How Canadian Olympian Phylicia George Trains in Quarantine
In our Day in the Quarantine Life series, we’re chatting with Canadians about their new normal, exploring how they organize their days and balance their home lives with work obligations. Here, Phylicia George, a three-time Canadian Olympian, shares how she’s fitting in track and field training while taking care of her twin goddaughters.
I meditate first thing in the morning while I’m still in bed. I follow my breath and listen to the sounds around me. Meditation gives me the opportunity to just sit still and do nothing, and it’s been a helpful reminder to let my body know that I’m safe and healthy—especially now, given what’s going on.
Before quarantine, I was living in Finland training for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Since that’s been postponed until 2021, I returned back to Toronto. I’m staying with my friend, Eseroghene, and her two-year-old twin girls, Kenyatta and Aria. We met each other in 2011 when we were both running track and immediately bonded. She comes to all of my family stuff; the girls call my dad grandpa, and I’m their godmother. I feel we’re more like sisters than friends.
Eseroghene is in school for web development. But because she’s taking online classes three days a week now, I’m helping out with the girls.
The last time I saw them was in December at Christmas. Since I train outside of the country, I’m generally home two to three times within a year for about a week or so. That being said, my actual amount of friend and family time has been pretty limited in the past few years, so it’s nice that I’m getting this chance to stay with my friend.
I go into the girls’ room and see them in their cribs and get all of the hugs and kisses. Kenyatta is very high energy and super curious, whereas Aria is a little bit more cerebral to me.
I get the girls changed, do their hair in big braids and pigtails, and start on breakfast. They love bananas, so we start with some fruit or applesauce. Then I make us up some oatmeal.
I try to be creative when teaching them the ABCs, numbers, and how to explore the world. We do colouring and painting. Painting is a messy experience—getting them to wash their hands without touching anything.
I don’t have any kids of my own, but I feel like I’m getting a crash course in parenting right now.
For lunch, we do leftovers from the night before or some chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. They really like protein smoothies, too.
We’re now exploring sitting them at their own small table instead of their highchairs. The challenge in that is actually keeping them sitting. But, for the most part, they’ve been pretty good about it.
While the girls are napping, I go out to the garage and train for two hours. When the quarantine was put into effect, I was supposed to be at a training camp doing speed work and hurdling. It’s kind of the more intensive portion of the year where I’m combining high-intensity work with power and endurance.
A lot of my training has been changed. What I typically would be doing at this point in the year is impossible to get that quality in a garage—I need a full gym and a whole track to work on. My coach and I have been figuring out what I can increase within this time frame. We’ve taken a few steps back and made the decision to just really work on my cardio, which includes hurdling.
To practise hurdling, my dad and I built some hurdles out of PVC pipe so that I could do walkover drills and hurdle mobility. I know my dad was super happy to be able to provide that for me.
It’s been a challenge—knowing what it takes to be a high-level athlete and knowing I’m not necessarily doing those workouts. Everybody is in the same situation, so I’m just trying to work with what I can. But, limited equipment and limited space are the two most challenging things right now.
While I’m watching the girls, I use this time to stay in contact with my family. Video chat has been my saving grace. My dad lives in Markham, so I video chat with him on FaceTime at least every other day.
My mom passed away in 2010. I know it’s super hard for him to be in the house by himself, so I try to stay in contact with him as much as I can. I make time to video chat with my brother and sister as well, but my dad is probably the person I call the most.
For dinner, we make lasagna rolls—and each one had its own surprise inside! Some had ground beef and some had chicken and spinach. It’s been really nice sharing this responsibility with Eseroghene, and actually being creative about what we’re going to cook. We try to come up with something new every day at Casa Liberté—that’s what we named our “restaurant.”
We have an entire little bedtime routine. I more so just took what their mom already does with them and copied that. We have a bath filled with toys and rubber duckies. After I take them out, we get in our pajamas.
There’s one book, in particular, I read to them before bed: Goodnight, I Love You. Then, I sing songs like the “Wheels on the Bus,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “Rock-a-bye Baby.” They sing along, too. Then it’s night-night, and I tuck them in.
Once they’re down for bed, I do some reading of my own. I’m reading a book by Alan Watts called the The Wisdom of Insecurity. In general, I tend to read a lot, but it’s been nice to have the extra time to really delve into a book before bed.
I kind of feel like I’m getting the chance to take a bit of a break right now, which in some ways is challenging because I’m so used to being on-the-go. But, at the same time, it’s kind of forcing me take some rest that I maybe need.
I normally go to bed around 9:30 p.m. when I’m training, so I’m pretty much on my normal schedule. I’ve worked really hard to create good sleep habits over the years: having a strong meditation practise, only drinking decaf coffee, and winding down in the evening to turn off my brain. I understand the importance of sleep because I’ve seen the difference it makes when I’m able to actually sleep through the night. I’m pretty big on self-care, in general, because I’ve had periods of burnout in the past. But, I think the fact that I already had those tools in my toolbox has been a positive, and maybe even made me more resilient to deal with everything that’s going on.
I miss being able to push myself. I miss being able to run really fast. I think not being able to train to the best of my ability is reigniting my love for it, and I can’t wait to go out and really work on my craft when quarantine is over.