Resilience – The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
As I have matured as an athlete I have come to realise just how much more there is to performance than just training hard and being fit. Anyone can train hard, but it takes something extra to be able to train and race smartly and consistently, especially when external stresses come in to the picture.
This year we have been focusing a lot on my personal development, mainly in the area of emotional intelligence.
I have a tendency to get very emotional, particularly when tired, and it can often derail me. Now there’s nothing wrong with that emotion – it’s just part of who I am, but it can have a negative impact on the way I do things. Because of this it’s important for me to learn to recognise, accept, and manage my emotions.
Yesterday I was presented with a prime opportunity to challenge myself in this area.
After another week of 4:30am wake ups (not my forte!) the morning’s training didn’t go the way I had hoped and I was left feeling quite upset and frustrated. As we were racing the 3000m State Champs at 9pm that night I had a good sleep after lunch in the hope that a. it would improve my mood, and b. that it would help me to actually stay awake til 9pm! Often just a nap will work wonders but it was just one of those days. I woke feeling just as flat and down as before and with still a whole 5 hours to chew my way through until it was time to head off to the track. Cue the distraction technique – time for a feel-good movie on Netflix while working my training/uni work schedule ready to start next week so I felt like I was doing something at least semi-productive. It somewhat worked and I was starting to feel better about the day until something actually worthy of getting upset over happened.
In soul-destroyingly painful slow motion I sent my pride and joy, my favourite toy, my dSLR, sliding off the dining room table onto the floor with a fateful thud.
That was it.
I’d had as much as I could take and just wanted to tap out on the day.
I had a good cry about it, felt sorry for myself, then eventually come to the realisation that I still had to run. I couldn’t not run – that’s just not how I operate, even if I didn’t want to there was no way I could not.
I could continue to feel sorry for myself, wear myself out to the point I felt so flat I couldn’t lift to race properly. Or I could let it go – there was nothing I could do about my camera right then. But I could shift my focus to the task at hand. I could go through the processes of getting ready to race. I could get my headspace back. I could go out and run well, giving myself something to feel good about for the day.
So I did.
Last year, luck would have it that my car broke down on the way to the 5K Champs. It was nothing sinister – just the headlight switch broke so I didn’t have lights. I called RACQ as you do, but was so upset by the whole “ordeal” that it ruined my race. I ran significantly slower than the last time I’d done it – 2 years ago, and my confidence was shattered. It was one chip, of many, off my wall of confidence last year.
This year, I was not letting that happen. Every time I feel awful, tired, flat, or unmotivated I remind myself of the mantra I set myself at the beginning of the year – “even on your worst day”. It comes from two things last year. Firstly, following getting dropped yet again on the bike in a race, Mossy confronted me in training and said “Even on your worst day you can keep up with these girls in training. No matter what you should be able to hang onto the pack in the race”. Secondly, from reading Ronda Rousey’s book – her aim was to be so good that no-one could beat her even at her worst. It’s not about feeling great all the time, it’s about being able to focus and get the job done even when you’re not.
Now I’m not super-human, I wasn’t jumping out of my skin, fist pumping and rearing to race, but I was there to give it my best shot and do a good job. I knew the process I had to follow to run well so I did. Once I got to the track I forced myself to shut out everything that had happened so far that day, put on a smile, registered, warmed up, and got ready to run.
I trusted the training I had put in, went out at a pace I knew I could hold, focused on staying relaxed, running fast but efficiently and ran through the line in 9:55 – another PB to follow my 9:57 from 4 weeks earlier. And just like that, the smile on my face became real, and I added another brick of resilience to my foundation to the year.
It’s not about never getting down on yourself, having a bad day, a bad session, or even a bad week or two! We’re all human and need to accept that will happen. It’s about recognising what is going on, where your emotions are coming from, and managing them so you can get on with the job rather than dwelling on what goes wrong!