No matter who you are, what you do, what role/s you have in your life, you must take care of yourself – ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’. Rest and self-care are so important for the mind, the body and the soul. Regardless on whether you are an athlete or not.
It is shown, women especially find it difficult to take time for themselves and to prioritise their our own self-care. It often takes an illness, an accident, an injury, burn out or simply ‘cracking’ under the pressure to remind us to give ourselves the time and care we need.
When we are stressed out, self-care is often the first thing we let go of – and I’ve seen it within a number of my athletes, so I can only assume that it is happening more broadly.
During stressful times such as many are currently experiencing, our brains can go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows. We can be so busy trying to solve problems that we are stuck in a “doing” mode and can become anxious and overwhelmed. And many may not have a ‘go to’ list of self care activities that they can lean on during these times so we simply don’t even go there. And this doesn’t mean you have to go away on a retreat (although how nice would that be right now?!) It can be as simple as taking 10 minutes to yourself – and NO, scrolling on social media doesn’t count!
Here’s a simple list of some ways you can give back to YOU that don’t take much time at all, but the benefits can be wide ranging.
– Focus on sensations around you, sights, smells, sounds… these can help bring you to the present moment – Go for a walk and breath in fresh air – leave the phone at home / in your pocket! – Listen to running water / take yourself near water. t is one of the most soothing sounds and the energy from water can be drawn within. – Take a hot shower / bath and play some relaxing music. Take your time. Don’t rush. – Get creative, draw, journal, play some music, do a puzzle… These simple activities can bring your focus back. – Get back to nature, do some gardening, go for a walk or sit and take in the sights, sounds and smell of nature. Nature is so healing. – Turn the lights AND TV off, light a candle and read a book or listen to a meditation.. – CONNECT with others – it is so important while isolated. Call a friend (txt doesn’t count), facetime, zoom. OR meet at a park, go for a walk with them. Connection is key to our fundamental being.
So remember: self care is not self indulgence, it is self preservation. Take care of yourself – starting today. What will you choose? 🙂
I was asked recently whether I’d be up for sharing what a day on my plate looked like. An athlete was interested in seeing what I eat pre/post training and for the remainder of the day to support my training, recovery and overall health and immunity. She suspected that she was a chronic ‘under eater’ and thought that maybe she wasn’t alone. So I thought i’d give you a look into a day on my plate (obviously every day is different, but give you an idea) and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
My Stats: Age: 38 (yes! getting close to the big 40 now!) 😉 Height: 157cm (or 5foot1 if you prefer) Weight: ~52kg. I tend to not fluctuate much, my lightest race weight has been 47kg – which looking back now was probably a touch too low. I still raced well, but my mood and energy throughout the day wasn’t great plus my recovery post racing was HARD. It would take me 2 weeks to recover from a sprint, and 4-6weeks to recover from a half. (not ideal!) I find a good healthy happy medium for me is around 50kg. BUT in saying that I don’t stress over this, and certainly not right now am not focusing on it. I look at food as FUEL for my body, so it can support my training, my racing, my recovery and my health and immunity.
I firstly wanted to say – that, just like training, you need to do what works for YOU. Not just doing something because someone else does it. Yes of course, take away some general principles, some tips for good eating habits, ensuring you are fueling sufficiently for training, recovery and general health, but what works for ME doesn’t mean it is right for YOU. If nutrition is something you want to focus on a little more, then I recommend working with a naturopath or sports nutritionist. We have a number of specialist we work with in this area, and in particular for those who may have sensitivities, stomach issues or underlying health conditions. The most important part as always – is listening to your body. How does something make you FEEL when you eat it? How do you feel 1-2hours after? Do you have any symptoms? How are your energy levels throughout the day? Do you have regular bowel movements? If you think something isn’t right for you, then maybe it’s not..
And on a side note – just because as endurance athletes we train more than the average person, it doesn’t mean we can eat average. As a general principle: Eat a mostly wholefood diet filled with a variety and abundance of vegetables and fruits (think the colour of the rainbow!) include some supporting gut health including cooked and cooled sweet potato, fermented foods, bone broth etc, and don’t forget your good quality carbohydrates, quality protein and good sources of fats.
