Wednesday, November 04, 2009

100 Days Out - Vancouver 2010 : My Advice To Canada's Athletes

Holy Crap! Only 100 more days and we are going to be having a PARTY in Canada! It's hard to believe that in 100 more days, all of the build up and hype will be unfolding right before our eyes. What stories will be told? Who will have their Olympic dream come true? Who will see their Olympic dreams dashed? What will be THE story of the Games? There are so many answers that will start to be revealed in only 100 days...I can't wait!

Being an athlete that got to live in the experience of a few "100 days out from the Olympics", I wanted to write a blog to give a little advice to my fellow Olympians preparing for the BIG show in Vancouver...that are only 100 days away:) (I wonder how many times I will say that in this post and still look at it and think it looks weird? 100 days...yup, still weird).

My first piece of advice: You are feeling what you are feeling because you really care.

If you have been doing everything right, then 100 days should make you excited...and it should also scare the crap out of you. It should make you excited because it's been the biggest event on your horizon for years. It's kind of like Christmas for a 5 year old. On the other hand, or on the same page, whatever way you choose to look at it, it should scare the crap out of you because it's been the biggest event on your horizon for years! You've invested your life into it. It really matters to you. What I've learned is that things are a little scary (or a lot scary) when you really care about them. Trust that your fear is actually a sign that this is important to you and totally worth it.

I don't know what it is about the 100 day out mark that makes everything seem so much more real. It might be the fact that tomorrow the countdown will be in double digits and, like that cute little boy on the Disney commercial who is "too excited to sleep", visions of the 'real' thing happening are probably running through your mind when you are trying to get some rest. I will tell you that for 100 days before I competed in Athens, every night I dreamt about standing on the podium...

Next piece of advice: BE who you want to become starting right NOW.

Every breath you have taken leading up to this point has been one breath closer to the Games, but now, for some odd reason, it seems like each breath counts and matters just a wee bit more. And I'll tell ya, be aware of that and use it to your advantage. With each breath you take, make sure it is one that exudes confidence, and carries you forward exactly the way you want to be when you step into your event in Vancouver. Start putting yourself in those pressure situations NOW so that when you are there and it's the real deal, it will just feel like another competition day.

More Advice: Journal. Journal. Journal.

One thing that I loved to do about 3 months out of any big competition was to start a journal. I would record thoughts, feelings, training plans, frustrations, celebrations and various other things that flooded on to the page. I did this for a few reasons. 1: It held me accountable. You don't lie to yourself in your own journal. Why would you? 2: It gave me confidence to look back and see the work I'd done. On those days when things just weren't falling in to place the way I had hoped, my entries reminded me that this was just one bad day that was preceded by 10 great ones. It gave me great perspective. 3: It was so awesome to vent. Sometimes all you have to do is write out your problems and they disappear. 4: It made me reflect and was almost like meditation. I would write small cues that I needed to think of while doing my routines and the more I wrote them, the more I started to apply them in training. 5: Every day at the top of the page I would write how many days were left until my event and it was a constant reminder to make that day count.

The most diligent I had ever been with a journal was in 2003 before the World Championships. I wrote in it 2 times a day, every day. I literally saw my gymnastics transform while going through the journaling process.

Next piece of advice: Enter Warrior Mode.

100 days before the Games is your chance to turn on that inner warrior. This is your time to be selfish. This is your time to do everything you can possibly do in order to look back on that day you compete and have NO regrets. Eat right. Think right. Sleep right. Picture yourself having your best performance. Say no to beer. Say no to late nights. Say no to procrastination. Start being more focused on a daily basis. Start saying no to interviews and photo shoots if they don't fit into your training schedule (in fact, allot time slots that are dedicated solely to media and that is the only time they can hear your wisdom). Start a blog to share your thoughts. Start video taping your training and watching it back and pretending you are watching the Olympic Champion train! Be picky and correct your mistakes. Imagine the possibilities. Embrace the barfing feeling you get when you think of competition day...I guarantee you that you will feel it on competition day so you may as well start realizing that it will be your sign that you are going to give it everything you have.

I heard something the other day that really stood out to me. Someone said that you never want to look back on a moment and wish you could have done a little more. So don't even make that an option. Give it your all!

Next piece of advice: Realize that you are a weirdo, but an inspiring one!

100 days out can become a precarious time dealing with friends and family who are not immersed in the warrior like state of preparing to win the Olympics. Unless they have been in your position, they just don't get it. I have to tell you, in everyone elses eyes, you are an inspiring weirdo. How can you be so singularly focused on ONE thing? Guess what? That is why you are going to the Olympics and they aren't. Friends and family are very important, mine were always my biggest supporters, but in these last 100 days they need to realize that your priority is your preparation and sometimes they are going to have to take a back seat...those that know you and love you will understand when you get frustrated over a stupid little thing. This is the most intense time of your life and all of your senses are heightened. I would give everyone a little heads up and tell them that you'll be back to your "normal" self when your mission of "being the best in the world" is complete. They'll understand.

Next piece of advice: Take some time to give back.

Yes, I know I have been advocating selfishness thus far, but it's very important to balance that with a little giving back. They say that the secret to living is giving. Allot a little time to a charity project, to a school visit or to a fundraiser. Doing good things for others is fuel for our well-beings. This will also help you stay connected to the community and make you feel empowered when you realize how much support Canadians are sending your way! Bad days in sport don't really seem all that bad when you see someone who hasn't eaten in a couple of days. True story. It will make you appreciate your position as a Canadian athlete a lot more, that's for sure.

More advice: When someone asks you if you are ready for the Games (and they will!!!), use this answer:

"I'm not ready today, I won't be ready tomorrow, but I will be at my best on ___________ (insert your competition day here), the day when being ready really matters". And when you say it, smile with your eyes and really believe it. They'll shut up.

I found it quite funny after I won in Athens because some people called it a fluke. Some said that I got lucky because I had a stellar routine that day. What they didn't realize was that I had planned, for 16 years of my life, to have a STELLAR routine on that day, at that time, in that exact circumstance.

And, my final piece of advice for athletes heading in to Vancouver in 100 days: Realize that expectation is earned.

People don't expect great things from those who aren't capable of achieving them. In a weird way, we earn expectation. The Nation is expecting great things from you because you have proven that you are capable of GREATNESS! Turn expectation into a positive and believe in your own potential. Who cares what other people think anyways, what's really important is whether or not you have that expectation for yourself!

And there you have it. A little advice for my fellow Olympians. I hope some of it comes in handy!

As the days pass and we come closer and closer to these Vancouver 2010 Games materializing, I wanted to wish all of Canada's athletes a safe and brilliant preparation. I, along with millions of Canadians, am sending you good vibes and can't wait to see it all unfold starting in 100 days!