The following email was sent to me by a member of our wilder community. I found resonance in her correspondence because we all lose our mojo at times, buried by life’s shoulds. Today I write to help this individual, and in doing so, I hope to help all of us to find our mojo and live in alignment with our truth.
Q: …After injuries and then life struggles, my current problem is that I should be training for an event in October. I have your Training Planner and know I should have commenced a few weeks ago. But again, I am my own worst enemy and I am finding that I lack motivation. I am probably beyond hope and really, I guess this email is more about me offloading to share my struggles and frustrations. I guess what I was hoping you might be able to tell me is - How to get back on track? How do I get past feeling a little afraid to go out on my own again, even when I know I’m fine and I will love it? How do I find my motivation again to get the work done? How do I push myself to actually follow advice and a plan? Where do I start!?
Here is my reply:
Joining Lincoln Quilliam on the Hobart Trail Runners Facebook Page, we informally chatted about writing my new memoir called Finding My Feet: My Story, and wilder adventures. In this conversation, we also discussed my 19-day French Pyrenees Traverse, the South-Coast Track in Tasmania, Federation Peak FKT, and then the Western Arthurs solo trail running mission. I also highlight the journey I have been on since leaving competitive running, and how I have found my feet in my trail running by falling in love with wilder missions. We discuss the importance of harmonising all this with recuperation and calmness, and how I have been dabbling in yoga, meditation and writing to really find myself. This was a joyful conversation that I hope you will enjoy as must as I enjoyed hosting it!
At the end of 2005 I teetered on one leg, wondering how I was ever going to return to my competitive dreams. An ankle reconstruction threatened my future sporting career. Following this, life threw even more curve balls my way and I felt like I was stuck in a hole. But what kept me alive was a big, hairy, audacious dream. I wanted to be a World Champion!
When the day of the Junior World Titles in Lithuania arrived, I knew I would win. This was an ego-aside moment. Rather, there was simply no alternative. I was so prepared, mentally, physically and even spiritually, that the result was inevitable. I had done the work, tested my tools, and mentally rehearsed through all the challenges that might hit me in the race. I had stood on the tops of mountains and said my silent prayers, run through the moments of doubt, and through all of it, I had found utter joy in the journey to be there in that World Championship moment. Yep, I was so damn ready to be a World Champion.
I want this sure-fire confidence for you too. I want you to be your own champion! Damn it, I want it for me again too because there is no greater feeling than running along a wilder trail with self-confidence fuelling your engines.
My struggle is that my work and personal life are feeling blurred. I now realise that the commute to work is a hard boundary but as I work from home I am not able to find this separation. My challenge is to find a new boundary at home because otherwise it becomes exhausting. I also have to consciously stop “overdoing it”, but rather to find time to slow down and go deep into quietness. Most of all, have gratitude that I still have a job ❤
After reading this comment that was made in response to my post on ‘hormonal stress’ I was inspired to write about some of the practical ways that I am trying to separate work, ‘training’ and home life. The challenge of establishing boundaries between work and ‘life’ within our homes is a real and crucially important one. It is a current issue but also a lesson that is invaluable to learn for longer term wellness. So, today I have decided to share what Graham and I are trying to do to create separation from our home and work environments.
Parks are closed. Trails too. Events are cancelled and we are dusting off our road-running shoes. Yes, we are living in a sensation of limited freedom. But today I share how it is the choices we make that will give us back our wings. Here are my suggestions for ensuring that you thrive through these challenges.
What is Freedom?
We all value it, so what does it mean? Freedom is simply the ability to have choices. To choose what we want to do, when we wish to do it, and how too. The reason so many of us feel trapped right now is that it feels like our choices have been taken away. However, all that has been taken from us are our habits, our routines, our old normality.
Find your new normal
Without our old routines to latch onto, we can feel wobbly and unsettled. We can wake in the morning feeling edgy or unmotivated. We grasp onto media and social channels to fill in voids. Another cuppa to fill the emptiness. Awake at night with ‘busy head syndrome’. But if we recognise what is at the core of this unsettledness, a sensation of ‘stuckness’, then we have the capacity to choose our way out. Personally, I am choosing to ‘find my new normal’ and you can too. Begin by writing a list of all the options you still have available to you. Don’t forget to include all the new options that have become available, such as online yoga or camping in your back yard. Then begin to schedule this into your ‘training’ routines or my Training Planners.
