Lauren Steadman, our Gym Buddies columnist, is a Paralympian, double World Champion paratriathlete and currently holds the European title, which she has won five times.
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“New Year, new me”, we’ve all been there. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve likely fallen at the first hurdle on more than one occasion. It took me three Paralympic games to find my way and come home with a medal and for me the key was simply setting myself more realistic goals.
No matter how big or small, serious or fun the task at hand may be, make sure you’ve broken down your overall goal into bite-size pieces.
I promised myself as a young girl I would never let being born missing my right forearm stand in my way or use it as an excuse. I pushed myself to learn to tie my shoelaces with one hand, ride a bike and paint my nails - all of which I have no doubt have contributed to me being the best athlete I can.
Every athlete has one goal in common: to bring home a gold medal. And I was no different. I desperately wanted a Paralympic Medal.
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It has been said it takes 10 years to make an athlete, and in that time you learn from experiences both positive and negative. Part of being successful, is being realistic and persistent. I went from aiming for that gold medal, to just wanting to make the final, to hoping to just qualify for the Paralympic Games, to simply getting a new personal best. It’s heartbreaking as an athlete, because you work relentlessly to be the best for four years and bring home a medal, and it wasn’t through lack of effort, it simply wasn’t my time yet.
Reworking my goals to set achievable sub goals enabled me to get one step closer to my big dream. I did get a new personal best, I did go to London Paralympic Games, and I did make a Paralympic final and I definitely learnt a lot about myself to take forward for another four years. Focusing on the smaller goals, make the big goals come more easily.
When you are pushing yourself daily both mentally and physically to get fitter – be stronger motivation always comes into play. I had to learn to re focus on things only within my control. I always say to myself ‘control the controllables’. Why waste time focusing on things out of your control? By focussing on me and remembering that I’m the only one in control of my daily preparation and training I know I’ve done myself justice in ensuring I’m giving the best I can.
For me sport is now a career and no longer a hobby. So to keep a positive mindset I needed to find something outside of triathlon to focus on and enjoy: so I took up salsa dancing.
At first it was both daunting and challenging. I had no coordination, no rhythm and an inflexible, athletic body. And many people wondered how a girl with one hand would be able to dance salsa. But I saw it as a challenge and now four years later: I love to dance and have found a new social circle, a new skill I look forward to practising weekly and enjoyment that distracts me from daily stressors. My physio even said it’s loosened my lower back- which helped with my training.
What I’ve learned is goals don’t always need to be serious or “gains” focused, but something to enjoy and challenge yourself to become a better version of yourself. They can be as small as exercising with friends or trying something new like salsa dancing. It’s never easy at first, but you’ll never know until you try.