Category Archives: Psychology of Sport

2 Races and a Funeral

It has been a long time since I wrote on my blog, I have missed it but time and life have caused the major lack of activity!

Life has not been great over the past 3 months.  Training was going well pre Christmas, I actually enjoy the cold runs more than the summer (I know I’m weird!) and getting the pool, run and bike time juggle seemed to be working with all the balls in the air including work and family.  But then it happened!

My dad was taken into hospital on the 3rd January with an expected appendicitis.  No real biggy people have them all the time so life continues for us and planning to visit when he was home seemed the best option. A week later dad had to have a second operation and then a further week later on the 20th January he died in intensive care from Sepsis and pneumonia!

I had made the trip up to visit him in hospital after the second op and with a call from mum while I was at work when he had the 3rd my bag was packed and I was on my way to the hospital in Swindon.  Even at that point when mum had said that we needed to come it all seemed a little surreal.  He had been complaining the weekend before about the food, beds and noise and the question of how did it get to here is still one I cannot grasp.

Seeing you dad in ICU wired to every machine possible and being told that he would not make the night was an odd experience.  Trying to process it all, support mum and my sister seemed to take me into auto pilot.  So we sat, talked and stayed with him until at 5am when he died.  Sat in my mum’s kitchen at 7am nothing seemed right, we all felt numb and just spent the day crying and drinking tea shut off from the world.

I had heard that running was some peoples medicine from lots of different sources, I have always used it as a stress buster and great thinking time but it now became my time to think, prepare and step out of what was going on.  In the first 5 days post dad dying I turned to running to get out of the house.  People don’t stop to say they are sorry when you are running, or ask questions.  It was my time where I didn’t need to worry about others, well not for most of the run!

Dad had a dog, poor Bessie didn’t know what hit her! Her daily walks with dad around the town had suddenly changed to 5, 8, 10k runs!  She took it in her stride and I have to say was a perfect running companion, I didn’t need to make small talk, was happy to go whenever and happy to do what I wanted to do.

I found running my solstice with lots to organise and sort for mum.  Running gave me clarity and time to think.  I would like to say it was great training but time, distance and pace became irrelevant.  I ran for as long as I needed at the speed I wanted. No plans, no music, no goals.

So it’s now the End of March.  Dad was buried on the 10th February with snow falling in the Cemetery.   Life is slowly returning to normal.  The visits to see mum have reduced from a weekly to fortnightly, I worked pretty much though it all but it’s now back at full speed!  And as many of the poems I have read lately to find one for the funeral.  Life outside continues.  Life outside does continue and I still feel at times it’s happening around me and to me rather than with me but normality is beginning to return.

Life must be returning to normality, I have begun to look at races, I have even raced one! But I find myself continually thinking and being reminded of things.  I’m sure this will be the same always from now one but this seems to happen more when I’m running.  I think of my friends and wife who live and work in stressful lives and I tell them of my prescription, it costs very little, doesn’t involve waiting lists, drugs or fancy machines just a pair of trainers and some space.

So where do you go on your runs? I’m on about in your mind…… The journey is better than the end in that race but sadly there is no medal or strava segment for the solutions and clarity gained while running but it helps me remove the fog and return clarity in my mind.

I’m not a GP but I have an idea that will help save the NHS millions! #PrescriptionRuns

When do you write the season off?

So i’m sat here on the sofa 2 days before my first Open Water race thinking my season is over before it has begun!  After a rubbish start to the year after injuring my back at Bath Half training never really started and I haven’t really started beck to running!  Training was slow to begin with but my swimming and Bike sessions got longer and i grew faster, fitter and stronger.

Then it happened!  OK i’m a teacher and i know the reality of that and what happens but i never expected to get wiped out with a summer cold 2 weeks before the end of term and just before my first Open Water swimming race and also my first Triathlon.

People joke about teachers and their long holidays but between training and a majorly hectic work schedule we get to the end of term literally on our knees, which in turn wipes your immune system and you get ill.  Visiting the many schools i do as a Primary PE Specialists i was prone to more germs than most but i have never been wiped out like this.

So first it was a sore throat but i carried on with my training, treating it with the usual Paracetamol and Ibuprofen but rather than getting better it has gone to my chest.  Continual tiredness a hacking cough and a tight chest has stopped all training for the past 2 1/2 weeks.

