Somebody asked if I would write a blog with advice for younger athletes, so I thought I’d write it based on what I feel did/didn’t benefit me as I grew up. A little bit like a message to my younger self.
Since the start of my running journey, I have had quite a roller coaster of a ride. There have been some great ups, but there have been a lot of downs. When I reflect on some of these, I know they all happened for a reason, in order to educate my younger self, but if I could tell these to someone else before they have to experience them, I would say:
Enjoy ALL the sports.
Running is great, and I focus solely on it now, but there is no need to when you are at school. When I was at school, I did EVERY sport going. My friends and I would do everything from basketball, to hockey, to tennis and gymnastics. Whatever sport it was, we would do it. There was nothing we would say no to. As a result, we spent every lunch break and after school doing a sports club of some sort. When I look back on it now, I think this was a very valuable thing to do. Not only did it allow me to discover what sports I enjoyed the most, but it meant my body was never being strained in one particular way too early. When you are young, it is very easy to be active, and being active is enough to allow you to do well at running at a young age. Doing all these other sports gave me the fitness I needed to do the school cross country races, and run them well, without doing too much running too soon.
It’s ok to feel out of control.
As I reached my older school years, I struggled with the concept of being out of control. I still do at times, but I know how not to act. When I was younger, I wasn’t even aware that my actions were due to feeling out of control. When life threw lemons at me, I restricted what I ate. I thought this was a good thing to do, but it was far from that. If I could, I would tell my younger self that it is ok to let go, to be scared, to fear the future, and to feel lost, but I don’t need to act on this by controlling my food and thinking it was a good thing for my running. I would make myself aware that my restrictive behaviours were due to the way I was feeling and I would encourage others to speak up about their emotions. I would say to younger athletes, it’s ok to worry about the future and where life will take you, but restricting your food won’t make anything better. If you notice yourself doing these behaviours, speak to someone, whether it be a teacher or a relative, because they can help you understand what you are struggling with at that time of your life. Just understand that restricting your food won’t fix anything, it will only cause more damage, and it won't benefit your performance in any way.
Go to your local club.
This is something I didn’t do at a young age. I was always very nervous to join the local athletics club because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I found the concept very scary and overwhelming. I don’t regret not going as I had an incredible coach that I trained with each week and I wouldn't have changed that for the world, but I would recommend others who don’t have a coach, head down to their local club. You can be of ANY standard to go to your local athletics club. It is a great way to meet others with similar interests. It also allows you try different types of events in order to find out which one you enjoy the most.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
As we grow up, especially with the strong presence of social media, we become very aware of the way other people are living their lives. Without realising, it can cause us to feel we should be doing things differently. You may see other athletes doing more training than you, or taking it more seriously at a young age, but I would say, focus on your own journey because what matters most is what you achieve when you’re older, not when you’re young. Having fun with other sports when you’re younger is only going to benefit your running when you’re older. It sounds cliche, but everyone is also on their own journey, some people who are running amazingly at a young age, may stop progressing quite early on, whereas others may develop later on. For this reason, don’t worry about where you’re at now, because you time will come later on. Puberty also plays a huge part in how you perform at a young age. Different people experience it at different times and to different extents, so don’t stress about what others are doing, just focus on your own experiences and do what is right for you.
When you’re younger, the most important thing to ensure you stay in the sport for a long time is that you enjoy it. You’re only going to want to stick with something and give your all to it when you grow up, if you love it. For this reason, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Run when you want to run, enjoy racing, but have fun with it. I used to get so so nervous for races when I was at school, and I look back now and ask myself why? It didn’t put me off the sport at all, but it did mean I would spend weeks worrying about an upcoming race, when I could've been enjoying other things. There is plenty of time ahead to take it more seriously. If you enjoy it now, you’ll continue to enjoy it when you’re older and enjoy giving more time to it.
Don't wish time away.
For a lot of my younger years, I remember being so desperate to grow up. I couldn't wait until I could run more, have more freedom, do other things, and it felt like these things were lifetimes away. However, the time has flown by so so quickly. So much so that I wish I had enjoyed that time a little more and not longed for the future. Yes the future is great and there are so many options in life, but it also has its struggles, just like you think being a child does. Enjoy the lack of responsibility and the purity of being a kid, because it's pretty fun.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!