Jacky Leonard's blog

Archive entries for: Aug-2012

When the going gets tough…

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

“When the world says ‘give up’, hope whispers, ‘try it one more time’”

Elite sportspeople are selfish!  That’s not a criticism, ask any of them and they’ll confirm how single minded, driven, even obsessive you have to be to become the best.  We generally only witness the final 5%, i.e. the performance, the event, the competitive arena, where they showcase, the culmination of all the hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears.  It’s easy to forget how much time, effort and perseverance goes into the other 95%.  I was therefore pleased to see the BBC concentrating on the athlete’s journeys, giving us an insight into the human stories of our sporting heroes.

What we’ve learned is their road to success is often a long one, with twists, turns and dead ends.  Rarely is it as simple as getting from A-B…sport, like life often throws you a curve ball and the most successful individuals are those who are tenacious, perseverant and resilient enough to pick themselves up and start their journey again.

So what is it that enables our best athletes to bounce back even after an injury, defeat or failure?

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient.  These include:

  • a positive attitude
  • a sense of optimism
  • an ability to regulate and manage emotions
  • an ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”  http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience

This outlook can make the toughest times seem challenging, rather than insurmountable, allowing individuals to alter their journey plan and continue along the road to success. 

Here are a few of our successful Olympians who have beat the odds…

Dame Kelly Holmes, who battled her way through a series of injuries to reach the pinnacle of her athletic career with her double gold medal achievement in Athens in 2004.

Sir Steve Redgrave, diagnosed with diabetes in 1997 and still continued his rowing career to win 5 gold medals in 5 consecutive games.  He said “I decided very early on that diabetes was going to live with me, not me with diabetes.”

Equestrian legend Nick Skelton who, in the build-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, fell off his horse and broke his neck in two places.  He was told by surgeons that another fall could prove fatal and was forced to retire from the sport, but he battled back to return to competition in 2002 and was part of the team that delivered GB’s first show jumping gold medal in 60 years at London 2012.

And then there’s our Paralympic athletes who may have been born, or acquired their disability through illness or injury.  Many of whom are in constant discomfort or pain due to the nature of their disability.  Yet they still endure punishing physical and mentally demanding training regimes to challenge themselves further.  Attitude plays a huge part as I discovered following a conversation with a disabled athlete years ago who assured me he wasn’t disabled, just differently-abled.

I’m going to leave you with a couple more thoughts…firstly here’s my take on resilience…

“When you hit a brick wall, fall into a hole or lose your way on life’s journey, resilience is the ability to re-orientate, select a new path and begin again with a fresh perspective.”

…and finally one of my favourite poems…

Don’t Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When the funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit, 
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, 
As every one of us sometimes learns, 
And many a failure turns about, 
When he might have won had he stuck it out; 
Don't give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than, 
It seems to a faint and faltering man, 
Often the struggler has given up, 
When he might have captured the victor's cup, 
And he learned too late when the night slipped down, 
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out 
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, 
And you never can tell how close you are, 
It may be near when it seems so far, 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit 
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown


More people, More Active, More Often?

Categories:  Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

The London 2012 Olympic Legacy of Inspire a Generation is a powerful, admirable and worthwhile mission.  How can anyone (even the least sports minded person) fail to have been motivated, inspired or wowed by the performances, personal journeys and sheer spectacle of this Olympic Games?  Sport can be such a powerful catalyst for good.  I invariably find young sports people will have enhanced team working, communication and leadership skills than their non-participative peers.  I appreciate not everyone can aspire to be the next Bradley Wiggins, Steve Redgrave or Tanni Grey-Thompson, but there are lifelong benefits for everyone who gets involved in active physical recreation. 

Our body’s are designed to be physically active…we function physiologically, psychologically and emotionally better if we do it  so I’m all for inspiring more people to be more active more often.  I was first introduced to the statement I’ve used as the title for this blog back in 1990 when the importance of participating in regular physical activity was high on the agenda courtesy of the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey.  It provided a database from which the levels of physical activity and fitness amongst the population could be better understood and identified the relationship between fitness, health and wellbeing.  It was a launch pad for many community based campaigns to get people involved in sport and physical recreation. 

At the time I was working as a Sports Development Officer for LBB on their Active Lifestyles campaign.  If the truth be told I was so passionate about it I would have done it for nothing if I could have afforded to, so the current statistics on obesity levels in the UK sadden me.  Have we actually made any significant progress in getting more people active since then?

60% of the adult population of the UK is overweight or obese

The health risks are now well documented…

High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Type 2 diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease, Liver Disease, some cancers

Joint pain, trouble sleeping and incontinence are also linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.

I recently got back from a holiday in Turkey.  I had a fab time, socialising, resting and exercising, but one thing really disturbed me.  The increased numbers of overweight, or obese young people and their families...more noticeable in a swimming costume environment.

I’m not judging!  I’m merely stating the facts, based on the current statistics and my observations.  I appreciate how difficult it is to maintain a healthy weight when we live in a society where we are encouraged to do less and eat more.  The simple weight management equation of energy in = energy out is easier said than done.  Check out the BOGOF’s and discounted items in your local supermarket…you’ll invariably find they’re likely to be the high fat, high sugar products.

We now spend more time sitting in front of our TV’s, PC’s or other technological gadgets than doing something physically active….and it seems the less we do, the less we want to do!  We live in a society where shopping has become a day out!  I guess walking around the shops counts as physical activity until you add in the obligatory coffee and pastry pit stops.  The statistics confirm the UK is now matching the USA in the percentage of the population classed as above a healthy weight.

I hope watching this year’s Olympics has indeed inspired every generation to become more involved in sport, or physical activity and we continue to support and encourage people of all ages to get up, get out and get active.