Resilience is a term we hear more often these days, particularly in relation to sport and overcoming adversity. But why is it something that we should consider and something we should work on?
Being resilient allows you to overcome adversity and generally be in a stronger position than before facing the obstacle.
In my own experience, being mental resilient has not only increased the longevity of my cycling career, it has opened doors in many different avenues in life leading to opportunities to grow as a person and an athlete.
Photo; Andy Rogers, TDU 2020.
In 2014 I experienced an injury ridden season, While this season is my worst in terms of results or input towards team goals, it is also the year I learn the most about myself and grew as an athlete and person. I began experiencing pain in my left leg whenever I went ‘hard’ for more then about 30 seconds. This mentally hurt me because my first thought was that I simply needed to train harder and then I wouldn’t be dropped in races. I knew deep down this wasn’t right and with the help of my family and coach I sought out help, I was diagnosed with external iliac artery endofibrosis. This is a reasonably common problem with professional cyclists, however one that requires surgery and a lengthy time off the bike to recover. It was March when I found out these details, basically 1 month into a 8 month season. In discussions with my coach and family, we decided to stay in ‘the flow of the seasons’ and have the surgery at the end of the season. That meant I faced the rest of the season knowing I was limited in my physical performance and recovery.
This is the time I really learnt how to train, previously I didn’t place the value on quality training that I had to in this moment, I was faced with a clear obstacle in my career and training smarter and at a higher quality then I ever previously had was the result. Mentally this was a tough period, while I couldn’t physically perform to a high level, that I expected, I was faced with a team director who didn’t believe my diagnosis and became challenging to work with, this lead to high stress for me as contract negotiations were beginning and without options for a 2015 contract I had my back against the wall. Financially I was struggling, all the funds I earned as a rider I put back into my development, through gym memberships, massages or training days. I know you only get out what you put in and this was a time to invest all I had into future me. I had learnt growing up that you can always find a way and your attitude plays a massive role in your situation, but my beliefs were stressed and values questioned during this time.
Winning the Ronde van Overijsel in 2015 in The Netherlands
Mentally this year was hard and looking back there were a lot of times I was unhappy, but I knew it would change, I knew that if I trusted the process, it would work out and I just put my head down and concentrated on what I could control and tried to not worry about what I could not. I was offered a contract extension by Team Hitec Products as they valued me as a person and still believed in my potential. This lifeline and faith from Karl Lima (team manager) kept me in the sport and focusing on what was still possible to achieve. I had the surgery at the beginning of October in 2014 and I went on to win 5 UCI races in 2015, including the Oceania Championship title and my first big race in Europe, the Ronde van Overijssel in The Netherlands, as well as being nominated for the Australian female road cyclist of the year award. I am grateful to have faced and overcome the challenges physically, mentally and emotionally in 2014 as it lead to 2015 being my most successful year to date on the bike in terms of victories and has played a key role in every season since, showing how important resilience can be.
In Hospital April 2018 after crashing in Amstel Gold Race
When I crashed on my face and broke my arm in the 2018 Amstel Gold Race, I worked hard through the rehabilitation period to stay mentally fresh and motivated for the second half of the season. This freshness from six weeks away from competition, I believe ultimately lead me to a successful back end of the season where I took 2 victories in France for my team. I was fresher then many of the other women in the peloton, both physically and mentally, as I was ‘forced’ to take a break and ultimately became stronger because of it.
Facing obstacles makes you stronger. For me the deeper you have to search within yourself to overcome a challenge and find a way through, the higher you can soar when you overcome it. Attitude is everything, focusing on what you can control and finding the silver lining to the situation leads to resilience.
Photo: Thomas Maheux
Winning my last race of the year in 2018, GP Isburgues in France
Fletcher and Sarker’s ‘A grounded theory for psychological resilience in Olympic Champions’ highlight 9 steps for developing resilience;
Develop a positive personality
View your decisions as active choices not sacrifices
Use support available to you from other people
Identify your motivation for succeeding
Focus on personal development
View setbacks as opportunities for growth
Strengthen your confidence from a range of sources
Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviours
Concentrate on what you can control
I believe that these 9 steps are fundamental in overcoming challenging times and soaring to new heights. Resilience is a powerful asset to any athlete or in business. Growing this skill is within your control.