My food philosophy.
I’m not vegetarian. I’m not vegan. Nor am I paleo or low carb. I simply work on eating an all round nutrient dense whole foods, mostly plant based diet to support my health and my training. I supplement in areas I know I need to or have been tested for and I enjoy chocolate. 😉 So I eat lots of vegetables, and a sprinkling of fruits. I do my best to understand where our meat and animal products come from and I do what works for me and my family. So do your own research, and do what works for YOU, but I do believe we should all eat more plants, more often.
A DAY ON MY PLATE: HIGH TRAINING LOAD DAY .
SAMPLE TRAINING DAY: HIGH TRAINING LOAD DAY AM 1.5+hour strength + high intensity indoor training ride (hard session) Day time walk with the kids + 30min strength/core PM 1hr Endurance based resilience run
SAMPLE FOOD PLAN: HIGH TRAINING LOAD DAY Pre AM Training Session: Glass of water, just to wake me up!
During session: 1/2 – 1 banana + water with salt/lemon OR Koda Electrolytes Tablet I’ll generally have a banana on hand to help fuel the session. This can depend sometimes on what (and when) I ate the night before. But given this sessions is longer in duration (1.5+hrs) plus includes intensity, I like to include some fueling during the session as I know my glycogen stores will start to become depleted. Given we aren’t near racing, I aim to consume whole foods rather than gels etc as I’m not working on training my gut / practicing race nutrition. Another option here: my home made chocolate sweet potato brownie or a home made / quality bar, or some homemade banana bread etc. And don’t forget the hydration! With more indoor trainer session, there’s a lot of sweat going on !
Post Session: Green Protein Smoothie OR Loaded Oats & Chia Porridge My Green Protein Smoothie is my go to Smoothie, packed full of goodness including carbohydrates, protein and fats, and all round balanced post training fuel. I generally have this within half an hour of finishing my session – or when kids allow. 😉 But some days I don’t feel like a smoothie, or it’s a cold morning and there’s nothing like a big bowl of warm oats to warm you up and fill the belly after a big session. My loaded oats & chia porridge has all of that and more and keeps me full all morning.
~2-3hours post session/smoothie : Egg bowl / Omelette OR leftovers Around 2-3 hours post smoothie (or a bit later if I had porridge) I’m ready for my next re-fuel. My favourite go-to is an egg bowl or omelette. Basically 3 eggs, tossed in with some pre roasted vegetables plus a handful of spinach, some goats fetta, a side of sauerkraut and a dollop of my Green Basil Veggie Pesto and/ or my Homemade Hommus and sprinkled with hemp seeds and nutritional yeast. And I don’t skimp on the salt or pepper either. 😉 (see here why food prep is king?!) Omelette is basically the same, but it’s just whether I can be bothered / have the extra time to make the meal into an omelette. You can also add a quality bread or sourdough to boost up the carbs if you don’t have many root vegetables included. If you aren’t working from home / don’t have the time to whip something like this up, part of your meal prep could be a delicious frittata filled with roasted vegetables and simply add the rest as a side. But really anything goes with eggs! Just make sure there are plenty of greens and a variety of colour. If i’m not vibing eggs that day, and I have left overs from the previous nights dinner, then leftovers it is for lunch!
