We all had lofty goals set for 2020 but as South Africa enters week 4 of our COVID-19-induced lockdown many may no longer seem attainable.

Understandably, faced with the harsh reality of our current predicament and an increasingly uncertain future, many of us will grapple with the motivation and resolve to keep training.

While any disruption to a training plan is unwelcome, our efforts often get sidelined by injury or work and other life commitments. In this context, we should view lockdown in the same light and follow a similar approach to continue making progress.

Reset your expectations

The first response to any setback should be to adjust your mindset and expectations. Understand the limitations that the lockdown will impose on your training and do the best with what you have available to you.

Next, readjust your goal, and be realistic. This probably isn’t the time to try and lose significant weight, gain more muscle or achieve peak fitness for a race that probably won’t happen this year as scheduled.

Rather aim to maintain your current conditioning, or work on weak areas or imbalances you might be carrying.

Up your mental game

And the other element to a successful lockdown approach is a solid mental game, which you create by building the resolve to tough it out in the face of adversity. This requires us to work on a character trait often called ‘grit’.

The dictionary definition of grit is ‘courage and resolve; strength of character’ but the character trait and attitude shared by most successful athletes amounts to more than that.

This type of grit runs much deeper. It’s what drives athletes to succeed in the face of adversity in all its forms. It shapes their perceptions of challenges and reframes their vocabulary, their thinking and their daily actions around how they tackle the task at hand.

Build your grit score

Angela Duckworth is an academic, behavioural psychologist, a MacArthur ‘Genius’ fellow, the founder and CEO of the Character Lab, and author of the New York Times bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She studies grit and self-control, which her website explains are “two attributes that are distinct from IQ and yet powerfully predict success.”

In the context of behaviour, Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

Based on her studies, Duckworth has identified that individuals who exhibit high levels of grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods, despite experiencing failure or adversity.

However, in spite of her extensive research into the subject, Duckworth says that the essence of grit remains elusive.

What she has unearthed are a number of other traits and tools that we can apply to our own lives, to up our ‘Grit score’. This will harden our mettle and our resolve in achieving what we want most in life.

Define your ‘ultimate concern’

According to Duckworth, grit is more than just your mindset to adversity in the moment. In her book, she explains that: “Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something. Instead, grit is about having … an ”ultimate concern” – a goal you care about so much that it organises and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal … Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.”

It’s a compelling book that will make for highly beneficial lockdown reading. It is highly recommended for anyone who is serious about maintaining their motivation and achieving their goals amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic.