When the Going Gets Tough, Keep Going


Lately, I have been engrossed in some self-inflicted dramas. I somehow overlooked the fact that I am not a powerless victim incapable of controlling the things that I can. Whatever issues I may have can only be summed up into any of these: 1) things I can change and 2) things beyond my control. For instance, there are no outside factors I can blame if I am overweight and unfit. I only have to point a finger to my own laziness and lack of self-discipline to know where the buck stops.

On the upside, I know that I have it in me to improve things. I may no longer be a competitive athlete, but I have learned a few things from being one to get through life. If there are things I learned from all the years of training for flag and country, they would be these:

Embrace fear

The demands and expectations from competitive athletes being trained to represent their country are high. I imagine the training of elite athletes as not much different from military training sans the guns, artillery, and occasional (and secret) hazing that some unlucky plebes get. Routines are a given. But it is not the kind of routine where you can predict what is going to happen every single time. Instead, you learn to face your fears over and over again.

Life as an athlete is filled with surprises as well as intense levels of hardships and pains. I have experienced constant dread not knowing what kind of new challenge lies ahead. I remember early mornings when my teammate and I, often the earliest birds, wait at the track oval for our land training – the first workout of the day. I remember the feeling of anticipation mingled with apprehension of what awaits us.

As I watched the sky lighten up as the sun rises, the only thing I could do then was to muster the courage to taken on whatever it is that comes my way. Because the only thing my teammates and I are sure of is that we cannot really know what our so-called training routines have in store for us. Our coaches and trainers had the knack of surpassing our expectations in raising the proverbial bar that we were expected to hurdle. I have learned to expect the unexpected and just put myself out there like there will be no tomorrow.

Do not expect an easy life

There is no such thing as “easy” days in training. There are only less hellish days. Just when you have thought you got it all together, something is bound to come up to prove you wrong. I have learned to rely on willpower to get through the toughest conditions. And I realized that happiness is not about breezing through life. It is about going through hell and coming out a much better person from it. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years spent in training can change you in more ways you can imagine.

You get what you give

Anyone can cheat during training. But the ones who do ultimately end up on the losing end. The less you give of yourself into the hours of grueling training, the less chances you get in breaking your personal best(s).

In a team sport, it is a great disservice to the team when you slack off. We have often been told that the strength of the team is it’s weakest (wo)man. Slacking off means you are not improving with the others. You become a burden to those who are trying their best to secure a win for the team.

The trouble with mediocrity is that it could become a habit. One day adds up to the many other days. And the more you indulge in it, the easier it becomes to accept it. In sport and in life, you get what you give. If you demand excellence from yourself, you’re more likely to get excellent results.

The rules are simple

The way professional and amateur athletes play nowadays is much different than before. Advancements in sports technology, nutrition, and other aspects of competitive training have changed how games are played. There is nothing wrong in optimizing available resources to ensure peak performance as long as they are legal and within the sports’ standards.

But beyond the innovative training programs, high-tech equipment, and well-chosen nutritional supplements, the simple rules still apply such as:

Get the right amount of sleep – Lights off at 9:00PM and wake up at 5:00AM. These are among the rules we lived by at the athletes’ dorm. And I can really say that I tend to perform much better when I get enough sleep.

Eat right – Eating right is important for optimum performance. It is still the most effective way to maintain, lose, or gain weight and fuel performance.

Choose the proper way to train – There are many elements in a good training program. A well-designed and sport-specific program, qualified coaches and trainers to handle the training, and the support from sports nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and more all contribute to achieving peak performance. Knowing what is good for you and your body helps. And that includes making good decisions based on what is right for you.

Make time for mental/psychological preparations – The demands of playing a sport is not just physical. There is a lot of mental and psychological element going on. Visualization and mental training through positive suggestions are some of the techniques I have learned from two sports psychologists who have greatly influenced me.

Opt for a healthy lifestyle – Healthy living makes it easier for the mind and body to step up when the going gets tough.

Not everyone gets to win the gold and step on the podium or the world stage of sports. But everyone can live as champions in everyday life. These are the things that I need to remind myself to crawl out of the rut that I seem to have fallen into.


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