I’m just getting back to regular training this week after a brief break following the Senior National Championships. I got about three weeks of rest from the intense training that I’m used to. It was great to have some time off to relax and let my body and mind recuperate. I feel like I earned it, but I also felt a little guilty not doing anything (no running, no lifting, no practice, etc.). I went from training 2-3 times per day to sleeping in and relaxing all day without any routine or major obligations in my daily schedule. So for those toiling away also feeling obligated to maintain an unremitting workload:
Taking breaks and rest days are important!
I feel like we are in a culture that romanticizes overexertion. There is a mentality of overloading yourself, always being busy, constantly on the go, pushing yourself and your limits, and always taking on more. In the wrestling community you hear people talk about “the grind”. The idea that you are always supposed to be working away, hustling, pushing yourself forward relentlessly. As if, somehow, rest makes you weak and lazy. I don’t think this is true. Working hard towards achieving your goals is important and pushing yourself in your daily life is definitely necessary for success, but so is the occasional rest day and break. I don’t think you need to embrace, celebrate, and practice the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” adage to achieve your goals and be successful. Schedule a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine. Take some time off to yourself to recharge your batteries and more importantly, don’t feel bad about doing it! Don’t let yourself or anyone else make you feel guilty or ashamed for not burning the candle at both ends 24/7, 365.
A lot has happened since I last posted of course. I think it’s been about 8 months now. I have always been a little hesitant about putting myself out there in the form of a blog, afraid of what people might say or think or how they might react to what I’m saying. I think that’s why I’ve been so neglectful of this endeavor. So here I go again, trying to start what has been really hard for me to do over the last couple years.
What I have failed to write about lately:
There have been some major triumphs over the last couple of months but also a lot of heartbreak as well. It has truly been an emotional roller coaster. I felt weird after winning the Olympic Trials in December. On one hand I was elated that I had won in such a dominant fashion, but I don’t think it felt real to me and I don’t think I truly got to celebrate that accomplishment. There was an injury petition in my weight category so I still had work to do – it wasn’t finished. While all the other victors got to celebrate and relax over the Christmas holidays I had this thing looming over me. I tried to be happy with what I had managed to do but there was so much misunderstanding from family and friends about what that was. I found myself getting frustrated with people who wanted to share in my success because they mistook my result as being on the Olympic team and/or qualifying for the Olympics. I tried not to be short with people as I tried to explain everything that was going on but each time I had to explain the situation I grew more and more impatient for it to be over. I apologize to anyone who was on the receiving end of this frustration. I felt like I was in purgatory in the weeks leading up to the wrestle offs. It was very isolating and despite everyone’s best efforts to include me in anything, I couldn’t have felt more alone. The time of the wrestle offs finally came and I lost. I was heartbroken. Everything I wanted and had worked for over the last four years, the last 12 since I began wrestling and even the years before I started wrestling when I was a just child whose dream was to go to the Olympics, had slipped through my fingers. I was devastated. After losing I walked outside and felt a flood of emotions. I was sad, angry, regretful, and somehow empty all at the same time. I sat on the cold, hard ground on my knees literally covered in my own blood, sweat, and tears. In nothing but my singlet I sat there. My coach tried to give me my t-shirt but I threw it away. I stood and picked it up and began pacing back and forth. Could I have done something differently? Was that really my best effort? What if I could have tried harder? Did I not want it enough? Almost moments later I got asked if I wanted to compete at the Pan-American Championships a couple of weeks later and of course I agreed. I tried to be excited for it. My coach said I needed to keep moving forward and get back on the horse. Our motto is “keep it going” but it wasn’t that simple. I got back to Fredericton and I felt sad all the time. I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning and I felt no motivation to workout. I didn’t go to the gym. I stopped lifting weights and I didn’t go for runs. I barely made it to practices. One practice I showed up but didn’t even put my boots on. I would randomly come to tears, feeling so listless. I started drinking. I would get drunk and eat pizza and cry. I had given up on being an athlete and I was hanging on by a thread. My coach and friends tried to help me but I had to snap myself out of what I was going through. One day I stumbled across the story of Dan O’Brien, an American decathlete who failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He went on to not only capture gold in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he broke the world record for decathlon points in his performance there. He said, “Take pride in exactly what it is you do and remember it’s okay to fail as long as you don’t give up.” and it inspired me to start trying again. I messaged my coach and told him I was going to be ready for Pan-Ams and that I was okay with the new goal of Tokyo 2020. I came back from that low and I managed to win a gold medal at the 2016 Pan-American Championships without a single point scored against me. A couple weeks later I also won gold at the 2016 Senior National Championships and was awarded Most Outstanding Senior Female of the tournament. I managed to be the first Black Bears Wrestling Club (BBWC) and Lutte New Brunswick Wrestling (LNBW) athlete to win a Senior Pan-American title and the first woman from BBWC and LNBW to win a senior national title and senior outstanding wrestler (OW). All that to say, great things can still be accomplished after you think you’re down and out. I feel like there isn’t a lot of talk about the hard times in sport. You hear a lot from the victors and the champions, the ones that make it, but there are many who try and don’t succeed. That is why I finally decided to write this. If just one person reads this who feels down on their luck, is contemplating quitting, or is looking for a reason to keep going like I was; I hope it helps. I could have written just about my wins, but I think that they came after I had emerged from the lowest point in my wrestling career is a far better lesson.