Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Get real

Life seen through social media seems to imply that most people are buoyantly happy.  The words “epic”, “awesome” and “amazing” abound in tweets, status updates and blogs.  No one posts selfies when they are tired, stressed, overwhelmed or at wits end, much less when times of suffering or sadness are more debilitating than seems manageable in a lifetime.  

And while positivity is certainly engaging, and conventional wisdom will tell you that "everything will be OK" in the long run, the reality is that life is not always positive at all times.  It is even further daunting when the seeming “norm” is of unicorns, baskets of puppies, savasana and love, love, love. 

Most of us hold ourselves to pretty high standards – at work, and at play.  Faster, stronger, higher, smarter.  And that pressure can come at a price.

Today is Bell’s “Let’s Talk Day” – a day dedicated to creating a positive conversation about mental health.   And yet, as much as initiatives like this one encourages awareness, understanding and treatment of mental illness….the fact is that most people do not talk openly about the stuff that’s real. 

So for today….be real.  Spreading sunshine is lovely, but take it one step further and engage in the conversation.  We can all learn to stop asking “how are you” without expecting a real answer, learn to ask better questions, and learn to listen rather than speak. You might be surprised what you hear.  

Monday, January 13, 2014


Off-season has come and gone, and along with it went 2013.  Hello January, the month of relentless rain, goals, dreams and crowded swim lanes.

I typically enjoy off-season, although calling it "off" is probably still the majority's version of exercise obsessed.  Training time gets reduced to "whenever I feel like", with the baseline goal of keeping a healthy mind and body.  It doesn't mean turning into a sloth because, quite frankly, I like exercise.  Off-season is just the time of the year where some of the routine gets dropped, but I never really stop moving for long.  Just slow down a little.  The time of year when I let myself hit snooze, have the glass of wine and forget about distance/time/pace as a measure of anything useful.  No pressure.  Enjoy.  Reflect.

And, as much as off-season is about relaxing, it is an exciting time - the 2013 race season in the books, some interesting experiences chalked up and looking forward to the future.  I'm not one for resolutions at all, but goal setting (whether you are driven by January 1st, or just as a life choice) is a subconscious motivator.

Sports are intrinsically part of who I am.  It is truly incredible to put sweat, heart and (sometimes) tears into something you are passionate about, and work so very hard to get better at it.  And, as I reflect on 2013 and years past in order to make plans for years future, I am truly blown away at the things I have learned to be true from my experiences juggling work, life and being an athlete.

Perhaps better fashion sense should have been an early goal.  Tomboy from the get-go.
Set goals and stick to them.  Resolutions are not goals, and vice versa.  Resolutions are flaky, contrived and breakable.  Goals are specific, achievable with some persistence, and ever-present.  Goals are not supposed to be easy to attain, and (in my belief) you should have to sweat a little (literally or figuratively) to get there.

Never waste time.  Time is opportunity.  Balancing training and a career teaches you that you need to make the most of your time, your resources and your effort.  You need to think, plan, schedule and be absolutely relentless about managing your time in order to make things happen.  And, if there is no plan or if you are just flying by the seat of your pants, just recognize it for what it is, and know it will not get you where you want to go.  You are bound to end up with nothing but a pile of dirty lycra and broken dreams.
Do not give up.  Everyone struggles, everyone falls down, and stuff just sometimes gets in the way. So get up, and dust yourself off.  Go see your [insert here: RMT/chiro/counsellor/coach/best friend/bike shop/hairdresser] and sort out what ails you.  This too shall pass.  Be committed to what you started.  It just might take a slight detour to get there.

Be reasonable in your expectations.  You walk before you can run.  At some point, yes, you will be able to sprint like the wind, but it is important to be mindful of your own expectations and how they fit in with reality.  Be grounded, be reasonable and stay consistent.  Pushing too hard, too soon will not end well.

Give yourself a rest.  You can only go hard for so long before things break down.  Recovery, rest and down time is just as important as training.  In fact, rest makes the head happier and the heart more capable of soaring when the time is right.

Live your passion.  You don't have to love what you do every day, but you do need to feel passion at some level about your life, your goals and your day-to-day existence.  The most awesome version of you is the one that loves who you are and what you do.  Listen to your heart, and obey what it is telling you.  When someone truly lives their passion, you can just feel it emanating from them.  It's pretty contagious.

Be true.  Most of all, being an athlete has taught me to be true to myself, to value myself, and to trust in what my mind, body and heart tells me.  I truly believe you cannot embark on a path - whether it is career-oriented, a race, or a relationship - without being true to yourself.

What will you be in 2014?
This process of reflection, realization and goal-setting has led me to an interesting place.  After reflecting on 2013, and in contemplation of my goals for the future, I was drawn to something rather unexpected.  I listened to my heart, and I took a great big giant step...back.

Feeling stressed, tired and on the brink of injury was not the way I wanted to start the season, and that's exactly how I was feeling at the end of December.  I discovered last year how much recovery I really need, and I would like my experience as a part-time athlete (read: full-time weekend warrior) to extend a lifetime, not just another season.  Sometimes it is not about going faster, or further, but just being happier on the journey.  

And, if you cannot put your heart in something, and be true to who you are, it's high time for some changes.  And so, 2014, we begin...