Mid-AfternoonSnack: Once lunch has settles, kids are asleep, some work has been done, I’ll generally do a mid-day strength/core and/or mobility session. After this I’m looking for a light top up for my PM run session. Given on this day my PM run session isn’t a key / long or intense session, I’m just looking for some additional fuel for my day, rather than to fuel the session itself. Generally around 1-2hours before my PMsession I’ll have something like a small bowl of berries with Greek/Coconut yogurt topped with nuts and seeds, or a slice (or two!) of home made banana bread with yogurt/berries on top, a sliced up apple with peanut butter, or if I’m looking for something a bit sweeter, my chocolate peanut butter slice or No Bake Choc Bites ! An afternoon tea goes down nicely here too! 😉 Anything here goes really and it can really depend on how I feel, but I’ll always have something. OH – and that reminds me, I don’t drink coffee… In case you were wondering. Not for performance or health reasons, simply because I can’t stand the smell let alone the taste! (yes – go ahead and judge me!) haha
Dinner: Mexican Burrito Bowl I could pick any of my dinner favourites to add here for dinner, but one of my favourite things for dinner is to have a dinner ‘bowl’. Basically a lot of different veggies, combined with some protein and carbs and you have a bowl full of goodness. Here I share my Mexican Burrito Bowl. I aim to have a lot of my dinner prep already done before I head out for my PM session so it’s easy to whip together once I get back (and especially with kids, you need to be organised for dinner time!)
Supplements: Currently I am supplementing with a Womens multi with Activated B’s, Magnesium, Vitamic C and Zinc. And I don’t skimp on quality. (ie practitioner only brands) I don’t always have all of these all year round, and sometimes I need to add in others based on blood work (which I recommend all athletes get on a bi-annually or annually basis) and top up in other areas as needed / i’m deficient in so I’m not just chugging down tablets or wasting money. Remember though, we as athletes are generally training longer, harder (or both) than the general population, so ensuring your body is getting all the vitamins and minirals it needs for not just optimal performance, but optimal function is so important. And sometimes we simply can’t get enough from the foods we eat and/or additional can help with better recovery.
So there you have it – it’s always hard to choose just one day to share, as each day for me is very different, and I try to eat a variety of foods daily – not to get stuck into a ‘food routine’, but instead have a suit of meals and snacks that you can draw on to create diversity.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!
Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10+ years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.
How are you tackling your current training with no ‘real’ races on the horizon? Are you finding it hard to keep motivated? Not sure which direction to take your training? Feel like you are just ‘fumbling’ your way through?
Up until recently, we were all probably sitting in ‘hope’, continuing our training, hoping that things will start to shift, the state and country will start to open up, and things will start to return to ‘normal’ – and with is, races would start to happen.
For some people around the country, this is slowly starting to happen, but for those of us in Victoria (and some other states), we have come to the realisation that we won’t be seeing any further mass participation events in 2020. It’s just impossible to see this happening. If there is, that is a massive bonus and something to celebrate, but we are now under the assumption that there won’t be any. Most of my athletes have already taken credit or deferred their race entries that were scheduled over the next few months, (of which I recommended my athletes do). In the event and on the off chance that a race does happen to pop up, then bonus, we can look at entering then, but in the mean time, we are best to have the flexibility (and the credit) in our own hands .
We know Tri Vic have are still hoping for the Tri Vic Dualthon Champs to happen 18 Oct, and Ironman Melbourne hasn’t been officially cancelled yet either – and we can only hope that things change that these may go ahead. BUT by not cancelling yet, this can often just be more a formality / legality reason, (ie they need to wait to be advised by the governing bodies they can’t be held to then cancel/postpone, otherwise a refund would be required) So yes, we can hope they may still happen, but we as a team and not just sitting around waiting in hope.
So what are we doing about it?
As a group and as a Coach, we’ve had to shift and we’ve had to adapt. Just like all of us have had to do in varying aspects of our lives. We haven’t just continued on our merry way, on the same trajectory as if nothing has happened. We’ve had to evolve, to grow, to learn and to create our own new ‘normal’. We’ve grown as a team and with that, our athletes are going to grow and evolve and they will emerge stronger out the other side of ‘this’.
So I thought I’d share an insight into how we are tackling this first half of the ‘racing season’ so you too can check in to see if the work you are doing now is helping you emerge stronger. That the training you are doing now is not going to waste… Because by retaining structure and purpose in your training, you WILL emerge stronger from this period and WILL be a more robust and resilient athlete in the long run. What you are doing now is not just setting you up for this season, it is setting you up for 2021 and beyond. As I posted on our FB page recently on in my ‘Monday Musings’- in case you missed it:
“A random approach to training (and life) will result in random results”…
SO – here are some of the key areas our athletes are focusing on over the coming months to help ensure they are continuing to improve, evolve and become stronger and more resilient athletes – now, and into the future. And if you don’t have a plan in place, if you are simply ‘exercising’ – then NOW is as good as time as any to get back on track……
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS: We shall continue to focus on the key fundamentals, strength, endurance, resilience while layering in some race specific work as we continue to work through our build phase and then into the first part of our race season. Although our ‘off’ season has been extended, this has meant we have had MORE time working on these fundamentals (a GOOD thing!)
