Arena Swim UK Blog

arena athletes on lockdown and road to Olympics

As the lockdown road map continues to move forward with plans and more restrictions being lifted from Monday 12th April  meaning indoor pools can now also open, we got in touch with some of our athletes to see how lockdown has affected them, how they feel about the Olympics Trails and the road to Tokyo.

We sent the same set of questions to Toby Robinson (TR), Conor Ferguson (CF) and David Murphy (DM), heres what they had to say –

      How has lockdown affected your training?

  • TR – During the first lockdown our training operations shut down completely whilst we figured out how we would adapt to the new lockdown world. During this time, we did a lot of home circuits and watt bike sessions to keep up our general fitness and I also went for a swim in my local river on the sunnier days! British Swimming were working hard behind the scenes to get us back in the pool environment in June and we have been training as usual with social distancing measures ever since then. I feel very lucky and privileged to have been able to carry on training this year when many have not been able to.
  • CF – I’m fortunate that during lockdown I have still been able to achieve 16hours in the pool and 6 hours in the gym with my swim coach, Peter Hill, and my gym coach, Steve McQuillan. I have had to temporarily move my training to the Bangor Aurora Leisure Centre due to Covid and Larne Swimming clubs Elite swimmers and I have shared this environment with other Elite swimmers in Ulster. I’m looking forward to the lockdown restrictions lifting in order for the rest of my teammates to get ba

    David Murphy

    ck in the water and for our own home facilities to open back up.

  •  DM – The first lockdown really shook things up, training out of my garage and building my own squat rack were new challenges but I was incredibly lucky to have the space to do so. Overall I think the time out of the water may have benefitted me in the long run, as is allowed time to come back in totally refreshed and allowed me to integrate correct habits that would be much harder to do during a full season.

Have you had to be inventive with your training during any of the lockdowns?

  • TR – My novel training methods during the first lockdown would have to be my river swimming. The weather was unusually nice for May last year so I took this opportunity to train in the River Soar in Leicestershire.
  • CF – During the first Lockdown my training was very limited with everything being shut. I used this as an opportunity to gain strength. Again, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of people that want to help me achieve my goals and during this lockdown friends were able to supply me with the equipment I needed to stay fit aerobically and to make strength gains. The year previously I had been injured and was out of the water for 7 weeks in the lead up to our World Championship trials, so I was able to use some of the training sessions on the bike from then. One new thing I tried was open water swimming for the first time but it’s safe to say I won’t be rushing back to that type of training anytime soon…
  • DM – Due to this I didn’t have to be too inventive with my lockdown training, but the garage training really became a staple of it.

Baking seems to have been a popular activity in the lockdowns, what’s been your best efforts?

  • TR – I’m not much of a baker really, I much prefer cooking. However, I can put together a pretty basic banana bread. One of my cooking accomplishments this year has been making a delicious homemade Gnocchi dish.
  • CF – Baking isn’t my strongest point, my dishes are very boring and repetitive, consisting mainly of porridge, chicken and rice, eggs, berries. I have a strict diet schedule in which I stick too weekly and during lockdown this didn’t change. I would leave the baking to my Grandmother as she makes a brilliant rhubarb pie.
  • DM – I suck at baking.

How many series have you watched on Netflix and what would you recommend?

  • TR – I’ve had plenty of time to get well acquainted with many streaming services this year. I’ve enjoyed many series and films but The Mandalorian on Disney+ has got to be my favourite this year due to the fact I’m a huge Star Wars nerd.
  • CF – During the first lockdown I watched Money heist but with balancing my academics, training, job, recovery and personal relationships I don’t get much time to watch Netflix or any series. The only time I watch TV is if Manchester United are playing or a good football match is on.
  • DM – I don’t watch Netflix, I decided to start learning a language (German) and also learnt new skills such as becoming a DJ.

How has the Olympic delay affected your plans for Tokyo?

  • TR – The year delay to the Olympics has been frustrating to many but I’ve seen it as an opportunity. An extra year to train has so far proved very valuable.
  • CF – The Olympic delay has more than likely affected my run up to trials in a positive way as this has given me an extra year to get used to my coaches and their type of training styles. I am also 21 this year and I have noticed a difference in strength as I have gotten older.
  • DM – The delay in the Tokyo Olympics hasn’t affected me too much, I’m lucky in the fact that I’m young and still have years ahead of me in my career. It’s a tough ride for breaststrokers in GB because of the talent we have at the top at the moment, but the last year has made everyone stronger and want it more than ever, especially myself.

 With no spectators allowed at rails how will you get the race atmosphere?

Toby Robinson

  • TR – One of the most important traits of an elite swimmer is being able to perform in any situation. I’ve been lucky enough to have swam in many different arenas, most importantly the two Manchester meets in the last couple of months which have prepared me well for the upcoming trials.
  • CF – No spectators is disappointing but not a surprise. I would hope that there will be some atmosphere through music or commentary at trials however I will be prepared for a very quiet arena. Competing without a crowd this year at time trial meets has been a very strange experience however this will not impact me when it comes to trials.
  • DM – The race atmosphere is a state of mind, if you prepare yourself to be in the right mental state, the absence of spectators will have minimal difference. Preparation in training is perfect for this as when it comes to the real thing, I will merely be racing my training partners.

Does the event bubble help at trails?

  • TR – The event bubble at British Championships is crucial for the event to happen. It’s great to be able to race in these events and feel safe at the same time.
  • CF – I’m fortunate that through my job working for the NHS that I have received my Covid19 vaccination, so I’m not worried about catching the virus as much as I was before however having an event bubble makes this extra safe for everyone competing.
  • DM – The event bubble makes no effect on trials, for me at least. Everyone still has to follow the guidelines.

Apart from your own event, which race are you most keen to watch?

Conor Ferguson

TR – I’m very keen to watch all my teammates’ race. I’ve witnessed my whole group training their hearts out over the last few years and can’t wait to see some crazy fast times in April.


  • CF – If I get the opportunity, I will watch the 200 free as a few of my close friends are in this event and are going for their Olympic A cuts, so I would love to see them achieve their times. I have a day off in the middle of the week so I may have a chance to watch some racing then.
  • DM – The main event I want to watch is the 200 breaststroke. My teammates have been working so hard alongside me I can’t wait to see them smash it and succeed.









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