ACCEPTING UNCERTAINTY // Harriet Brown & our other amazing athletes on how they're feeling right now
This blog post was written by Harriet Brown.
I like routine. I am a goal focused, list kind of girl. I always knew this, however the current situation we are in has really highlighted that to me. The uncertainty of racing has reinforced that my motivation to train hard stems from competition goals. I exercise to feel fit and healthy, however, I train to win races. It’s as simple as that.
There is so much uncertainty in the world at the moment and especially in sport. Olympians are hoping the Olympics can be held next year, some sports are being forced to choose between withdrawing or facing risky travel plans, others are stuck in parts of the world with such severe restrictions that they can’t even train.
To be a top athlete you have to be dedicated and focused. Every day you have to apply yourself and push your body both physically and mentally. When I‘m training hard for an event I finish each week exhausted. This is normal for most athletes because we know that all the training is worth it. We know when we stand on the line we need to be at our peak performance level. But throw some uncertainty in the mix and everything changes. When will we race next? Should we scale back training to focus on other things like work and study? If we train too hard now, will we Iose motivation? Will we even race this season?
Personally, I feel like I’m in limbo, on a roller coaster of hope and frustration. One moment I’m training hard, hopeful we will race soon, the next, I hear that we may not race for months. This makes me feel flat and I lose motivation almost instantly. These circumstances have certainly made me realise how much I rely on competition for my motivation.
I feel like I’m struggling a bit at the moment so I wanted to find out if I was the only one. I reached out to few inspiring athletes to see how they are faring in this uncertain time.
Lizzie Welborn is a fellow surf ironwoman, living in Sydney and in the same boat as me hoping that our summer racing season will still go ahead.
Lizzie: When COVID first hit and all our competition for the rest of the season was cancelled I was devastated. However, the sadness didn’t last too long because every single sport around the world was in the same boat and I knew I had next season to look forward to. After having a lovely break during lock down I was super motivated to start training for the upcoming season but now there is uncertainty if these events will even run. In the past month or so I assumed things would go back to ‘normal’ however, in Sydney things are getting worse. I have never not had a goal to strive for in sport, and I didn’t realise how much of a purpose this gave me. I never thought I would be emotionally affected by COVID but I have been. I have felt really sad and confused. I have never dealt with feelings like this before and it will be an interesting journey to overcome them.
Mariafe Artacho Del Solar is an Olympic beach Volley Baller who is currently located in Brisbane. All her world tour events have been cancelled this year, she is uncertain when she will compete again but is refocusing on training for Toyko 2021.
Mariafe: At first it was pretty hard to believe, thinking that there was no international season nor were we flying anywhere this year to compete since I usually spend half the year overseas competing. However, I couldn’t waste my energy focusing on what I can’t control. I’m one to always be happy and find the positives in every situation, our team goal hasn’t changed and that’s what still motivates me to get up and continue to train every day.
Keely Andrew is a Pro surfer living on the Sunshine Coast. She is currently preparing for the 2021 WSL World Tour Competition which is pencilled in for a start in Hawaii in December 2020.
Keely: Initially I never thought much of the situation. Like most people I just naturally assumed that it was a short pause and competition would resume not long after. However, fast forward to today and I couldn't have been more wrong. The uncertainty of competition has been challenging. I have an incredible team around me who reassure me that it's okay if I lose motivation and just want to take some quiet time for myself. After all I don't actually know when I will surf another heat on the World Tour and it's difficult to remain switched on all of the time without burning out. I've been waking up every day and just appreciating living in a beautiful place and being able to sleep in my own bed. This is longest amount of time I've spent at home in 6 years and it is my first winter at home. Each and every day is not guaranteed, so I've just been trying to enjoy it for what it is and know that everything happens for a reason.
Tayla Simmonds is a waterskier currently training on the Gold Coast. However, like many sports international Pro Waterskiing events are either cancelled, postponed or happening in other countries that not all athletes have access to.
Tayla: This time brings so much uncertainty to myself, my training and my sport. For me, most of the decisions I make daily are based around my training and passion for elite waterskiing. I was supposed to have four major international events and a World Championships this year, which I have been training for my whole life, and then bang, they are all cancelled or postponed. As a young athlete this is definitely difficult times but I just know that using this extra time to keep chasing my dreams is what will motivate me until competitive sport gets back on track.
