Balance. What exactly is balance when it comes to fitness & lifestyle. For me, thats a question that I probably still can’t answer as well as I should!
Having been a high performance athlete for as long as I can remember, fitness has always been a part of my work. My body was my tool, sailing is a sport with so many variables that if there is one thing you can completely control and get what minuscule advantage you can, you will do it. Fitness was always this for me, ever since I started my Olympic career I aimed to be among the fittest few in the fleet, and I daresay that I managed.
The sailing was never really a physical enough challenge for me – or rather, you could never see the direct results, so I always sought out new challenges outside of the sailing to push myself, and continually try and prove to the world (really to me) that I was worthy of being an athlete. I started out with cycling, I may have mild obsessive tendencies when it comes to activities, and my cycling eventually got to the point where from the day I got back from London after winning that gold, I was on the bike 30 hours a week, aiming to compete in three different six hour races in three weeks in October, starting with the Motu Challenge consisting of a 65km MTB and 90km road, next up was the Whaka100 (100km of MTB single track) and last up the mighty K2 road race in the Coromandel. I placed around 2-4th in my female division, probably peaking in interest in that middle weekend! The road racing was a little dull after the MTB!
I loved the endurance events, because for me, it is simply me vs myself, I have always raced off heart rate, I know at what level I can get to and still keep going for the next 6 hours. Be it running, cycling or paddling, I seem to have the same approach 🙂
I admit I rather overdid the cycling and haven’t really done much apart from some Tour de France legs in 2013, and MTB for fun these days. So then I needed a new challenge… The marathon! I trained hard through 2013 (pesky sailing kept getting in the way) only to get a stress fracture in my heel a few weeks before the Auckland marathon. So that was shelved until the next year when I did both the Rotorua and Auckland marathons, was no where near enough training! But I enjoyed them, it was simple mind over matter, keep putting my foot in front of the other one… Auckland completed, and the buzz was gone, it was too easy, I knew I could do it… So what next?
Bring on 2015 and I found just the right sort of crazy event for me to do, its called the SUP 11 City Tour, it is in Friesland in northern Holland, and consists of 5 days of paddling approximately 5-6 hours per day. Now I had been paddling in NZ for a few years by this stage, doing National Champs etc, but did have limited training time what with all the sailing. I was in no way prepared for the event, the longest paddle I had done in the year before was an hour and a half. The first day nearly broke me, after paddling 5 hours fast, just hanging onto the top group of girls, we came to a lake just before the finish of the leg, with a very breezy side wind. If the finish line had not been on the closest shore to me I would have gotten off my board and left it there. I was over it!! After much consoling from my boyfriend who himself did it a few years before, I agreed to keep going. I was through the worst, I had beaten my mind, and I was strong again! The muscle pain I had that week was like nothing I have had before (or since), but the sense of community and family that grows when you are all there together going through the same battles is just incredible. I would do it again just for that.
So that was the end of my serious padding 🙂 Yep, there is a pattern here I know. But by the time this was all over, I had pushed my body too hard for too many years, and it was breaking. I had stomach issues, constant sinus infections, and zero energy. I had to change my mindset, and get back to focusing on the sailing, let the fitness aspect go. I had proved to myself that if I wanted to do something, then I could make it happen, and with that realisation, the push to keep proving myself also dissipated…
Since the Games, I have been trying to get strong and build some muscle, enjoying my time in the gym again, after trying to stay as light as possible for the last 8 years of 470 sailing. But also trying to learn how to find some balance, going for a run because I feel like it, and because I do actually enjoy it, heading to the gym because I want to, going to Yoga because I feel good after. Its quite a mind shift… Sure, I regress occasionally and beat myself up if I miss a session or if I just don’t feel like it, but that slowly fades…