Special Guest Blogger:
Anna Meares OAM
Olympic Gold Medallist
Retired champion cyclist
Sometimes the hardest battle is getting the confidence to walk back into the big wide world
For much of my life, I have had a physical coach. As Australians and as a society, we often attribute so much grandeur and encouragement towards having a physical coach.
After all, a physical coach can help us achieve sporting goals, attain our dreams, or perhaps lifestyle changes and betterment of our physical bodies.
But what is so often overlooked is the importance and integral link between the physical to the mental. While we may hang grandeur on having a physical coach, sadly we can all too easily hang stigma on having a mental coach.
I learnt very early in my life that the mind is an important tool. Ignore that and you are ignoring your chance to really be the best version of yourself, to equip yourself with the skills that can help you seek help and cope/survive some of life challenges.
My first coach Ken ‘Reggie’ Tucker saw something in me as a young kid. Short, skinny and not physically adapted yet to a strength power-based sport where size matters in the body.
For the first few years of my tutelage, Reggie worked on my head to understand racing, moves, making decisions under pressure and competition etc until my body finally caught up.
As kids, we all develop at different times and different stages. The fact that I had someone spend time with me on my head, never really hit me until I was old enough to fully understand the gift I had been given.
Fast forward a few years and in a world where physical prowess is renowned, I still understood that the mind was the engine that drove the body. Winning that battle that not only happens between opponents but between one’s own ears and you can be stronger then you ever knew.
What I have learnt is that becoming strong of the mind takes time, a measurement that is different for everyone and, it takes many occasions to break, or to fall, or to lose, or to be facing a brick wall before you realise you have a weakness, that you didn’t realise your full capacity, that you have to be in a vulnerable place in order to force yourself to ask for help.
Psychology and mindfulness have been an area I have spent great time and effort on improving. I haven’t always been strong, and a lot of the time those moments happen behind closed doors and take a great deal of effort not just from me but those around me to give me the confidence to walk back into the big wide world.
I’m naturally quite an introverted person. I struggle with large groups of people especially those I do not know. I have had to learn to read the signals my body sends me, to mentally regain control and keep moving forward. You may know me as someone who can perform in front of thousands of people, speak confidently and compete with aggression and intimidation. But I am also someone who dislikes confrontation, prefers a small audience of familiar faces and has an innate need to help and support people around me. How does the one person differ so greatly from personal circles to professional circles?
My career has been one of great success, but it has also been one that has seen great loss, adversity and challenge. I once heard Julia Gillard state that resilience is like a muscle. If you use it, it gets strong. She is right.
Being resilient is understanding you won’t always win. You will likely lose more then you win. And in understanding this, it is important to celebrate the wins when they happen for they are indeed rare, and acknowledge the battle, the fight and the adversity that’s been overcome in order to achieve it.
Time is the one factor that can be the healer for all facing challenges mentally and emotionally. However, time can be the cruelest measure of all to heal an injury of the mind or the heart.
For unlike a physical injury, we cannot see it.
We cannot measure its recovery path, and it is easily re damaged by triggers, events, smells, sounds, places, words, songs, people… so many factors can affect it.
When you’re in a place in need of healing on the inside it is so hard to see past the pain, the loss and the hopelessness. For time seems to stand still. It is here that people you love and trust are crucial to you for they are your perspective.
They can see the timeline; they can see what you cannot. If you can find it in yourself to get support and trust that support, you will come out of it bouncing higher than ever before.
With the support of my psychologist, Rita Princi, I see my life like a bouncing ball. I constantly move up and down.
The harder that ball falls, the greater the impact felt at the bottom. But eventually the ball pulls itself back to center and bounces higher with as equal a force with which it fell.
I wouldn’t change anything I have experienced. Good bad or indifferent. I have had many a challenge. Both personally and professionally.
But that has all put me in the place I am now, the person I am now, and with time I have been able to see and understand, I am a good person, who has been through a lot, and has come out better on the other side.
I have the perspective I once couldn’t see and I am thankful for those who stood by me in the lows and celebrated with me the highs.
I encourage people to listen and to talk. Both are such important elements to human connectedness and belonging.
Find that trusted soul or souls who can give you this. You are worth it.
We all are.
By Anna Meares OAM
Olympic Gold Medallist, Retired champion cyclist
Anna Meares OAM, Olympic Gold Medallist, Retired champion cyclist
Retired champion cyclist and dual Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares OAM is one of Australia’s favourite sport stars.
The daughter of a coal miner, Anna rode a BMX bike in Middlemount, Queensland, and learnt her craft on an outdoor velodrome in Rockhampton.
Anna became an Olympic champion at 20 and in her 15-year international career, she collected 18 gold, 16 silver and 10 bronze medals at Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games level.
She is the first Australian to ever win four individual medals at four consecutive Olympic Games.
She fought back from a terrible cycling accident in 2008 which left her with a hairline fracture in her C2 vertebrae.
In February 2015 Anna won the women’s keirin for her 11th world track cycling title making her the most decorated and successful female track cyclist in history.
2019 Mental Health Week: October 7–11
Special Guest Bloggers