My passion for competitive sport has always been a quintessential part of who I am. As a young girl, I became addicted to the game of basketball. I later became fortunate enough to obtain a college scholarship to play in New York City, which was beyond a dream come true. My competitive nature is what has always motivated me to train hard and push my body to its limits. Training to be my best and for the success of the team was all I knew and all I wanted to do. When you're an athlete though, half the battle is trying to avoid injury. I suppose it was inevitable, but far sooner than anticipated, my body began to break down from the immense amount of training I was doing. Unfortunately, I had to undergo ankle surgery, I rarely felt energised, I was often managing an injury, I was carrying extra kilos, my body constantly felt sore, flat and stressed - which collectively, caused me to start losing motivation for basketball. I started to reassess my motivation for wanting to compete at a high level, which led me to evaluate what being healthy would look and feel like to me moving forward. It occurred to me that while I was fit enough to perform in games, I wasn’t actually healthy.
It was a big moment for me when I decided to stop playing basketball. Considering I had been apart of a basketball team for a continuous fifteen years, it was a decision that would completely change my lifestyle. It wasn't until I'd stopped playing that I realised just how physically and emotionally invested I was in the game. Oddly enough, I also realised that I had never been in a position where training and exercise was completely up to me and for me. How would I maintain my health and fitness? What would be my goal if not to help my team win games? What would be my new motivation and purpose in life?
Turns out I started to redirect my competitive nature to other performance based goals. I was getting involved in long fun runs, triathlons and high intensity gym training. On the surface I was trying to open myself up to fun new experiences. Underneath, however, part of me was tirelessly trying to avoid gaining weight and probably couldn't admit that I was quite self-conscious about my body image. I had really only replaced basketball with other high intensity activities and I was still running myself into the ground. I kept getting injured and continued to feel flat, sore, anxious and unhappy with my body.
Training to perform had become so imbedded in me that I was neglecting other areas of my life. It wasn't until I started training with my personal trainer that I began to see my life from a new perspective. A perspective that put my body’s health and wellbeing first, where nutrition, mindfulness and recovery were the key. A massive training overload had been normality for me for so long, I viewed rest and de-stressing techniques as unnecessary and in some ways, a sign of weakness. I was putting so much pressure on myself to maintain a high level of strength and fitness and to not ‘get fat’, I was doing it the only way I knew how. Essentially, I was still competing. I felt anxious if I didn't exercise, I loathed the prospect of becoming weak or gaining weight, I was ignorant about nutrition and I overtrained. Mentally and physically, my body was constantly depleted and under stress.
It was certainly a slow progression to change my mindset but education and support was the key, with consistent, non-judgmental guidance from those closest to me, I started to allow myself to train smarter instead of harder, eat food that fuelled my body with the right nutrients and take the time to recover physically and mentally. It was by gradually letting go of the expectations and pressures placed on me by myself and others, that I began to feel like a new women! Within a year, I was noticeably less stressed and coping better in all areas of my life. I was more motivated, I could move better and I was beginning to think more positively in my day to day life and about my own body image. For me, my path to becoming happier and healthier was more about changing my mindset than changing how my body looked in the mirror.
I see life in a new way.