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IT'S NEVER TOO LATE!

Helena is married to Adrian and they have 3 children. She is a woman of many roles, an active Mum who runs her own small business, she sits on the Board of Trustees and PTA at her children’s school, she attends and serves at her church, and will often be found cheering loudly on the sideline of whatever event or sport her kids are involved in.  Oh and on top of all that she is running, jumping and throwing her way onto the world stage in athletics at the age of 35!
 
This week Helena is heading off to defend some titles and break some records in the Oceania Masters Athletics Championships in North Queensland. She currently holds the title for 60m, 100m, 400m, 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles but is hoping to beat her Australian counterpart this year in the 200m as well! This year she is also going to compete in long jump, triple jump and high jump to see how she will do and she is still undecided at this stage whether she is ready to give throwing a go or not. In August 2020 she will be heading to Toronto Canada to compete in the World Masters Athletics.  No small feat for this busy Mum!
 
Helena was a naturally talented athlete in high school, but at that time she lacked the confidence to back herself competitively.  She didn’t have the financial means, the self-belief or the drive to get professional coaching, or compete further afield and really make a go of it at that time.  So once school was over so was her time with athletics…. or so she thought!
 
Life moved on for Helena and by the time she was in her twenties she just wasn’t loving life, in her words she was 

“hit in the face with adulthood and was rubbish at it!”

She spent most of her twenties medicated for a variety of reasons; depression, pain from a struggle with endometriosis, plus a couple of serious back injuries.  There were some highlights in her twenties as well, like getting married and starting a family, but they each came with significant struggles for Helena as well.  So by the end of her twenties Helena says,

“I was not fit, I got overweight, but more than just the weight side of things (because I don’t really want to focus on that), I was just crazy unhealthy!”

Unpacking what ‘crazy unhealthy’ means Helena says she was eating rubbish, sleeping badly, relying on medication every day just to function (not just anti-depressants but anything that would promise help) She wasn’t really living her life, she was simply trying to get through everyday in a constant state of ‘survival mode’ and it was not a great way to live.
 
Throughout her twenties every time the Commonwealth games or the Olympics would be on, Helena would find herself slipping into a deep but hidden depression and she would avoid watching the events. She would remember how much she loved to run, jump and throw and that she was good at it, and she just couldn’t shake this feeling of regret that she had not pursued it further.  She had lost herself in motherhood and family life and after the birth of her third child her family was complete and she loved her children immensely, but she was haunted by this empty question of “Who am I?”  
 
Helena knew she needed to make a change in her life and she felt like she just needed to get moving.  She looked into what options were available to her that would suit her age and stage of life.  Zumba was a laughable option because Helena describes herself as having two left feet.  So after some deliberation she decided to set herself the goal of running the Christchurch half marathon even though she had never run more than 5km in her entire life and had never been a fan of long distance running.  She twisted the arm of one of her girlfriends to do it with her and with 14 weeks until the event they set about training 3 times a week under the coaching of a running app on their phones.  Helena wanted to do the whole 21kms without stopping and complete it within 2hours, they were her goals for the event.  On the day of the event it was freezing cold and although she managed to achieve both her goals she absolutely hated it!  She knew she was not a runner and she would never do that distance again, but all was not lost.  As a part of the event that day at about the 6km mark the event organisers had set up a 100metre optional sprint section for the runners with a start and finish line.  Each runner had a chip and they would be timed and recorded in that sprint with the opportunity to win prizes.  Helena gave it a go and later on at the prize giving learned that she had the 6th fastest sprint time of the day.  As she looked around at the 5 faster sprinters standing before her she saw they were all teenagers and it dawned on her that she was still pretty quick for an old girl Mum of 3 who hadn’t sprinted in 15years!  The spark reawakened in her in that moment when she realised that 100metre sprint was her highlight of the day - she loved every second of running that bit of the race that she hated so much overall.  She describes that moment of realization,

“I forgot that this is a part of me and my body is made to do this!”

Two weeks later and she still couldn’t shake that feeling of joy she had from that short 100metre sprint plus the nagging realization that she was still pretty quick.  So without telling anyone she got in touch with an old coach from way back and let him know that she was curious about getting back into athletics even though she was 33 years old and hadn’t done anything for 15years!  That phone call was 2 years ago and Helena has gone from strength to strength in just two short years, but it’s not just about winning titles and breaking records for her, she says,
 
“When I sprint and when I jump, I am doing the very thing my body was made to do. It is the most visceral feeling of joy for me.”
 
