If you’ve been obsessed with the Olympics over this last week or so, then you’re in a great place to get far more out of it than you might think. You see every four years, we get treated to a brief look into the souls of people who really know how to achieve and, perhaps more valuably as a learning experience, know how to process, deal with and move on from enormous defeat. If watching the Olympics and Paralympics were an online course, it would arguably be one of the most valuable resources you could call upon for personal growth and development!
But this isn’t just about being inspired or impressed with athletic performance. The four weeks of the Olympic Games and then the Paralympic Games offer us a unique insight into how the elite sporting mind works. We see the joy and the pain, the elation and the desperation and in the post competition interviews we get to understand how athletes process both emotions. We also get (if you’re lucky enough to have great TV coverage where you live) analysis that can help us understand and learn from these sporting achievements.
It’s a mystery
For three years and eleven months, the world of the elite sports person is a bit of a mystery to us. Yes, we see every aspect of the lives of footballers plastered all over the media relentlessly but more often than not, this coverage is focussed on either pure sporting performance or what you might think of as celebrity lifestyle. But the real ‘magic sauce’ for us non-elites, is how athletes extract their maximum potential at the exact moment it’s most needed or why they don’t and then how they process that, in the moment it’s most raw and painful. This sort of insight is priceless and it’s just there, laid out in front of us, if we choose to take notice.
So much of what it means to achieve any goal, no matter how grand or how simple, is about how well you’re able to cope with all the different little components that can influence an outcome and then how much you allow these components to influence what you do and how you do it. In the context of Sport Walking, this means how well you’re able to understand and plan for difficulties you might face in your challenges and then how well you cope with them if they occur.
But this can be a complicated and difficult area fully to grasp, if you’re not fortunate enough to be an elite athlete with a huge support network of high level coaches and psychologists at your back. Yes we all see the technical sporting performances of athletes and sports stars daily but these performances represent a tiny part of their lives. It’s all the stuff we never get to see or at least rarely get to see that really defines elite athletes and that’s the stuff that you can tap into and which can be hugely beneficial to anyone.
It’s really difficult, if not impossible, to see a competition performance from an athlete like Adam Peaty or Charlotte Worthington and draw something tangible from it to apply in your own life (unless you’re a swimmer or freestyle BMXer) but we can all learn from how they got to that place, we can all learn from the processes they use and how they function on a day to day basis.
Now, of course, simply watching Olympic or Paralympic competition isn’t enough on its own, we need to dig deeper. But it doesn’t take much research to find a gold mine of information that can be so useful to you. It could come just from reading a biog on a sports governing body website, it could be a Wikipedia entry, it could be an athlete’s social media channel, where they share the trials and tribulations of their day to day life. Wherever you’re led, if you go in search of the bigger story from any Olympic or Paralympic performance, you can start to build a resource that you can draw upon time and again to help you with your own motivation.
It’s a common misconception that the day to day processes of elite athletes are somehow behind a glass wall that we mere mortals cannot penetrate. That they do things we can’t, that the elite system is so different to what we, as individuals, can do. But in reality, elite sport is only different in terms of facilities, coaching support and the very latest sports science knowledge. All this supporting infrastructure doesn’t do the training for you though and it doesn’t give you skills you haven’t got. Bottom line is, elite athletes just do exactly what we do – they go out and do the work. That’s it.
OK, if you’re in a sport that requires expensive equipment there is a bigger difference but for Sport Walkers, who don’t have any direct role models at Olympic or Paralympic level, we can draw inspiration from any quarter. There’s nothing an elite athlete has from a different sport that we might be deprived of – all we need is a pair of trail shoes! So we can quite easily project ourselves onto any athlete’s experiences, we can learn from anyone because it’s all purely about how they break down a big challenge into manageable chunks and that, when you really think about it, is how you achieve anything, either in sport or in any other situation.
So whichever sports you follow during these games, whichever stories touch you, seize the opportunity to learn, to be inspired and to adopt methods that can carry you through your Sport Walking challenges.