Can you believe it’s been 4 years since the Lord sent me back to Athletics? Like, wow! I had a binge watch of my competition vlogs (2017, 2018 & 2019) the other night; I’m honestly so glad I was led to make these vlogs. As much as I pray that they encourage or inspire others, they are also a huge blessing to me personally. If you’re an athlete reading this, I really encourage you to keep some kind of log of your journey (whether video, written or audio; private or public), it’s SO useful in helping you to reflect on the journey and to put things into their right perspective. Oftentimes, we remember (and even inflate) that one good performance forgetting perhaps the rocky journey we had before or after that performance; or, on the other hand, we can so often remember all the “negative” performances or results, again forgetting the journey that we had up to that point, dismissing any positives that took place simply because they were not our “major goal”. So athlete, record your journey – you’ll thank me later 🙃.
Now, as I was reflecting on my own journey since October 2015 (when I oh so nervously returned to the track after 25 solid months out), I felt led to share 4 things that I’ve learnt as an athlete in the past 4 years:
1. Your personal best (PB) is not the whole story
This ties in with what I began to mention in the intro of this post. Judging a whole season by a PB ALONE often causes more harm then good. Granted, we all want to run PBs every time we run, but the truth is, this is just not realistic. Perhaps if you’re a very young athlete just starting out, you might see massive and regular personal bests, but for the rest of us, this is often not the case.
I remember seeing someone in 2017 (my first outdoor season since 2013). At the point when I saw this person, I had run 11.8s/11.9s consistently that season, but they said this to me, “No more 11.8s/11.9s please, we want 11.5s/11.6s.” Now, I know that person meant well, but here’s the thing… Of course, I wanted to be running 11.5/11.6 that season (my pb is 11.58/11.54w so this was not helpful for me mentally); but them saying this was also a failure to acknowledge my consistency that season and the progress I had made considering all the hurdles I had overcome with injuries, mentally and personally etc. (and the fact that I had started the season with 12.63 albeit a -4.2 headwind). My point is, although 11.5/11.6 may be my best times to date, it would not be the whole story to say that I ran “11.5/11.6” every race in the seasons when I ran those times. When I take an average of my top 5 (legal) times for each season over the years, there’s actually only one season that has an 11.6 something average (and that’s not even the year that I ran my PB!).
So to summarise this point, although as athletes we train hard to improve each year, the unfortunate truth is that “success is not always linear,” as one of my old coaches used to tell me all the time. There are so many factors that contribute to your training (or lack of) and also your competition performances; therefore, “PB” cannot be your only definition of progress.
2. Listen to your body
I literally spent a decade dealing with injuries (-LONG-). But it’s only in the past 4 years, that I’ve learnt to listen to my body. Not only to listen during sessions, but to be a student of my body and to recognise what kinds of sessions (or combination of sessions) lead to what issues, and to recognise when my body needs REST. I just don’t know why I used to just “firm it”. I mean, at multiple points my feet were literally fractured and I’d still run on them in pain. Stick my feet in a bucket of ice, then run the next rep – madness! There are no brownie points for firming it or running in pain – especially if you want to be long term in this game. What’s the point? If you do that all winter, your body will be so broken come summer anyway (and visa-versa).
So, don’t be like I used to be. Yes, it can be so frustrating for both athlete and coach if things are always hurting, strained, broken or torn, but at the end of the day, you only get one body. Deal with things early (and/or thoroughly) before they escalate into bigger issues.
3. Perseverance & courage will shift the catch 22
What catch 22 am I talking about? The catch 22 between confidence and performance. Everyone knows that when you perform well your confidence increases and that when your confidence increases, you’re likely to perform well. But what about when you don’t perform well? Or when you lack confidence? Consistently producing undesirable performances can dent your confidence, and a lack of confidence can likewise dent your performances. There are a number of reasons why an athlete might lack confidence or produce consistently undesirable performances, but it’s often in this negative cycle that people quit or give up.
However, I’ve personally found that if you would have the COURAGE to PERSEVERE (regardless of what people say, embarrassment, disappointment, lack of support or discouragement etc.) and have the COURAGE to change the things that you can in your life, training and PERSPECTIVE, then you will eventually see this catch 22 begin to shift. It will either be your confidence that will increase (which will in turn benefit your performance) because you’re focusing on the right things and can acknowledge your progress (no matter how small); OR there will be an improvement in your performance (which will in turn increase your confidence) because you’ve implemented the necessary changes and dealt with things hindering your progress; OR, they may both happen simultaneously – but only if you would have the COURAGE TO PERSEVERE.
4. The game has not left you behind
It’s a weird thing being out of the sport and then back in it again. But the reality is, nothing really changes. Yes, more people may be running faster, jumping higher or throwing further, there may be more knowledge readily available, you may be older, your peers may have progressed (or quit), there may be younger athletes coming through, but really the game is still the same. It’s just you that has to step up to the plate, and when you do, there will be space for you.
We never have to feel like we’re left behind because everybody’s “when” is different and everyone’s book is a different length. If one person’s book is 100 pages and another 200 pages, and they are both on page 50, though it may appear that they are at the same stage, the reality is, the person with 100 pages is already halfway through, where as, the person with 200 pages is really just getting started.
Though it’s hard, we just can’t compare our journey to anyone else’s. Though there’s a “norm”, that doesn’t mean it’s your norm. Though all your age mates may be achieving this or that, refuse to feel like you’re being left behind. I strongly believe everyone has their time (though it may look different and be at different levels)… choose to rejoice with others but prepare for yours.
If you’ve made it this far, I really hope this post blessed you. If it has, please could you give it a like and then share it with someone else who you think would benefit.
Whilst you’re here, why not:
- Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for vlogs, words of encouragement and other creative expressions.
- Follow me on Instagram.
- Read one of my books.
- Watch my monthly sermons for Believers on Track.
- Check out my fivefold ministry resources on Pura*T International
I look forward to connecting with you online and in-person!
In His love always.