Helena was back! 
She was reunited with what she loved so much and so she worked hard to carve out time in her schedule to make it happen.  But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, in fact the first year was really hard because she felt like it was a self-indulgent hobby, it definitely was a bit of escapism from life for her but the "Mum guilt" struggle was real. Helena had to figure out what was fair for the family and what was going to be viable for her in terms of schedule, finance and bringing in an income for the family.
 
She likens the process to that of a Museum Curator, who might get given hundreds of things but only has room for ten pieces, so has to choose the ten best pieces.  Helena has had to ‘curate' her life in order to participate and achieve in the sport she loves so much.  Most of the time it has been a juggle but sometimes it’s been a real struggle and sacrifice for Helena to prioritise her training, but she keeps her vision of the end goal, she says,
"When I’m standing there at the World Champs on the winning podium what would that Helena say to current Helena? What would she be grateful for and what would she be thanking me for?” 
And that would be enough to get tired and sore Helena out of bed early in the morning and go train, or say no to social activities because she needs to be in bed by 8:30pm.

"It’s a sacrifice but it’s one I’m choosing to make.”

Helena generally trains 6 days a week but she tries to find ways to incorporate training with the kids because she wants them to be a part of the journey and understand what Mum is doing and how hard she is working, but above all she wants to have fun and enjoy the journey with her kids.  She loves to train hard but also has had to learn to rest and listen to her body.  Training for world champs needs to have a holistic approach and that involves rest, rehab and physio as well as training, practising and developing.  It’s been a brutal couple of years for Helena’s body and there is not a week gone by that something hasn’t had to be bandaged, strapped or needs time to heal.  This is a constant challenge for Helena to overcome the physical pain but also the mental fight to not give up and quit because it’s too hard and hurts too much.  

"I’ve given up so many things in my life - I’m a great starter but I have so much regret over the things I have quit on in my life."

When it gets really tough she finds the courage to keep going by reminding herself,

"It’s not always going to be like this, I’m not always going to feel this way”

She has learnt to look ahead to future Helena and keep the vision alive, she doesn’t want future Helena to live with the dreaded ‘what if’ questions or the big feelings of regret.  That is enough to get her to rest, and then get back up again and keep moving forward.

"It’s not so much about the goals I want to achieve, it’s about the person I want to be!”

I want my kids to see an adult who is loving their life!
 
Helena has a few things she says to herself when she is in the blocks stirring up her courage and preparing for a race;
She reminds herself 
“you are made to do this”
she reassures herself to trust in her skills and talent,
she reminds herself
“you love this”
and more than anything else she reminds herself that “I am enough” regardless of the outcome.
 
Helena explains,
'It’s not possible for anyone to get personal bests every time they run, but what wins at the end of the day is ‘relentless incrementalism.’ It is about relentlessly doing the small things over and over again.  With that consistency you get the spikes of amazing every now and again.  So even though some training sessions and competitions are rubbish, I remind myself;

"I am enough and I will keep showing up and bringing my best and that is enough."
 
20year old Helena never believed that she was enough.  Helena is so grateful now for the wisdom and inner strength she has developed since then, even though her body isn’t the same as her 20year old self! As she competes at Masters level she has been so blessed by the community of other Masters competitors that she has the opportunity to train with - they are wise mentors to her and they just have a lot of fun together as they train. Although it is a struggle at times and often physically painful, Helena is living her best life and that is a truly awesome thing!
 
Even if you can’t relate to the athletics part of Helena’s story, we can all absolutely relate and be inspired by her journey from sadness to soaring, from feeling lost to living her best life!  Her advice to other people, although it sounds cheesy, is to learn to love yourself and believe that you are enough! 

"When I truly believed that I was enough, the floodgates opened for my courage.”

When Helena began to believe that she was enough, she genuinely found the courage to take a step in the right direction, even though it wasn’t the right step initially with the long distance running, it was a step forward that lead her to her right direction.
So for you whether it is career goals, weight loss goals, parenting goals, relationship goals or fitness goals - whatever it is for you, stop living with excuses and do something that heads in the right direction.  But first, before anything else you need to learn to love yourself and believe that you are enough right now as you are, there you will find the courage and strength to take that step and bring change, growth and your best life! 

Believe first, stir up your courage and then take that step!

 

 

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