Having it all- but is there time for the cake too? The amateur diaries.

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About 58 hours of my week are spent working at a combination of different sources of income, and volunteer positions (MORfit, Real-Estate photography, Teaching Assistant, Tutoring, Rider Mechanics, and Football (and other miscellaneous medical coverage)).

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10-15 hours are spent riding one to two horses- 4-5 nights a week. At least 2 of these hours spent in focused work with M&C. Add another few hours/week chatting with Megg or Lauren as the sunsets at the barn. 5 hours on top of that (at least) are spent throughout the week doing other training (running, weights, balance and stability, pre-hab and rehab). So, in total I spend approx. 20hrs a week in training of some sort.

6 hours are spent in class. A few extra hours here and there spent on KSA business. Countless hours stuck in traffic, or driving to and fro.

The remaining time is dedicated to cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning (haha just kidding), falling asleep on my boyfriend’s shoulder, extra reading, stressing about not having time to do clinical hours, and whatever else I do that I forgot to put in here.. sleeping maybe?

I’ve found myself caught between a rock and a hard place lately in that I am doing it all, but am constantly feeling like I’m neglecting at least one part of my life. Usually it’s my sport that gets set aside. Or my sleep and sanity. In all reality, I’m doing a half decent job of making everything work in somewhat coordination. I haven’t had any major meltdowns caused by scheduling.. yet, and I’m keeping everything moving to my personal standards.

This past weekend at the CATA conference while listening to many intelligent and dynamic AT’s/Researcher’s discuss hugely interesting topics- I realised that I really do want to be part of that league one day. Many of the presentations inspired thoughts about how I could take those ideas and apply them to my own ideas around Rider Mechanics and related topics. (PS– Check out this article by a client of mine!!!)

A prof who was also attending made a comment about how it would be cool to get some student’s working on projects that could be presented at next years conference in Halifax spurring at least an hour of day dreaming on the research I want to do in the rider biomechanics and fitness areas. Day dreams that really wouldn’t be occurring if I wasn’t still working so hard as an athlete in the sport.

I often feel like I am living a double life. As an AT, I work to enhance an athlete’s performance- or return them to pursuing their athletic goals. Much of my time is spent assessing, rehabbing, researching, studying, observing, and tweaking someone else’s body in order to best help them prevent, recover, or enhance. As an athlete myself, I also rely on many a health care professional to help me do all of what I help others do too. I train myself, and I have a team consisting of an athletic therapist, a chiropractor (who is also a certified AT), a sport psych consultant, and numerous other resources (profs, fellow students, coworkers) who help me be the best I can be as an athlete. Both lives are full time jobs.

An amateur is someone who “engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis”. In order to do what I do as an athlete, I am working many an hour to try and make ends meet. Luckily enough, I’ve found income sources that also work with my career goals. Unfortunately, this means that it’s not always easy to take time off of one thing to focus on another. For instance, the next two weeks I’m having to sacrifice training time in order to pick up extra tutoring clients to pay the bills– this with a competition in a couple weeks may not be the most logical choice. However, if I’m going to afford to train and compete? This is my only choice. The pay off being that I make a few extra coins while practicing skills that will come in handy for my upcoming final year in this degree, and future vocation.

The flip side to this occurs too. When many other AT students are picking up extra internship hours or covering events on weekends- all which count towards our final certification- or working at other jobs..I am often living my athlete life and competing or training. Spending the money I work so hard during the week to make.

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Would I change any of this? Most definitely not. I have jobs that I love, and I’m progressing in my sport.

At this point in my riding I’ve taken to a “quality vs quantity” approach. When I do train, I train like I mean it. I put quality rides into my horse- focusing on good habits for both of us, and reinforcing the years of training I’ve already put into us both. I know that even if I only make it out to train a few times a week that my horse and I will still be ready to work hard with M&C, because I’ve strategised our training and done everything I can to keep us in peak condition. I know that when I go to a competition- I will be ready.

I read a reposted article this week describing how aspiring riders must ride as much as they humanly can, and can’t put too much effort into other things if they ever want to be good at riding. It hit a bit of a nerve. I agree that a huge amount of time and dedication must be present for one to become good at their chosen thing- but, I also think it is quite unfair to say those who don’t throw all their focus into one thing aren’t dedicated or destined to be great.

During my time at LC Horse Farms in NZ, the head rider made a comment to me that has stuck with me all this time. After noting a few of my bad habits in the saddle- he concluded that I was “too Manitoban to ever make it in the sport of riding”. He justified that by saying I wasn’t focused enough to ever break bad habits, and any rider with bad habits could never be any good. This was coming from a rider who, based on my education of biomechanics and experience in the sport, had quite a few of his own bad habits. This same rider had also confessed to me that he “wished that he had done a greater variety of sports as a young athlete, instead of just riding” because he agreed that having a well-rounded approach was the way to go.

Coming from a training and coaching perspective, I would never recommend to a young athlete to do only one sport all the time. What makes a good athlete is a well-rounded movement base. This is not to say those who did specialise early aren’t going to be good either. However, I know from experience and current research that building many different neural patterns early on in life will enhance performance once one does specialise. This is true even for such a specific sport like riding. Motor coordination, balance, body awareness, stability, and reactivity all come into play just as much in this sport as they do in others- however, they are rarely focused on as much as they should be with young or new riders (or with older experienced riders…).

I’m an amateur rider not because I don’t want to achieve the highest levels in the sport- but because I don’t necessarily want the lifestyle of a professional rider (I’ve had tastes of it, and it’s just not for me), and I have a career outside (but combining) with the sport. Does this mean I’m not a dedicated athlete? No. Any amateur athlete in any sport is worthy of huge credit for worth ethic and dedication. Not only are they striving to better their performance day in and day out, they are working hard in a variety of other areas as well (whether to pay for their sport, because of other interests, or all of the above). They are well-rounded, persevering individuals who generally won’t take no for an answer when it comes to their goals.

Yes, we complain about it. Yes, we have days where getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world. Our bodies hurt, our brains are fried. We don’t always get the results we want as quick as we want, and we can’t always afford new equipment or all the competitions. As a student, athlete, and full-time (ish) worker- I know I can speak for many others in the same boat as me- it is a brutal lifestyle sometimes. It’s so easy to question why we do this to ourselves.

So… why do we? 

The moment when you click into a skill you’ve been working on for what seems like forever.

The moment your coach says “that was perfect!” over and over again in one training session.

Those ideas that bring your career into your sport in a way you never imagined. The inspiration that follows.

The feeling of setting a goal and seeing it get accomplished, step by step.

The realisation that you are living the dreams people once told you were unrealistic. 

All the burn out, debt, stress, and time becomes 100% worth it. The good days outnumber the bad, and looking back- there is always a good story to tell.

Next time you see your local amateur, in anything, give them a hug. They likely need one.

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