on other athletes that I thought to myself, I can do that.
How long have you been training for the Paralympics?
Last summer, I was made aware of the Paralympic Marathon and I thought, maybe I will give it a go! It wasn’t until November 2019 that I specifically started to change my training to prepare for the Paralympics.
How has your training changed now that you are preparing for the Paralympic Marathon?
With ultra-marathons, it’s more about time on feet and doing longer training runs of three and four hours on a regular basis. Marathon training is about integrating greater speed work into the training. If you want to be competitive at ultras you need to be very aerobically fit but also need to include some speed work. If you want to be competitive at marathons, then your weekly mileage will not be as high as what it would be for ultras.
How do you feel about the postponement of the games?
I am disappointed but it was the right decision. Moving forward involves having a vision for your future that is bigger than the disappointment you are feeling. Whatever we fix our minds on grows, which is why it’s so important to monitor our thoughts.
How are you keeping fit in mind and body during lockdown?
Routine is important and I have a routine each day. I go outside for brief walks, make
sure I take my vitamins and minerals, and get enough sleep because it is during sleep that the body repairs itself. I speak with my loved ones each day to help lift my spirits and mood and watch light-hearted TV shows to take me away from all the negative news. Think about controlling anything that is within your control.
Has your diet changed over the last number of years?
My diet hasn’t really changed but I am just more conscious of getting in my vitamins and minerals and filling the gaps through supplementation. The only thing that has really changed is now I am taking an extra sachet of Revive Active and Mastermind.
I am an endurance athlete. The high-energy needs of endurance athletes require adequate protein to build and repair muscle tissue, carbohydrates for energy-restoring glycogen stores, and dietary fats for energy and endurance. Dietary fats are also crucial for absorbing specific nutrients - particularly the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Lastly, endurance athletes need to stay properly hydrated for optimal performance and to limit their risk of injury and illness.
What is your advice for people who are finding the lockdown difficult?
Questions – I think once you ask yourself questions such as – how much do I value my life? How much do I value the people around me? Do I prefer to be indoors for a few weeks being bored and staying safe or spend a longer time trying to recover from a very serious, life-threatening illness that could also affect my friends and family? I think once you are honest with yourself and ask yourself these questions, then it will be easier to see what your priorities are in life and gain some perspective.
Mindset – I would try to think about what the positives of the lockdown, rather than the negatives. For example, the lockdown may have given you more time with your family, something you might have lacked previously.
Practice Gratitude – The lockdown teaches us not to take our health, our freedom, social connections, or nature for granted. When this all passes, I think we will all be more grateful for these aspects of our lives.