The word freedom raises images of a bird spreading its wings and soaring higher. So, where do you wish to soar once the restrictions end? If you were the bird, what type would you be? An eagle striving towards its target? A dove peacefully watching the world pass? A chicken reworking its turf? A duck diving beneath the surface? Weird? Yes! Whacky? Definitely! But this analogy will help you to realise what goal you are setting and what attitude and values you need to adopt to achieve it. From now on, every time you head out the door or begin planking in the spare room, see it as training for this dream to come. (Need inspiration? Join me on one of my Find Your Feet Tours!).
Find the abnormal in the boring
I am getting so many requests from individuals about how to avoid road running. So, I would like to ask - why? Why avoid the road if it can take you on an adventure every day? A road is a window into a landscape. Along its verges you will see remnants of those who travelled before you, vegetation gripping with strength & ferocity to a precarious life, a day awakening around you, birds cheering you on, insects humming cheerfully, front yards to ponder, letterboxes overflowing with stories. Yup, there is so much to see when you run on the road… you just need to CHOOSE to see it! In fact, the other morning the highlight of my run was seeing a scorpion crossing the road. This simple something is what I would have missed had a chosen to not venture outdoors.
Find Freedom on the hills
It may be hard to find the time, energy or open space for exercising during these times. To get the most out of yourself and your precious time, head for a hill. If you are nervous about getting injured from road running, upgrade your running shoes and then find a hill. It is so hard to injure yourself running gently uphill. I am not asking you for hill sprints. In fact, I beg you not to! Instead, run up, aiming for consistency and great running form, then walk or jog back. Repeat. Again, if you find this concept ugly and awful, then you are choosing to find it ugly and boring. Perhaps choose to see the mindfulness, health, vitality and challenge in it instead? (I write lots about the virtues of hills and hill running technique in my Trail Running Guidebook).
Don’t make do
I am seeing lots of very worn-out running and walking shoes on the footpaths and local urban pathways. If you are leaving the gym, pool or trails and venturing towards the concrete or asphalt, this is not the time to run in dead shoes! Make sure you select something that has a little cushion and provides some protection to your feet and legs. You can visit my Find Your Feet store and ask one of our gurus for advice if you need help choosing the best shoes for you.
Do your strength activation
Lazy butt? Weak calf muscles? Grumpy back? Achilles grumbles? These are all signs of a lazy core and gluteal muscles. Pull out the yoga mat and YouTube galore! There are so many great exercises online. You may also like to join an online yoga class or reach out to your physio or PT who may be offering tele-consults. This is the perfect time to address the imbalances.
Find excitement in tempo running
If you are more experienced, this is the perfect time to up the tempo. I absolutely love tempo running and I implore you to get creative. Begin with a 15-20min tempo run but over time begin to adjust the terrain and durations of your tempo sessions. Add hills. Break it into 10-minute segments with shorter recoveries. Try a new route. Go longer. Bugger it… run backwards if you have to! Anything you do, so long as it is paired with great recovery, will be a step in the direction you choose.(Learn more about tempo running in my Trail Running Guidebook).
So, as you can see, we have choices. In fact, they are all around us and we are blessed to live in landscapes that provide so many to us.
Choose freedom in self-isolation.
Choose to keep a dream alive.
Choose to run along a road to nowhere and watch the world not pass you by.
An unlikely story of strength and resilience
I am completely fascinated by the strength of our minds so over the last 12-months I have been studying advanced coaching techniques, such as Neurolinguistics Programming (how to reprogram our internal dialogue), hypnotic skills and visualization. This study has brought a huge year of growth and change, a welcome addition to my peak performance coaching.
The other major change that I have welcomed in the last 12-months is a home, a little wooden chalet on 4-acres on the slopes of Mt Wellington. The quaint property is littered with pademelons (small marsupials), wallabies, bird-life and even frogs on the nights when the rains finally fall. However, due to the dry conditions this summer the frogs have rarely sung and the mammal lawn mowers are finding their grass supply waning. To counter this, my husband and I have been throwing our veggie scraps out the back door. We also fill large metal bowls scattered around the lawn with water. Every night, our evening entertainment is to watch the nature channel’s chaos unfolding outside the loungeroom window – the pademelons’ mothers and babies lap at the water, the males assert their dominance and the birds swoop into the mix. Lord Packenham, our resident possum, might strut his stuff, and occasionally a rabbit might join the fun.
