I could have just said “here you go I have a new logo, tagline and website click here to view”, (you’re more than welcome to take this option!) but for those of you who like reading, well, in the last few months I had a lot of spare time to think!
Transitioning from my corporate life to a full time professional athlete has been difficult at times. I feel like I have had to, “find myself” all over again. To go from being one of the best in the country in your occupation, where your opinion is sought out and your hard earned successes admired to basically being one of the “worst” in your new career is quite a dramatic shift. And it all happened very quickly.
I guess it is similar to say a very successful real estate agent, owning their own Agency, one of the best in the country, deciding to completely change career to become a plumber or carpenter. Having to start at the very bottom, literally, by doing an apprenticeship. Totally different way of life, stark contrast in income, different work hours, different types of fatigue (mental v physical), different types of work colleagues – just to name the obvious.
If I’m to be honest, there have been many days, throughout 2019 particularly, that I have sat on the end of my bed, completely and utterly exhausted from training, and down on myself for getting my ass kicked by my squad mates in the pool/on the track/on the road day in and day out – and I have asked myself “Is this what you really want? Is this what you want to do every day, for the next 4-5 years Renee? Are you prepared to feel like this week in and week out?”
At a guess I would say I have probably had this conversation with myself, seriously, not as a fleeting thought, around 7 or 8 times this year. You might think that sounds a little dramatic off the back of simply feeling tired or being the “slowest” in a few training sessions.
Let me try to explain further.
I never felt this way in 2018 (my first full year racing pro) because my expectations and goals were not as high as they are now. When I first took my professional licence, I thought all I would be capable of by the end of my career were consistent top 5 finishes by the last year or so and maybe a podium or two. I thought I would be content with this and given my limited time in the sport didn’t think I would ever be capable of anything more. It felt achievable and comfortable.
However the goal posts changed dramatically as I improved. More specifically when I joined the #hillsdistrict squad and began working with Cam Watt. I immediately left my “home” of over 15 years in Melbourne including lifelong friends to be based wherever Cam and the squad were which included a significant chunk of the year overseas. I saw with my own eyes every day what it took to be one of the worlds best. The first few weeks in his squad environment I was in shock. The first couple of months I felt completely overwhelmed and out of my depth. Everything felt so far out of reach at first and I felt like an intruder and like I didn’t belong. Like I wasn’t good enough. But, after a few months I realised what is possible under Cam’s guidance if you are prepared to work hard enough and if you are prepared to take all aspects of this sport seriously.
Somewhere throughout this time I also ceased (or paused) my more than full time job as a Business Owner and became a full time athlete. This was very helpful for my training and recovery, although brings with it additional “pressure” (well not really although it’s the story you tell yourself) because there are no excuses to hide behind anymore. No more “oh I don’t train full time that’s why I’m not as good as xxxx” which had, for 6 months or so at the start, always been a nice and comfortable one liner to bring out whenever I deemed necessary. The decision to train full time is not as easy as most people would believe. There is nowhere to hide. I think it actually take a certain courage to put yourself in this position,. To be judged in the sense that; yes you are a full time athlete and are giving it absolutely everything you can yet you are still “only” finishing mid pack.
Fast forward 12 months and after significant improvement and a few decent races where I was within a reasonable margin of some world class athletes I realised that deep down, I wanted to try and qualify for Kona. My confidence increased. I thought that with a lot of hard work I could possibly be on the podium at the majority of my races in the long term. And I thought it might be possible one day to win an Ironman. These thoughts scared the shit out of me. And took me some time to vocalise, even to Cam. But, almost overnight my commitment, determination, attitude and expectations changed significantly.
There is a huge difference in the level of performance and dedication required between having a 4-5 year goal of perhaps achieving a couple of podium results as opposed to wanting to to win an Ironman and be on the start line at the World Championships. It’s absolutely chalk and cheese. It is very motivating to have huge goals. But at the same time bad races, bad days and injuries or accidents seemed to have a far greater impact on me emotionally. The fear of falling behind with time off training. The mental strength it takes to keep picking yourself up again and again from small but significant incidents (of which 2019 had plenty!).
The training required for the level of world class performance is extremely physically, emotionally and mentally taxing. It is 24/7. It is relentless. Always prioritizing your nutrition, rest, training, recovery and medical appointments. Minimizing family, friend and social time and anything else which could potentially negatively impact performance even if by only a few percent. Cutting out disruptions to regular routine which could affect training the following day. Constantly making what seem very selfish decisions. Dealing with “yourself” and your own mind is half the battle.