Everyone is experiencing their own rollercoaster of emotions; the uncertainty sounds overwhelming. I asked each of these athletes what they are doing to help them get through this time and what they are doing to help themselves stay positive.
Lizzie: Even though the restrictions and uncertainty about competition sucks, it has made me much more grateful for what I have and can do. I am so grateful to have such a great group of people to train with at my surf club. I have really been trying to enjoy training for what it is, regardless of if I have an event to train for. I feel so lucky that I still get to hang out and train with my friends and coaches at the surf club every day, it is so important for my mental health as well. It is our little community and we are all sticking together during these tough times to make sure we are all staying happy and healthy.
Mariafe: I’m setting small goals for myself and not thinking too far ahead. I’m staying present and focusing on the things I can control. I’m focusing on the positives and I’m grateful for what I have and the people I have around me.
Keely: I've really been enjoying watching a lot of other sports that I can't get access to when I'm on the road, such as AFL, golf and the NBA. Otherwise I enjoy getting outside and in the garden. I find mowing the lawn and growing my vegetable patch to be very therapeutic as weird as that sounds. I have an incredible surfboard shaper that has come up with some really fun surfboard designs. For me, I have the most fun when I ride different surfboards and I have been fortunate enough to do that during this time. I gain a lot of motivation from re-watching my heats in the past and reflecting on decisions that I made and things that I can improve on. As a result, during this time of uncertainty I have been doing a lot of reflecting.
Tayla: I have struggled to find willingness to train. My motivation is going up and down like a rollercoaster. I have always found happiness training in the gym or being out on the water with family and friends. This has been helping me keep a positive outlook on the future of my sporting career. To deal with not knowing where I will be for the coming months or even year, I have decided to focus my energy on controllable variables such as my training and mental health. I have been lucky enough to have been able to continue my sport. I am using this extra time to become a stronger athlete whilst also building a positive environment until competitive life resumes as normal. Life is about learning and it is absolutely okay to take a step back, breathe and look for new opportunities to spark my inner fire. I have learnt that it is okay to feel like you don’t know what you are doing, it is okay to feel unmotivated, don’t beat yourself up over it. Surround yourself with what makes you happy and enjoy the little things. I know within myself I am doing my best considering this crazy situation and that’s all that matters!
Me: I’m setting myself small goals like getting stronger in the gym, finally running consistently or focusing on my ski paddling technique. These are my focus and my achievements for now. I am creating a training base that I can then ramp up when there is more certainty. I am also allowing myself some flexibility with training, if I have something more important on or just don’t feel like it, I’m letting myself miss training. I’m letting go of the mental intensity that occurs when training is my main focus each day, that kind of focus is not always sustainable. A sleep in here or there right now makes me feel rested and happy and gives me more time to focus on work or other passions. I am also trying to enjoy training more and just be grateful for what I can do. After all, I do really love paddling out in the ocean with my friends, especially when it’s a beautiful day.
What I have learnt from these inspiring Jolyn girls is that most of them have struggled with motivation. This is normal and okay. Lizzie is trying to enjoy training for what it is and is grateful for what she has. Tayla is working on her mental health and beginning to accept that it’s okay to feel unmotivated and like she doesn’t have a plan. She too is trying to focus on enjoying the little things. Mariafe is setting small goals and not thinking too far ahead, and Keely is having fun watching other sports, riding new surfboard shapes and drawing inspiration by learning from re-watching her old heats. I am continuing to try and not be too hard on myself, allowing myself to take a session off here and there to focus on other things that I enjoy in life away from sport.
Knowing I’m not the only athlete struggling at the moment has helped me keep perspective. I have found it therapeutic to reflect on how I’m feeling and to come up with strategies helps me through this time. You can try this too. I promise, it helps a little bit. I will now go back to creating my own kind of structure, be grateful for each day and learn to be more accepting of this uncertainty we all find ourselves in.
This blog post was written by Harriet Brown. Stay up to date with Harriet's adventures via her Instagram @harrietbrown, and our other incredible athletes @lizziewelborn, @mariafe_beach1, @keelyandrew & @tayla_simmonds.