My husband and I are slowly being welcomed. When we step outside our marsupial residents rarely flee in fright, but rather hop warily backwards to allow us to take center stage on our lawn. I love these little guys with all my heart and when a pademelon pauses his or her earnest foraging, sometimes our eyes lock. It is as if a love story is slowly unfolding. Each night as I turn for bed, thrust open the window and listen to the munching outside, I think I can sense them all saying, ‘Thank you for loving us’.
My alarm usually hollers around 5am. I instantly roll out from the bed’s strong grasp, pad downstairs and slip straight into my running attire which I always lay out the night before. I then tug my pajamas back over the top, a symbol of self-compassion whilst I boil the kettle, sip tea with a dash of homemade soymilk, munch a handful of organic dried fruit and gently limber up my muscles as I stare aimlessly across the paddocks. I try to always be gentle to myself in the morning, to start slowly and allow the heart, mind and body to speak their truths. When I am ready to step outside I will peel off my pajamas, quietly tip toe past the stairs to the bedroom where Graham is usually still sleeping, and slip out into the dawn. I love this moment of solitude, when I lace my shoes and feel the anticipation of the morning’s explorations ahead.
Today’s session is a solid 21-minute uphill tempo. I am excited, knowing soon that my lungs will be drawing in the cool, dewy air whilst my legs will still yelp for more. The rhythm of the arms swinging back and forth, back and forth. The spine tall. Head held proud. Feet rising and falling. I believe running is art in movement.
Running hard uphill on an asphalt road is tough on the good days and even tougher on the days when your head isn’t completely in the game. I usually thrive as I leave the start point at the wafting, roast-barley-valley-ambience of the Cascade Brewery, heading uphill towards the junction of Huon Road & Strickland Avenue on Mt Wellington. This junction that marks the end of the hard run just so happens to be a mere 300m from my front door. However, not every day can be a celebration of mojo and flow state running, and today I found my legs cringing sharply with lactic acid. As a result, my confidence wavered then returned, wavered then returned, pulsing with my heart as it raced to keep up with the effort I strived for.
So, this morning I looked into my ‘toolkit’, a collection of tips, tricks and techniques which I have actively sought and collected over the last 15 years of my running & coaching career. I considered using ‘The Whip’, mentally whipping myself into action or the ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card and backed off the intensity. I thought about ‘The Ignore Button’ and disassociated from the discomfort by entering ‘My Bubble’, a space I reserve for digging deep and blocking out the searing squeals of my legs and lungs. But rather I chose one of my teacher’, techniques called ‘Picture the End’. So, whilst still running hard up the hill, I began to create a picture of the end of the tempo – to see the roads meeting, the bus stop number, the cars whizzing past, the child waiting for the school pickup. I added sounds, such as the birds’ chorus and the belching bus. I imagined the zingy feeling in my legs as I saw myself stretching past the bus stop that marked the finish and coming to a gentle walk. I almost felt the high five slaps I gave my running buddy as we celebrated our success.
Yes, this morning I was able to create a vivid image of the tempo’s ending. Even when I was still ¾ of the way up the hill, the image was so vivid that I could almost touch it, smell it, hear it, feel it! I grew in strength. Then I found myself imagining a rope tied around my waste and it winching me closer and closer to this finish line. I instantly felt my pace increasing and an extra spring in my step as I I lifted taller and prouder in my posture. Suddenly, and to my absolute surprise, I had an overwhelming image of our resident pademelons grasping onto that rope and pulling me closer and closer to the finish line! In my mind’s eye, they appeared to be expressing their gratitude by helping me reach the finish line of my tempo run!
Yes. That’s right. The pademelons gifted me a new Personal Best Time on my training run this morning!
You may think I am nuts. And maybe I am?! But what I have learnt this year is that every tiny step you take towards being wilder will make you stronger. Being wilder is my term for the summation of all the small actions that you take to empower yourself, such as recycling your plastic, ruminating on your values, eating cleaner, turning off the lights, expressing your gratitude, using a Keep Cup, looking out for your neighbors, studying new skills, journaling, exercising consistently, and loving nature in all its beauty. Every step you take towards knowing yourself and being the best version of you brings you a greater sensation of strength which you can draw on when the going gets tough or you need to add fuel to your mojo – in running and in life.
