Friday, 6 June 2014

Life as a professional athlete (part 2)

Last time I was a 'professional' athlete it was by default: unemployed in a new city. In that sense this time round is a much better situation: given up part time job in outdoor shop, I plan to train like a beast until I start a PhD at the University of Edinburgh in September. I am trying to appreciate what could (hopefully?!) be my last long break away from the world of work without the stress of applying for jobs that makes planning ahead impossible.

Pro athlete = lots of training camps. Enjoying Italy.

However, it hasn’t started ideally. This blog could have been called Spring Frustrations – the sequel to the moan I had this winter. In the grand scheme of athlete injuries, I’ve had nothing major this year but I seem to have had a relentless stream of problems disrupting training for more than a few weeks. I suspect it might be because I am trying too hard – ever since November I have been trying to ‘catch up’ for training I have missed. I’ve been chasing the 2013 self in every race, every session feeling like I could see the fitter me up ahead. It’s not been a great place to be, rarely satisfied and as a result I’ve probably pushed the training load too far and this has resulted in niggle after niggle. But after 5 years of near continuous improvements in fitness it was about time for me to be tested...

I spent more time in Italy running in supportive shoes on the trails
rather than in the forest. Still, this was far more than I had expected to be
able to do and it was beautiful so I can't complain! 

...Which leads nicely on to writing a bit about a few schools visits I’ve done. I’ve been involved in two initiatives: WinningScotland Foundation’s Champions in Schools and Education Scotland’s Game On Scotland. There are differences between the two but essentially both programmes are trying to get elite athletes into local schools in Scotland to talk about our lives. One of the slogans has been ‘Be your personal best’ which sums it up quite nicely – trying to encourage kids to dream big, put in the hard work, not get deterred by setbacks, and applying this to whatever area of life they choose.  Each school visit ends up being different too but the main aim is to tell the story like it really is: the hard work and the disappointments are the certainties, the glamorous travel and podium smiles a bonus. So many of them will watch the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer and hopefully that will inspire a few dreamers.

Talking to a small class of P3s

Talking to a whole school assembly
With WOC2015 around the corner, I’ve been able to talk about my ‘home games’. I was allocated two primary schools in the Moray area and I had a brilliant few days talking to kids who will have WOC on their doorstep. I’ve never been to schools were orienteering was so widely known – the effort put in by Moravian Orienteering Club and Scottish Orienteering is noticeable. There was such a buzz about the event already and I left thoroughly inspired by the kids’ enthusiasm. 

Getting a class to join in my core training session.

The King of the Forest trophy left an impression!

So now I’ve talked the elite athlete talk, it’s time to walk the walk. My foot has made a semi-miraculous recovery in the last week and hopefully it will now be green lights through until WOC. It’s at least made me appreciate every run and I’m ready to nail the hard sessions – I suspect the memories of the Moray schools will get me through a few.

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