Monday, 18 July 2011

Real-life Transitions

As Rachael mentioned in her previous post, she has just moved city and started a new job.  And she's not the only one.  I started a new job at University of East London at the beginning of June, and am still adjusting to life in the big city.  London has never really appealed to me, but the opportunity to work in high performance sport, within spitting distance of the Olympic park in the run-up to the Games was not one that I was going to turn down without at least considering.

As both of us have been going through such dramatic transitions, now would be a good time to discuss transitions, how major life changes can affect your training, and what you can do to minimise the impact on your sport.  Remember, major transitions don't always have to be viewed in a negative light, and certainly some of the major transitions that I've encountered in the past have had massive positive impacts on my sport.  Moving away from home to start university 13 years ago give me independence and maturity which in turn had a positive influence on my running.

Please feel free to share your experiences and advice using the comments tool below.  We are particularly interested to hear how individuals make the choice of which university to attend, and what do you consider when choosing a job after university.  Do you consider your sport and training or do you just take what's on offer and hope for the best?

On Thursday 2nd June myself and a rather large suitcase made the relatively short flight from Waterford to London Southend Airport.  I had 5 days in which to find somewhere to live, celebrate a birthday, run a race, prepare myself for the world of full-time work again, and get my head around living in London.  The first three I achieved with reasonable success; the 4th I'm still dealing with...and may well be for a long time to come.  I've done this whole moving away from home several times before, and usually with very little notice.  I believe in just getting in there and dealing with what life throws at you, but always keeping in mind what my goals are.  I made a very strong promise to myself, that I wouldn't let my training suffer, and while that worked quite well to begin with, unfortunately I pushed it a little too much, and have spent the last few weeks injured.  I set myself some priorities though, and dealing with them early on has definitely helped me settle into a training routine pretty quickly.  I had done a gym session, and a track session, and been to Birmingham to pick up my bike all within 10 days of arriving.  These are usually the type of thing that I 'put on the long finger' because I'm either too shy or to lazy to sort them out.  It's all about priorities.

So my advice to any athlete moving away to university in the coming months is to use the first week to seek out everything that you need for training, if you have not already done so.  Register with a doctor, find a training group and facility, sort out gym membership, ask advice on where to find a good physio and sport massage therapist.  Don't keep putting these things off, and spend time chasing them up with you really need them.  If you can plan in advance and sort out these things before you even move, then better again.

But most of all, embrace the change, enjoy the new way of life, and take full advantage of the additional challenges and opportunities that the transition can bring.  Be in control of you own success.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Managing Multiple Transitions

At many points during an athlete’s career, they will come across various transitions, education, performance and lifestyle. Identifying when these are likely to happen early makes the transitions to manage. One at a time can be easy to recognise, but the problems occur when the transitions overlap, for example a step up in education combined with a change of club and coach. During this time the athlete needs to manage balancing out the time demands and the change in workload of the education as well as developing new relationships with team mates and coaches, as well as managing different coaching patterns and expected demands.

All this can both be physically and mentally draining for the athlete and may cause higher stress levels and therefore the athlete can become prone to illness and fatigue and maybe a slump in performance which can be frustrating and again cause stress levels to rise.

So it is easy for me to talk about how things should happen and how they should be managed, but when the situation happens to me, how do I deal with multiple transitions.

Take this last month (while things have been temporarily a bit slow with ALD), after securing a position at the University of Bath as their Talented Athlete Lifestyle Officer, I have had to manage the transition of moving location, changing jobs, managing a change in personal relationships as well maintaining or wanting to increase the intensity of my training.

So how have I done? Having a month between accepting the job and my start date, gave me plenty of time to try and make the transition as smooth as possible. However life would be too easy if it all went without any disruption!

Unfortunately due to illness and other work commitments I was unable to look for accommodation until the weekend before I started, my first day was at a conference and I was needed to come home the first weekend away for a competition!

However two weeks into the job, I am happy with where I live, have managed to juggle into a new work routine and begin to build on the professional relationships within the new office, and now I have to find a club to regularly train with and fit that into my new routine. I have managed to keep a good aerobic base through joining the gym and running and swimming in my own time, maybe over doing it sometimes.

Managing the last few months have been helped by having the time to prepare and plan for the changes that are about to happen, being able to communicate with my friends and family and having the physical help to move my belongings to the new location.

I have also been fortunate that the changes have been during an off season or out of competition period for me which have meant I have been able to just maintain my fitness levels.

So my words for advice for athletes about to manage big changes in their lifestyle….. Plan, communication and take your time……there are occasions where you may have to be reactive rather than proactive, but hopefully for you these are few and far between!