I sit here with 1 day of term left feeling slightly better.  I tested my lungs out last night with a 1 km pool swim and came out OK.  So to swim or not to swim in 2 days time?  The 1 mile swim i am doing is around Burgh Island, Devon for charity, I may not race it but it wont hurt to do it?  Right?

So training for this first year of Tri is not going well, with my first Sprint Triathlon on the 7th August at a local race in North Devon.  I’m definitely not going to be at my prime but i don’t want to write the season off just yet, however going into a new venture no where near prepared as i want to be does fill me with fear.

But i’m not quite ready to throw the towel in just yet, i guess i need to except i’m not at my best but use it as a learning experience ready for a full season next year!

Beginning to Tri – 30% physical 150% Psychological!!

I’m sorry but this blog is a little low and more for therapy to get my issues and worries out there.  I hope others who are/have been in the same boat can recognise the issues and can reassure me there is a top to this pit of despair!

So i have had my share of injuries over the years.  Playing Ice-hockey and rugby for most of my formative years helped me develop medical notes that look like a personal library!  Most of my injuries were brakes or sprains which are easier to deal with both in rehab and psychologically.  Also post contact sports i have dodged the injury bullet well until Bath Half Marathon.

If anyone would have told me how hard i would find it to cope with injuring my back and trying to get back to fitness i think i would have not believed them.  If you suffer from back issues or have injured your back, i can sympathise with you like i’m sure you can me.  I never realised how tough i would find recovery.  But as the title reads i struggled with this the most in my head.

As a PE teacher i really struggled with the lack of movement speed and forced inactivity.  I was determined not to take any time of work so struggled on, with the help of my wife and elastic laces!! I’m not glad that i can put my own socks and shoes on!

Jennie at Quay Kinetics was very honest which was tough, but i needed to hear it.  Rest, gentle movement and drugs was what i needed.  12 weeks minimum of no running and cycling! Regular ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and pain management.  I’m not a keen pill popper so i found this tough and when she suggested taking amitriptyline (anti depressant but also a nerve suppressant) i took ages to agree but it really did help (very low dose helps calm and desensitise the nerve endings)

So i think those first 10 weeks were manageable to some extent, work was busy which helped and when i got the nod to swim i swapped all sessions to swim sessions.  I was signed off from the physio pretty much as she suggested 12 weeks from injury but this was when the dark days began!

“Start gently, increase training volume slowly and listen to your body, revert to ibuprofen when needed and expect flare ups!” Advice given as i left the physio.  Now following the advice is a completely different thing!  I have tried but i have really struggled.  I was really worried about running, starting back on my feet a lot later than cycling and other training.  Starting on a dreadmill as i knew if it fell apart i would not cope with a walk home.

Mileage is building with little discomfort but my head is still struggling with the speed and times!  Pre injury i was running 5km in about 23 minutes (I know it’s not the fastest but i was chuffed!) and felt comfortable holding a 4:45/km pace for 10km but i’m now struggling to hold a 5:30/km for 5km!  I know with time it will return but i’m impatient! i want to compete at what i see as my A game!

This is what i’m struggling with, in the famous film quote my brain is trying to write cheques my body can’t cash!  This is why i stated 150% psychological in the title.  I have done several ‘cardigan’ runs with Keryn Seal (our term for social, easy runs).  He has kept on at me to not beat myself up on my lost pace and fitness but i still struggle.  He keeps telling me that it will return in time but the longer it is the harder it is to believe.

It’s not the now but more the future…. Will i regain my speed?  Will i truly regain my previous fitness?  Will i have a flare up and knock me back to square one?  These are the demons that are on my shoulder at the moment that i’m struggling to shrug off.  I’m not overly externally competitive but internally i am worse than anyone.  I find it hard to except being slower, not performing well and struggle to shrug off bad performances.

I spend time with our young athletes in school reviewing competition and talking about only getting hung up on the things you can control.  ‘Control the controllable, except the uncontrollable’ but i’m struggling to follow this mantra personally.  We talk about the Learning Pit and how a growth mindset helps to escape the pit.

I know that i will get out of this pit and need to expand my growth mindset and look at ways to overcome the frustrations, annoyance and ridiculous expectations.  But at the moment i’m still struggling to see the top let alone the blue sky outside of this injury pit.

So i have less than a month before my first summer race Dart Duo i have to stop wallowing in my injury pity and accept the issues and begin to listen to my own words.  Control the controllable and except the pitfalls.

I hope my next blog will be more cheery and that i’m making good progress out of the pit.  You never know i may even be out and in brilliant sunshine!

Happy racing/training