BUILDING: We won’t just sit ‘idling’ and waiting for the race season to return, we WILL be building up to a little peak in Oct/Nov, after which in December most athletes will have a little ‘reset’, some fun, a change to the structure – mentally refreshing the mind and body. Just like you may/would have if there were races at this time. Because we can’t be at our peak ALL the time.
RACING! Our own virtual Challenges and events (and any others) will help us work up to this peak. So get excited about these! Push towards them so you can see the hard work unfold!
REFRESH & RACE: After a little ‘refresh’ we will then head into the second phase of our race build into the back half of the season. This is where we are aiming for athletes to truly peak for the season / year. Not now. Not in Oct / Nov, but in the new year, the second half of the season. When we anticipate for real world races to be upon us!. And that’s exciting!
RECOVER, REFLECT, RELOAD: And then, just like after any racing season. We’ll return to a recovery phase again. Recovering, reflecting, and then getting to reload.
TRUST & ENJOY! So trust in the process. ENJOY the process. Ultimately we all do this for the enjoyment. The sense of achievement. The feeling it gives us. So go back to that. Remember why you started. Take the pressure off and simply enjoy the process….
**To find out how you can join us in our upcoming challenges, live coached virtual sessions, virtual at home swim, yoga, mobility and S&C sessions or find out more about our coaching and programming, simply send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10+ years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.
This ones specifically for the ladies BUT – men, if you want to learn more about the female body, then feel free to keep reading and listen in. As the more people / athletes become aware that ‘women are not small men’ the better! 😉
I’ve spoken before around the importance of a regular menstrual cycle and how it can impact us as females on a weekly / monthly basis. And you may have read here and there some info around your cycle, and how it can impact your training. I’ve also listened to many podcasts and read books on this topic and know that it can be hard for women to navigate and understand all the technical terms. However I listened to a podcast recently that explained it in CLEAR and understandable terms – so I wanted to share with you this clear and easy way to understand the womens menstrual cycle.
So if you have been struggling to understand / or don’t understand how our menstrual cycle can impact your performance, how structuring our training around your cycle can IMPROVE your performance or simply want to learn more then read on:
As a general outline, the female cycle has 4 phases:
PHASE 1:Menstrual phase. (the bleed) RESTORE: During this phase the body is shedding endometrium lining, and restoring. Ensure sufficient calories and nutrients during this time to to help your body restore. Sessions should be easier / lower intensity / aerobic based at the start of this phase. (perfect time to include recovery)
PHASE2: Follicular Phase. Increase in energy, preparing for ovulation RECONNECT: The wonder woman phase! Our energy levels are higher. Perfect time for hard sessions including intensity, strength, VO2 Max . You would generally see your best performances during this time.
PHASE 3: Ovulation Phase. Release of the egg. Estrogen is at it’s highest, then plummets and progesterone increases (to protect the egg). Some notice symptoms of bloating. RENEW: During this phase is the prime time to include more strength, VO2Max, power training. You would generally see strong performances during this time.
PHASE 4: Luteal Phase. Pre menstrual phase (PMS for many) BMR increases, body temperature increases, preparing for menstrual phase. RELAX: Take the intensity back lower the final few days leading into Day 1, (this is perfect to include recovery) Allow your body a little extra time to relax and recover in preparation for this.
SO – even though you may not feel any ‘symptoms’ during specific times of your cycle, there IS a whole lot going on inside your body – and more specifically, with your hormones. So you should be taking this into account in training – and in life! And if you are sometimes left wondering ‘oh not sure why I felt so heavy / tired ./ bloated / lethargic, maybe take a moment to check what phase of your cycle you are in. 🙂
To learn more, take the time to listen to this podcast – it explains it in the easiest terms i’ve heard anyone explain. You can start at 14min through to ~35min (continue listening though for more!).
