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How new activities helped Lexi West keep mentally fit throughout lockdown

As part of the Swim England #YourMembershipCounts campaign, we have been finding out how our clubs and members have stayed engaged with their sport, coped with the challenges of 2020, and their hopes for the future.

Water polo player Lexi West has told how trying out new activities helped keep her mentally fit during the coronavirus lockdowns.

The 15-year-old, who is a part of Swim England’s National Water Polo Academy, said that yoga helped her to ‘relieve thoughts and stress’ at the end of the week.

She says of the first lockdown: “Physically I coped well, and I managed to squeeze sessions in at a nearby lake to keep my stamina up.

“The one thing I found the hardest was not seeing my friends and family face to face.

“I learned a lot from the psychological talks I attended and they really inspired me to keep mentally fit.”

Mental wellbeing in sport is paramount for athletes. The severe change and disruption created by the pandemic has undoubtedly had the potential to negatively impact people’s mental health.

Swimming has also been proven to be a stress-reliever and is a great tool that can be utilised for improving overall wellbeing – both physically and mentally.

Inevitably, the inability to get into the water has impacted athletes across all disciplines.

Prior to the first lockdown, Lexi was training a total of 12-and-a-half hours per week which was broken down into four-and-a-half-hours strength and conditioning training, five hours of water polo and three hours of swimming.

As well as being a part of the National Academy, she is a member of Rotherham Metro Water Polo, Nova Centurion, Hucknall Water Polo, South Derbyshire Water Polo and Etwall Eagles.

Lexi is also a member of the Derbyshire Institute of Sport for Strength and Conditioning and splits her training across these clubs.

Lexi West - Water Polo

Exercise makes me happier

She explained how keeping fit, practicing skills and doing yoga helped keep her mental fitness strong.

“My dad was a big help as he invented equipment that allowed me to practice my arm movement in water polo with a ball,” she said.

“My mum bought me a bounce net so I could practice passing. I think that daily Joe Wicks sessions were greatly beneficial, even if I did not feel like getting up in the morning.

“As I could not take part in the physical side of sport, I could focus more on the mental side of it instead.

“When we finally went back, I feel I faced my training with a more positive and beneficial attitude, and I felt like I got more out of the sessions.

Lexi explains the different things the lockdown period taught her about her sport, herself as an athlete, and her hopes for the future.

“I learned that exercise also makes me happier and fulfills my time with something I enjoy,” she said.

“I missed being in the pool a lot and I think that the period that we had off taught me that I really love my sport and I could not wait to go back.

“This lockdown has taught me a lot about my body, and I have reset my short-term goals whilst tweaking my long-term goals.

“I have learned that my goals were unachievable after having months off training, but I have reassessed these and realised I can achieve them again in future – it just may take a little longer than first anticipated.

“I think I have become a more flexible person and I am willing to adapt to different situations, which is a skill that is transferable throughout life.

“I take part in my sport because it makes me happy and I think that is one of the main reasons others do sport. Water polo is so different to other sports and I am constantly learning new things about it every day.”