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Living With Passion - The Ups & Downs

Monday, 2 November 2015, 6:00 AM
By Anna Russell


Last year was one that had quite a few ups and downs. The end of the season, a 3-race campaign in Australia, was cut short with an injury that prevented me from racing. Therefore I was left with the slightly depressing thought that I had rehabbed 7 days a week, for 3 months, did everything right and still couldn’t do my job.

Now, I know there are far worse predicaments in the world, and so many people deal with things daily that they just don’t deserve. But I also know that when I’m going through rough patches I like to read the experience of others who have been there and come through the other side. I appreciate the people that are honest about their experiences as it helps to make you realise that you’re not alone in what you are thinking and feeling. It may only be a couple of missed races, but the emotions and stress are still real and still require some kind of strategy to work through. Not everything always goes to plan, or happens the way we want it to, and I hope that this honest account not only helps me move forward, but can help others build resilience during the downs in their own life.

Know the warning signs

For me, I call it ‘the cloud’. After pulling off the run course at Mandurah I could feel the cloud coming down. Everything takes a negative slant and small problems become insurmountable. I didn’t just see it as a simple DNF for an injury that would take a couple of weeks to get better. I saw it as a complete failure in trying to do my job, worrying too much what everyone else would think, ‘I’ll be known as the girl that can’t finish races’, ‘she’s always injured’ etc.  I spent the entire next day in bed and the cloud just got bigger and bigger. What snapped me out of it was my mum getting me out of the house, out walking, doing something active and talking things through. So it’s not only vital to see the warning signs, but also to have people around you who can get you through when you need it. There’s a reason why so many of the corporates I work with are now focusing on mental health. It seems to be the ‘silent’ disease people just don’t talk about, try and get through on their own, and end up falling deeper and deeper into a hole that they can’t get out of.

Be proactive about what is in your control and be patient about what is outside of your control

The next day I woke up and thought about all the things I could put into place that would help me mentally and physically move forward into a more positive space.  I also realised all of the things that I just couldn’t do anything about, namely, the healing time of an injury. I put a bigger lens on the situation, the day before I saw myself as ‘stuck’ in Australia, not able to race, for the next couple of weeks. Looking at it more positively I could now spend less time being nervous about the upcoming races and use that energy to connect with friends and family – something that is hard to do when you spend so many hours of the day out training. I was coaching an athlete in one of the races, her first half-ironman, another positive that I could invest more time in. I definitely still encountered those pesky thoughts of being a failure at my chosen career of professional sport, but with a different focus and headspace those thoughts didn’t become all consuming. Working with people on a one-on-one basis has given me insight into the fact that a lot of the stresses we face are things we can’t control. It can help to talk these through with someone, or note down what you can do something about – it gives a feeling of proactivity in an otherwise overwhelming situation.

Reach out to someone who has been in a similar situation

For an athlete this can be very easy. There are so many blogs, articles, stories out there from other athletes who have come through similar situations. It helped for me to read Annabel Luxford’s blog, she won the race that I DNF’d. Six months ago she was in a very similar situation, injured and unable to race. It helped that she shared this part of her journey and that she did pull through and achieve at such a high level. I spoke at a conference the day following the race, it was supposed to be a motivational presentation, however I didn’t believe I could give that type of presentation at that time. Instead I talked about overcoming adversity and becoming more resilient as a result of that. What amazed me was that when I was honest it enabled those in the room to open up and share similar stories. People should not feel alone, in sport, in the workplace, at home.

This journey continues to be an up and down adventure, unfortunately for how high the highs can be, the lows hit further down than I had envisaged. I do still believe though that keeping an honest account of these ups and downs can provide more inspiration than a skewed reality of ‘living the dream’.

For more information about what I can offer corporates and individuals, please contact me or click on the link below: www.annarusselltriathlete.co.nz/anna-russell/


Originally published in NZ Triathlon & Multisport Issue 101, April 2015

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