The whole balancing act of training, being a mum, a wife, a coach, a friend, a sister, a daughter… it is tough at times. I am not going to lie. There is a delicate balancing act happening, and sometimes it feels like something is going to give – and sometimes it does!
As mothers / parents, we have multiple roles and it’s a juggling act. And it can be hard juggling them all. It’s like a delicate dance – trying to dance through the many and varied roles that now come with the title as a mum. Not only are we a mum/parent, but we are nurses, we are sleep experts, nutritionists, psychologists, we’re teachers of our little beings. On top of this, providing endless amounts of nurturing, love and care. This all simply comes as part of the role of being a mother/parent.
BUT- at the same time as we entered motherhood, our other roles in life didn’t just stop. Most of us still have the role of wife/partner, we’re still a daughter, friend, sister…. And not to mention our actual work – the one that pays us and the bills! Add on top of that also wanting to still be an endurance athlete, and suddenly you may just wonder – how is this even possible? Somehow we are meant to fulfill all of these aspects of being a mum while still keeping up with the other roles and demands in our lives.
So the question becomes – how? How do we do the delicate dance? How do we be a mum, manage our personal relationships and life, return to paid employment AND be an endurance athlete? For some this may seem like far too much and so some things are needed to be dropped, and that often means our ‘me time’. Not just being able to take your own time to train, but some even forgoing things like getting a massage, getting their hair done (or even just doing your hair in the morning!), doing a spot of shopping – something purely for us. It can be a real source of angst. And a source of guilt… Doing something for YOU when everyone else wants a piece if you also.
So why is it we find it so hard to put ourselves first? And HOW do we literally find the time to do everything? Especially if you have the innate personality to strive for perfection? How do we distinguish between one role ending and another one starting? How do we balance it all without feeling like we are simply rushing between one to another without being able to take a breath? It can be overwhelming. And even more so now in the times we currently find ourselves in when even more responsibility is put upon us. (home schooling?! gah!) Who of us has the extra time to ‘learn a new skills/craft/artwith your spare time‘ that’s been touted on social media??!’. And so, unfortunately for some, the parts we end up putting to the side are ourselves. It’s all give, give, give – to others, not to ourselves. (also sound familiar?)
If you sat down and wrote down your life stressors, what would that list look like? What’s your stress gauge look like? Kids, school work, your own work, financial stress, managing the home/cleaning/cooking, relationships…. that’s before we even add anything else in for ourselves. This can show that for a lot of people right now, that baseline of ‘stress’ can sit quite high, without even trying – or without even realising…
Think of it as holding a cup of coffee. If that cup is nearly full and you are rushing around with it, it doesn’t take much to spill over – and that, mumma, is your stress response. So just like this cup of coffee, when we are in a high stress state, we tend to overreact to certain things, we are less likely to find practical solutions to our daily problems, and therefore we are also less likely to see a way out.
But the good news is – there is a way out. There is a way to find that balance again, for motherhood to be manageable and most importantly – fulfilling and FUN! You want to either find a bigger cup (ie allow more room) or reduce the amount of coffee (reduce the stress) so that you can deal with stress far better so that ‘dance’ is an enjoyable one. Here are some practical tips that can help – even if you aren’t a mother / parent!
FIRSTUP– acknowledge what it means to be a mum / dad / parent. Don’t undervalue the importance of this role and what it entails. I find if we start to minimise it, we can fail to see that we might actually need some help and/or support. “ohh I should be able to do it all” you may even tell yourself. Do you remember when you got that new job, or promotion, big deal hey! It can be hard learning something new, but we give ourselves some leeway (and so do our bosses) as we are learning something new. We ask questions, we ask for help, so we can learn and get through. Well guess what, motherhood / parenthood is no different. We are always learning something new! So think of yourself as getting a promotion every year, (heck every month!) and be kind and allow yourself to adjust to your new and all important role. So when you are finding it draining or challenging, be kind to yourself so you don’t become overwhelmed. And show yourself some kindness and compassion – you deserve it.