I now have much more respect for athletes who are the best in the world in their sport. You need to excel in so many areas. That is why true sporting champions are few and far between. That is why consistent, world class performances over a long period of time are rare.
Although starting a business was very tough in the early years, I honestly cannot remember feeling as up and down, and as tired throughout my corporate career as I do now. The highs are extremely high, and the lows very very low.
I feel that if I was content with my original set of goals, and the expectations were not as high, then perhaps the journey wouldn’t be or “feel” so difficult. Because the output and dedication required probably wouldn’t be as demanding and all consuming. Also contributing to my sense of how difficult everything seems sometimes is perhaps the fact that I have no adult athletic history or time in any of the sports other than the last 5 years. I’ve mentioned this often in the past but it doesn’t really become apparent how helpful having a background in running, swimming, or cycling for more than 5 years is until you are trying to compete with the best in the world. I often see Instagram posts or read blogs of other pros and how they have been cycling since they were 10 or running cross country or track since high school or did their first triathlon when they were 14, went to the Olympics etc etc and on a bad day i think to myself; why the hell am I even bothering? How can I ever compete with these women?! Then just as quickly as I threw my hands up in the air wanting to quit, i do a complete 180 and am determined to prove I can do it.
Maybe other athletes don’t question their career choice frequently, but from my perspective, my alternative is great. I have a very successful business to go back to (although with a deadline on that option), and with hard work, I could earn great money again, keep growing my assets, holiday overseas a few times a year and go on race vacations competing as an age grouper whenever I wanted to. And do all that now in a much happier place with a healthy body for the first time in my adult life. Having this alternative has also made me much more conscious of the value of money. I am always wary of how much of my own financial resources are being spent on funding my triathlon career. Another reason I have probably “checked in” with myself so many times this year. Because the desire must remain very high in order for it to be worth spending a very large chunk of what I have worked so hard for for my entire adult life. Yes money is just money, and I’ve got the rest of my life to earn it, but I would also be financially irresponsible if I didn’t think about it, and my future from time to time.
Perhaps lifetime athletes don’t have these same thoughts because they don’t have such a clear cut alternative? I’m not sure.
Anyway, the answer is always yes. Yes I can do this. Yes I do want this. And as I progress and get better, I have to admit I have these moments less and less. I’m incredibly grateful I have the opportunity to live this life, to travel the world and to push my body to see what I am capable of. To call this my job. There are many times I will just randomly start smiling because I cant believe that “this” is my life now. I still shake my head in amazement sometimes at the direction my life has taken. I am slowly learning to let go. To be patient. To worry less about what I am “giving up” to have a go at this.
And don’t for one second think I’m complaining because I’m not. This is not “hard” in the scheme of real hardship that exists in the world. However it is much easier to pretend that things are all sunshine and rainbows than it is to be completely raw and vulnerable. I’m trying to be as honest as I can about my personal experience throughout this transition. And I am talking about feelings that I have for a very very small percentage of time – relatively speaking.
Over the last 12 months I have thought a lot more about where i belong in the world and what I want from this phase of my life. I have come to realise that a big part of the reason I am so determined to succeed, and a big part of what drives me, is for others. To prove to others what is possible in regards to transforming your life. To help others get the best out of themselves in whatever they choose to do in life. To prove that you can have a career in sport despite being a late starter and not progressing in the “conventional” way.
I don’t want to just be that obese smoker who became a Professional Triathlete within a few years. Although that’s a pretty significant achievement in itself, I don’t want the story to end there. Because I know more is possible. I want to be that obese smoker who became a Professional Triathlete and within a few years was on the start line as one of the best female Iron distance athletes in the world. And, that I touched as many lives as possible in a positive manner along the way.
Maybe I will “fail”. Maybe I won’t ever qualify for Kona. Or win an Ironman. That is why helping others is so important to me. Because if I can change lives for the better throughout my life than I can never truly “fail”. Even if I don’t reach all of my athletic goals the journey will be far more rewarding.
True story. I remember a business mentor was looking over our company financials once, and he asked me why we hadn’t increased our fees to xxxx as we had discussed we would 6 months prior. I screwed my nose up and said “I don’t want to increase them it will be too expensive for some customers – I don’t care about the money I just want to help people!” and he said “you wont be able to help people if you have to close the doors to your business”.