So, can I dare you to ask yourself… ‘what am I doing today that can help me to feel prouder, lean in with more confidence and realise my greatest potential?
Look after the pademelons!
I am thrilled to be featured in the latest edition of Sharp Traveller! In this article we delve into how the Find Your Feet Tours started, and why we're so excited to be guiding our inaugural Flinders Island Find Your Feet Tour during November!
Megan Holbeck writes for Outdoor Magazine to unravel the appeal of ultra running. It was an honour to be featured in this article...
A female runner utilising my training planners recently asked me my thoughts about training around the monthly female hormonal cycle. She wanted advice on how to adapt the wave training principles to her menstrual cycle. Here is my reply:
Today I received an email from a reader with an important question - 'What do I eat before race?'. She had read in my The Trail Running Guidebook where I recommend to simplify our diet in the last few days before a race, focussing on lower fat, lower protein meals. In the book I suggest - WHITE, FLUFFY, STARCHY. So her question was, 'What are some examples of white, fluffy and starchy foods that I should eat in the days leading up to a race?' Here is my reply:
I recently shared a social media post on the topic of stress and its impact on our ability to optimally recover from training loads. Given the flurry of interest, ongoing questions and requests for support I received afterwards, I wanted to provide an excerpt on the topic of stress from my Trail Running Guidebook. I feel that stress and its impact on our hormones is poorly understood, so I hope you find this article helpful.
This blog stemmed from a client's email query: 'I live in the UK where it is super cold at the moment. How do I prepare for your relatively hot Australian conditions?'
As a performance coach specializing in trail and ultra-distance running, I am frequently asked about the use of caffeine a supplement to performance. With almost every sports nutrition brand providing caffeinated options, from gels to chews to beverages, I believe it is important to address the question – to caffeine or not to caffeine? Sadly, as you will soon find out, whilst there are some good rules to abide by, everyone is different. Using caffeine requires you to understand the science, your own body’s response to this common stimulant, and then to deliberately practice and observe its effects during exercise.
I am running along a wild trail in Japan, entering into the Zen state that occurs soon after the ‘I am getting a little tired’ point, and shortly before the second-wind gusts you back onto your feet. In this internal bubble, time loses all meaning, and thoughts come and go like the breeze that hits me each time I crest onto another jagged ridgeline. Sweat is dripping down my forehead, seeping down my neck, before finally making it into my undies. Moving along this trail, far from the wandering crowds, and well beyond reach of emails, phones and all that ‘life’ stuff, I think I am in heaven. And, from the depths of this meditative state, I feel completely connected to my rawest self.
Lee walks softly through the sliding doors into my living room, a converted 1960s garage which we rent from generous friends who live above. For three years we lived humbly since we sold our home in Canberra and thrown everything into our Find Your Feet adventure business here in Tasmania. Lee meets my outstretched hand with a quiet confidence and yet boyish nervousness. I feel like I am looking in a mirror. ‘Well this should be interesting!’ he remarks with a husky smoothness laced with an accent I cannot place.
How much of an endurance challenge is mental or physical? I have always been at a lost for an appropriate response and grabbing at random numbers. Seventy percent physical? Forty percent mental? Or should this be fifty-fifty? Or… Just days away from the my first 100km trail running event I can now respond with more conviction. Breaking down any endurance challenge into only mental and physical components is over simplified. Right now I can testify that there is a huge emotional element to endurance performance too and I believe that we often overlook the incredible power that our emotions hold over us. This begs the question - are we putting enough emphasis on emotional intelligence as we strive to succeed in endurance challenges?
As featured in Travel, Play, Live.
This year I hit the big 30. I had really been looking forward to this milestone in my life. On the day I turned thirty, I stood atop the final summit of my ‘30 peaks in the year before I turn 30’ challenge. Whilst it had come down to the wire, I felt wind-chapped & glowing from the inside out. That was until injury hit and I took a visit to my GP.
The Ultra Trail Australia events have many exciting challenges, one of the most noteworthy being the large and numerous hills that runners will encounter in the Blue Mountains. As this event has expanded, so too has the spread of runners from across our vast country. The race is now attracting runners from as far away as Tasmania, northern Western Australia and Darwin.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.