SECOND – lets start to manage our own expectations and stop striving for perfection. Of course we all want to be the best mum we can be, but that doesn’t mean being the ‘perfect’ mum. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes, there is no right or wrong way of doing this ‘job’. You are creating your own path for your family. So to do this, it’s time to stop the comparisons. It’s totally human to compare ourselves to others, but at times it can be really unhelpful. What you are seeing on social media is NOT an accurate portrayal of reality. Far from it. And deep down you know it. We all do it, we show the ‘good bits’, the snippets where the kids are playing happily together, when they are sleeping peacefully, taking their first steps, or painting the most adorable picture. But remember the behind the scenes? The fighting, the crying, the wake ups at night, the tantrums in getting dressed… So make sure you realise that if you are ‘filtering’, then others are doing the same too.
Also consider your own social media use. do you feel uplifted when you scroll online? If not, maybe consider who it is you are following. Only follow those that make you feel good. Or maybe consider getting rid of it for a while – no you will NOT miss out on ANYTHING important. Trust me! 😉 And don’t forget – someone else success does not invariably mean your failure. If someone else is having a parenting or life ‘win’ or hitting a PB, or nailed a key session, that is great! But it doesn’t mean that you are failing.
THIRD– prioritise. What do you really need to get done. (as compared to want). Spend some time on your weekends to make a list of your priorities for the week and rate from 1-5. When considering the importance of the task, ask yourself – will this make a difference to OUR WELLBEING? Is it important / needed to be done this week? Like, REALLY?Remember – making time for yourself and your own physical and mental health should always score a 5. 😉 Now, set about planning out your week with your priorities listed first and foremost. Oh and a little note: productivity is NOT the same as time management. Productivity is about doing the right/valuable things with the available time you have.
FOURTH – once you have established your priorities for the week, and you still can’t see how you will fit the ‘key priorities in’ then ask for help. Outsource. Delegate. Not everything has to be done by you. You are not a machine. You do not need to do it all. Stop trying to be a ‘super-mum’ and you most definitely do not need to be perfect. Be realistic. Empower others to help take the reins. Can someone else come and do some cleaning or washing? Can you buy in some pre made meals? Does your hubby/partner need to take some slack? Every part of our lives can be outsourced if we see value in doing it. That does NOT mean you are failing. The most successful people delegate and outsource…
FIFTH– be flexible. Have a plan. But be flexible with it. Have some wiggle room. Don’t be so rigid that if things don’t go to plan, or you don’t get that one thing done that all hell breaks loose. Schedule in the training, the YOU time, the down time (these are so important!) And go down your list, get rid of or move the ‘should do’s and only schedule the ‘must do’s. The rest can wait.
SIXTH – quality over quantity. Just as we say in training. Don’t just do something for the sake of it. Have a purpose and meaning behind it. The same goes with parenting. When you are engaged with our kids, make it meaningful. When you are engaged in your training, make it purposeful. So keep this in mind when setting your weekly routine, you do not always have to be physically present, but when you do schedule in family time or training time, put away the phone. Have meaningful and purposeful engagement with the task at hand – especially with your little ones. This will help with the dreaded ‘mum guilt’ when you need to engage in other ‘non child’ related tasks – including your training.
FINALLY – take the time to enjoy the ‘dance’. When we are always rushing around from one thing to another, when we have our head down, bogged down, striving for perfection, we forget to have FUN! We forget to simply ENJOY. And we often lose sight of what is really important. And by now, we should all really know what is important in life – you don’t need me to remind you. 😉
So once we learn to let go of unrealistic expectations, we realise that we cannot (and shouldn’t!) do it all. That delegating or outsourcing is not failing, that social media is not ‘whole’ life, that flexibility is ok… everything inadvertently becomes easier. Soo… what do you need to prioritise and what do you need to let go of so you can enjoy the dance?….
REMEMBER: You can DO anything, but not EVERYTHING.