Nina McArthur talks… talking
We are in Mental Health Awareness Week, and Nina McArthur knows a thing or two about that subject. If you have been following the pages of TRI247 over the last six or seven years, you’ll know just how challenging that period has been for her.
Her journey has been long, painful and destructive at times, but right now she finds herself “healthier and heavier than I’ve ever been, in a good way.” That doesn’t mean she is now immune to those previous demons, and the recent support of her friends at Rochdale Triathlon Club, reminded her of the power that the words of that others can provide.
Overtraining, Overthinking, Understanding, Under caring
After recent sad news in the endurance world, I wanted to talk about mental health and sport. Yes, again, as you might remember me sharing my story in detail later last year. But there is never too much talk about mental health. We all have it, and we all need to look after it. Just like we look after our physical selves.
Sport for many of us is a cathartic activity. By that I mean it’s a release. Something we can turn to after a hard day at work. When we can go for a leisurely swim, or a hard hill session just to let out any negative energy within ourselves.
But there is a point when it can turn from that into an addiction. Something we must hold onto just to feel ok. And that’s not right.
Triathlon in particular is something that requires a lot of commitment to maintain some sort of strength at each of the three disciplines. And it’s easy to end up overtraining if you don’t stick to a plan or stay focused on what keeps you happy and healthy. Not looking at what everyone else is doing, at the top age-groupers, the elites or the obsessed.
We are all different and just because one person can manage twenty hours of training a week does not mean that all of our bodies can.
Last year I got back into some social triathlon alongside coaching and it made me feel great. But soon enough, the hook of the endorphins grew and I wanted to get better and stronger.
Suddenly, from a couple of swims and a spin a week, I moved to doing three swims, three spins and a jog. Too much for a body that just a year ago was about to crack.
I’m healthier and heavier than I’ve ever been, in a good way. But the muscle strength is still building up so I couldn’t hack that training schedule for too long. Yet it seemed so much less than others?
A few social media fallouts, colds and coughs from the fatigue, a lack of self confidence and the love was gone. Having recovered from depression in the past that occurred as a result of an eating disorder, I can still feel down. As can we all.
I feel alone and flashback to the past; the days I did things I wish I hadn’t, the friends I lost through my illnesses, the horrible habits. And I hate myself for it.
Even now I have down days, but it’s not uncommon for anyone. It’s something that we should all be aware of, so that we notice when those around us hide away. Or we can identify if we are isolating ourselves. Have you asked someone lately if they’re ok? Or have you asked yourself that question?
I was entered in the Milltown Races Saddleworth Triathlon in two weeks time. No, I couldn’t do it. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I don’t want to do it.
“I’m too big to wear a trisuit. I’m too slow at running. I’ll come last. My swim won’t be as fast as it was when I was 15 years old. I’m rubbish.”
IRRATIONAL, IRRATIONAL, IRRATIONAL.
I offered my place for sale on Facebook and this is the response I got from fellow club-mates:
I don’t think they realised just how much every word that was written meant to me. Having assumed for the past few weeks that I was on my own. That no-one would ever understand what I’d been through or how I sometimes felt. Not feeling like it was worth trying. Feeling like giving up.
Kind words helped me to see reality. I was worth every second of effort. I was a decent swimmer, cyclist and knew I could jog 5km. So I did it, I completed my first sprint triathlon in a long time!
The feeling of crossing the line at the wonderful local race was incredible. Not only Rochdale Tri Club surrounding the finish line but senior athletes, junior athletes, supporters, marshals alike cheering every single athlete on, no matter who they were or what they did. A lovely little pool swim, challenging bike course and run with a monster hill, I would highly recommend giving Saddleworth Triathlon a go. I paced it well, found a smile and believed I could. And I did.
Another challenge ticked off for my “Mental Health UK” fundraising (cheeky shout out – www.justgiving.com/ninawalkthetalk2019).
So by talking about how we feel, by listening to others, and by sharing a kind word and a smile, we can all keep going. Keep swimming, keep cycling and keep running, but at the rate that is right for us.
And please, forget the politics. We’re all human, and just want to feel that we care about one another. And that we care about ourselves.
Life is too short to struggle alone, whatever your challenge. Never ever give up.