Most of us non-athletic types can barely begin to imagine the amount of training that an Olympic athlete endures day in day out, week after week, and in the case of focusing on an Olympic medal, year after year. But how do they keep going, how do they stay motivated, do they have a different mindset to the rest of us?
It's not often (actually never) we get a chance to chat with such an athlete, but when Dame Kelly Holmes MBE (Mil) dropped into our latest success story photo shoot I got the chance to ask all those questions that have been sitting in the back of my mind since I watched her amazing achievements at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Aged 34 at the time, Kelly had not only a whole nation behind her but an entire continent. Memories were made and tears of sheer admiration were shed that year as Kelly not only took home the 800m Gold but the 1500m Gold too.
I have met many celebrities and world leaders in my time but I have never been as inspired as I was when Kelly spoke so passionately to us about diet, fitness and what motivates her. She might be considered a role model and a legend, but she is also sincere, down to earth , funny and warm and it's really difficult not to be inspired by her.
Did you ever have days where you thought "I just don't want to run, I just want to sit on the couch"?
I definitely had a bigger motivation because I had an objective at the end. You have to set a goal and know where you are going because otherwise it's easy to give up and think, "why am I doing it?" So for me having the goal of winning a gold medal was something that was always going to keep me motivated. But essentially I'm human and I did have bad days. I got injured quite a lot and that makes you feel a bit low and depressed. Some people go off their food when they are depressed, but I kind of like my food when I'm depressed so I fell off the edge a few times. But when I recovered and got back into training properly, I had to return to the right plan for the running intensity. So at the weekend, if I had run well during the week, I'd have a Chinese just to give myself a way of saying well done because congratulating yourself is really important as well. I'd have a set amount of time when I would really stick with my diet, but I'd plan ahead and on a certain day I'd have something to look forward to.
Do you think those little treats could threaten your diet?
No, it almost gives you a sort of break in the mindset - to think you can just relax for one day. You have the treat and then suddenly your head switches back into "right now I want to get back into my plan". I don't think that one specific plan is forever. It's about switching your diet around or just having some different foods. That way you can look forward to looking at all the menus and different options and thinking "oh actually I feel like haloumi cheese today or I'll stick with the plan I have". Variety can keep you going, so for me it is important to have that change and a day off almost. I am a real choco-a-holic and I love Thai, Chinese and Indian food, but I did think "this is the plan and this is what I know I need to do". The right food was very important to my success. But I did give myself a day off as well and if I ate something that I really enjoyed, it almost put me back into the right frame of mind straight away.
We can all be the best excuse makers in the world but how do you over-rule that little voice inside your head that says, "Don't bother today, what's the point?"
We all have that little voice that sits on our shoulder and tells us what to do or not to do. That's why you need to think about setting yourself a goal. Think about why you are doing it and why you started it in the first place. Most of us start something because we are not happy about the way we are, or look, or feel. You have to keep that in mind and remember why you set yourself the goal. It is about the long term gain, not the short term excitement. The long term gains will make a difference to your life further down the line. When you reach your goal you start to feel pretty good about yourself.
Kelly’s top tips to keep you focused and motivated.
- Get a clear goal and make a plan to get you there. What exactly do you want to achieve?
- Remind yourself every day about why you are doing something. Think about the long term gains and not the short term quick fixes or excitement.
- Set realistic targets. I think it’s really critical that you don’t expect yourself to do something that you definitely know you will never achieve because it’s just de-motivating.
- Put reminders and notes up around the house, put your photo on your fridge, put your motivational sayings on your front door or put your plan up on the wall.
- Write it down. If you are sitting down at the weekend think "Well this week I am definitely going to do this, this and this". Unless you’ve written it down it will go out of your mind because you have so many things to think about. I put things up on my wall where I’m going to see them all the time, I remind myself each day why I’m doing something and have the target written down or the goal. Then write down how you will congratulate yourself once you have reached your goal.
See Kelly's full range of fitness equipment and clothing in store, or visit www.tesco.com/direct/kelly-holmes/ Look out for Kelly's new accessories coming Sept 2012.