Felix, an Olympic gold medalist sprinter, is training in her Los Angeles neighborhood with tracks closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Allyson Felix, in a family photograph near her home in Los Angeles. She has maintained an intense training schedule even after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year. By Elena Bergeron
People throughout the sports world, from athletes to arena staff members, tell The New York Times how their lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Allyson Felix had spent the past two years waiting for the summer of 2020. Felix, a six-time Olympic champion sprinter, needed eight months to recover after giving birth prematurely to a daughter, Camryn, in November 2018. As she plotted her return to the track, Felix, 34, took to task her primary sponsor, Nike, for reducing payment to, or terminating contracts with, pregnant athletes; became a vocal supporter of maternal health; and picked up a new apparel sponsor, Athleta.
Felix’s husband, Kenneth Ferguson, took a leave from his job at Chrysler, and the family moved to Los Angeles from Michigan so Felix could train with her coach, Bob Kersee, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which were scheduled to begin in July. Then, on March 24, the International Olympic Committee announced that the Games were being postponed until 2021.
“When you’ve already been waiting for a year, another year feels so far and there’s so many people that come together to help me to be able to make this happen,” Felix said. “To ask everyone on board to do it another year, I felt just a little bit overwhelmed with all of that.”
The New York Times talked to Felix about coping, training and whether it’s possible to find a bright side in the interruption.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Q: Take me through what a normal day and week are like for you. What’s the difference between normal and now?
Felix: For me, I am getting up and I am spending some time with my daughter every morning, kind of getting her going and ready. And then I go off to training, and right now we are training wherever we can — isolated trails, empty baseball fields, just anywhere, even in my own neighborhood, like the streets around my house. Anywhere where people aren’t and we can do some sort of running.
I do that and then I come back home and I do my lifting program. Basically I have a home gym, so that has been working out really well, to do that work here. And I get to see my daughter through little pieces of the workout because she’s home and she loves to, like, peek over the banister and watch me lift and all of that. So that’s been a huge change, but it’s kind of fun to look up and see her.
Right now, I spend about two and a half to three hours on the track and then I’m right around two hours in the gym. And then I kind of do work or my daughter will be napping at that time. She naps and I’ll clean or work or do whatever I need to catch up on. And then I make dinner and we have dinner as a family. We might spend some time in the yard or go for a walk, just doing something together before I put my daughter through her bedtime routine. Get that set up and then get a little bit of relaxation or therapy or an ice bath or some type of self-treatment since I’m now doing all that stuff myself.
Felix trains in the streets of her Los Angeles neighborhood, drawing the attention of curious neighbors, especially children.
Are you working out solo or with a coach? How do you manage that with social distancing? We usually do train in a group, but because of everything that’s going on right now it’s just me and my coach. He’s wearing a mask and he’s wearing gloves and we’re staying six feet away, and doing that whole thing. I usually come about an hour before him and I do my complete warm-up so that he’s just there for the actual administering of the workout.
We’re still at a very intense point of training because we’re going to continue to move forward and still train and kind of try and simulate a bit of the season and try to have some competitive opportunities even if it’s just me against the clock.
Lots of places have written: “She’s got an extra year. I’m sure she’ll welcome that.” How do you react when people say that? Is there a plus to having another year to train?
I’m choosing to definitely focus on the positive. I’m making a conscious decision to do that, but it was not the ideal situation. As athletes, we train with such a specific peak to be ready at a specific time. Now that that time has shifted, and for me, where I’m at, being 34 years old, I’d much rather it happen now. But I’m definitely trying to choose the positive and see it as time to get stronger and all of that.
Is there a TV show, a book, a movie that you’ve been spending time on or watching? How have you been entertaining yourself outside of training?
We’ve been catching up on a lot of stuff. I recently read Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming.” That was very inspirational and right on time. Having more time to do things like that that I wouldn’t have had before with traveling. We caught up on “Ozark,” just some fun stuff. Grilling in the backyard and just being around each other. I do think that part is a gift because my schedule was so crazy before that I wouldn’t have had these moments to do things like that. So that’s been good.
Felix said she was enjoying being able to spend more time with her 1½-year-old daughter, Camryn.
What do you wish you had done before the lockdown?
Oh gosh, just like spending time with people. I get so busy with work. For me, it’s hard to just catch up with girlfriends and family and friends. I feel like it’s amplified now because it’s been so long since we’ve been able to, like, do anything or hang out or just go to a dinner. Mostly my girlfriends. I feel like I do a pretty decent job with everyone else.
Any beauty routines that you are missing or have added?
I miss getting my hair done. Getting my nails done. It is the struggle right now. My eyebrows.
What are we doing with the hair? Are you braided up?
I’m doing the natural thing. I do YouTube tutorials and such. I’ve been looking at a lot of buns right now. I’ve done a few braid-outs. But with this training I’ve just been washing my hair and living the bun life.
Have you found that any of your neighbors have started to come out to watch you because they don’t have any sports to watch on TV?
There have been a few neighbors that will come out on their balconies. We have some smaller kids in the neighborhood who have come out and kind of observed. I think at first they were like, “What is going on?” Now they come out from time to time. I think that since everyone is home, they’re much more aware of what’s happening in the neighborhood.
How are you coping financially?
I think everyone has experienced some sort of loss. For me, I don’t have any competitions and that’s definitely an area where there is loss. But I feel really grateful to have a great sponsor in Athleta, the apparel company. Things are normal with all of that. I feel very blessed in that respect. So there’s some loss, but there’s some sense of normalcy as well.
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