This has stuck with me ever since. It has the same meaning in a different context now. In my corporate life it was helping others with their finances and creating wealth and security for themselves and their family. Now it is helping others improve their health, their life or their mindset. I don’t want a pat on the back for my transformation anymore. And I haven’t for a long time. I actually want nothing more than to be celebrated more for my athletic achievements as opposed to my transformation. But our past cannot be erased. And my past it what gives me the power to make an impact on others. I don’t continue to share my story for an ego boost, I keep sharing it in the hope it will reach more people.
Can you imagine how many young women or men are out there say age 25. That were maybe a bit sporty when they were a kid (or not!), put on a bunch of weight during uni, and are now very unhealthy or unhappy. But they think it’s not possible or it’s too late to change the direction of their life? They have no clue that they might be good, even great at a sport they have never even heard of. Or how many men and women there are out there in their early 30’s or 40’s who are 40-50kgs overweight but think that’s impossible to lose it ? Or think it’s only possible with some sort of drastic surgery?
Maybe it’s not even about weight loss, maybe I can help people identify and find a passion to keep their body moving and this will significantly improve their mindset and happiness. There must be hundreds of thousands of people in these situations. It’s mind boggling. Imagine if I can help 10, or 100 or even 1,000 see that it is possible. Imagine if 10 or 100 or 1000 take action because of me, and change their life for the better. That to me is the absolute ultimate achievement. I find that equal to the satisfaction of executing my training or a race to the best of my best ability is receiving a message from a complete stranger telling me that I have inspired them to make a change.
I have spent the last year intentionally not seeking out business partnerships, not doing many speaking engagements, not writing many blogs, not being very vocal. Because I wanted to figure out what I wanted this next stage in my life to look like. And I wanted to try the path of being in my athlete bubble and focusing 110% on myself and having as little other external commitments as possible. And I will admit, that this type of existence is for the most part very stress free and allows for a lot of time to myself. But I have realized that this doesn’t make me happy nor bring out the best in me. I really want to make a difference in the world. I feel that I have too much knowledge to keep it all inside. From 12 years of business experience, building a properly portfolio, weight loss, mindset change, experience with disordered eating and addiction, juggling sport with full time work, a career as a professional athlete and all the mistakes I’ve made along the way. There are so many people I could help in some small or significant way. And engaging with others helps me to grow, learn and develop as a person too. This is what I am passionate about. This coupled with athletic performance and being the best triathlete I can be is what completely fulfills me. I’ve never felt truly satisfied if I’m not a part of something “bigger” than myself.
I can’t help people if I’m not willing to be vulnerable and vocal, to share my experiences and story. I can’t help people unless I seek out ways or platforms that enable me to reach others. So this is what I will do in the coming years.
I have been thinking of tagline options for my personal brand for 12 months. Trying to come up with something strong, meaningful and important to me. Something that represents what I am passionate about. Something that is more than sport. More than triathlon. I chose:
“Be better than ordinary”
This relates to everything we do in life. Whether we are an athlete, a mother, a CEO, a school teacher, an electrician, I think we should always strive to be better than ordinary. To be the best version of ourselves. To continue to learn and develop. To treat people better. To be more open minded. To make better choices. To be more supportive. To be harder on ourselves when necessary. To grow. To be forgiving. To be honest with ourselves at all times.
I have always despised mediocrity. Mediocre. Ordinary. Ordinary to me means we are complacent. We are not living outside of our comfort zone. We are not dreaming. We are not bettering ourselves. We are stagnant. We are pessimistic. We have closed minds. We are negative for the most part.
The people I choose to spend my time with are those that strive to be “better than ordinary”. And we will surround ourselves with like minded people. Get rid of negative influences in our life. Push each other to be better. Lift each other up.
I challenge you to keep me accountable. If there are topics you would like me to write about, things you would like to see more of on my social media – tell me. If I am not providing value or giving back to you in some way – tell me. So I can keep improving.
My goals in the sporting arena will always be my number one priority. But, I’m so lucky to have some side projects to keep me on my toes like the Renee x Catfish collaborations with Edition 3 due out in the new year. And there may or may not be some other cool bits and pieces available on my website to purchase soon. Another creative and fun outlet and opportunity to satisfy my inner fashionista. To bring together a community of people in support of me and each other. All these things keep my head in business to a degree and help me maintain brain cells which I’m certain have been decreasing at an alarming rate over the last few years!
Happy New Year and a big thank you for all the continued support.