Resilience

Resilience is a term we hear more often these days, particularly in relation to sport and overcoming adversity. But why is it something that we should consider and something we should work on?

Being resilient allows you to overcome adversity and generally be in a stronger position than before facing the obstacle. 

In my own experience, being mental resilient has not only increased the longevity of my cycling career, it has opened doors in many different avenues in life leading to opportunities to grow as a person and an athlete. 

Photo; Andy Rogers, TDU 2020.

In 2014 I experienced an injury ridden season, While this season is my worst in terms of results or input towards team goals, it is also the year I learn the most about myself and grew as an athlete and person. I began experiencing pain in my left leg whenever I went ‘hard’ for more then about 30 seconds. This mentally hurt me because my first thought was that I simply needed to train harder and then I wouldn’t be dropped in races. I knew deep down this wasn’t right and with the help of my family and coach I sought out help, I was diagnosed with external iliac artery endofibrosis. This is a reasonably common problem with professional cyclists, however one that requires surgery and a lengthy time off the bike to recover. It was March when I found out these details, basically 1 month into a 8 month season. In discussions with my coach and family, we decided to stay in ‘the flow of the seasons’ and have the surgery at the end of the season. That meant I faced the rest of the season knowing I was limited in my physical performance and recovery. 

This is the time I really learnt how to train, previously I didn’t place the value on quality training that I had to in this moment, I was faced with a clear obstacle in my career and training smarter and at a higher quality then I ever previously had was the result. Mentally this was a tough period, while I couldn’t physically perform to a high level, that I expected, I was faced with a team director who didn’t believe my diagnosis and became challenging to work with, this lead to high stress for me as contract negotiations were beginning and without options for a 2015 contract I had my back against the wall. Financially I was struggling, all the funds I earned as a rider I put back into my development, through gym memberships, massages or training days. I know you only get out what you put in and this was a time to invest all I had into future me. I had learnt growing up that you can always find a way and your attitude plays a massive role in your situation, but my beliefs were stressed and values questioned during this time. 

Winning the Ronde van Overijsel in 2015 in The Netherlands

Mentally this year was hard and looking back there were a lot of times I was unhappy, but I knew it would change, I knew that if I trusted the process, it would work out and I just put my head down and concentrated on what I could control and tried to not worry about what I could not. I was offered a contract extension by Team Hitec Products as they valued me as a person and still believed in my potential. This lifeline and faith from Karl Lima (team manager) kept me in the sport and focusing on what was still possible to achieve. I had the surgery at the beginning of October in 2014 and I went on to win 5 UCI races in 2015, including the Oceania Championship title and my first big race in Europe, the Ronde van Overijssel in The Netherlands, as well as being nominated for the Australian female road cyclist of the year award. I am grateful to have faced and overcome the challenges physically, mentally and emotionally in 2014 as it lead to 2015 being my most successful year to date on the bike in terms of victories and  has played a key role in every season since, showing how important resilience can be.  

In Hospital April 2018 after crashing in Amstel Gold Race

When I crashed on my face and broke my arm in the 2018 Amstel Gold Race, I worked hard through the rehabilitation period to stay mentally fresh and motivated for the second half of the season. This freshness from six weeks away from competition, I believe ultimately lead me to a successful back end of the season where I took 2 victories in France for my team. I was fresher then many of the other women in the peloton, both physically and mentally, as I was ‘forced’ to take a break and ultimately became stronger because of it. 

Facing obstacles makes you stronger. For me the deeper you have to search within yourself to overcome a challenge and find a way through, the higher you can soar when you overcome it. Attitude is everything, focusing on what you can control and finding the silver lining to the situation leads to resilience. 

Photo: Thomas Maheux
Winning my last race of the year in 2018, GP Isburgues in France

Fletcher and Sarker’s ‘A grounded theory for psychological resilience in Olympic Champions’ highlight 9 steps for developing resilience; 

  1. Develop a positive personality
  2. View your decisions as active choices not sacrifices 
  3. Use support available to you from other people
  4. Identify your motivation for succeeding 
  5. Focus on personal development
  6. View setbacks as opportunities for growth
  7. Strengthen your confidence from a range of sources
  8. Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviours 
  9. Concentrate on what you can control

I believe that these 9 steps are fundamental in overcoming challenging times and soaring to new heights. Resilience is a powerful asset to any athlete or in business. Growing this skill is within your control. 

Go Flourish

Loz :). 

Lauren continues the story with FDJ

I have re-signed with French registered Women’s World Team, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. This will bring my time with the team to a five year term, as I began working with the team in 2018. 

 I believe that within any workplace, team spirit and resilience through tough times are what make a team great and ultimately what will lead a team or workplace to perform. Our team is one of the longest running teams in the women’s peloton and that long term commitment and story is something inspiring to me. 

photo : Thomas Maheux

There are a number of reasons to why I have committed to two further seasons with this french squad. The team manager and management really value me as a person and a cyclist and are committed to continuing to develop my role as the road captain but will also allow me to continue to explore my potential as a leader for the hard Spring Classic races. This team is focused on the long term development of the squad as a whole, and have supported me through challenging times as well as fruitful times over the past two and half seasons. 

In 2018, my first season with the team, I broke my arm and required plastic surgery on my face after a crash in the Amstel Gold Race. I have never felt more supported by a team than in the month that followed the crash, they never put pressure on me to return to racing quickly and provided access to the best medical advice for an 100% recovery. I went on to take two victories for the team later that season. These victories were a direct result of feeling supported when times were tough for me.

The world is facing an unthinkable situation, something no one planned for, yet our team seems to have taken it in their stride. The team have continued to fully support me and my team mates, I’m sure there has been some stress behind the scenes, yet the leadership from Stephen gives me faith in this team, this project and our future as a squad. 

Photo: Laura Fletcher

This squad has a french heart but there is an international vibe, there is the deep french emotion and love of the sport running through the team, yet there is a cool and likeable Scandi influence from the northern European team members, balanced out with the laid back Aussie way to round it all together. 

I believe the best is yet to come, for me and for the team.

Three pieces of advice for my 20 year old self

First appeared on Voxwomen

I have recently been asked twice in the past week; What three things do you wish you had known earlier in your career/life? I didn’t have the answer straight away but having spent a lot of time in the past few weeks focusing on my mentality and what drives me. I have my answer;

1. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.This maybe something we hear a lot, focus on you, don’t worry what they say, but seriously this was probably the biggest growth factor in my mindset as an athlete and a human when I realised it didn’t matter what everyone else would think. At the end of the day the person you have to look after and be happy to live with is the person looking back at you in the mirror. The moment you realise this, it can be very freeing. At the end of the day your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you, Your perception of yourself is within your control If you don’t like it then change it. I believe this is linked with self-confidence and this is an area that a lot of us can work on, including myself. 

2. Stay curious and ask questions.I guess I am well known for not being afraid to say what I think and to ask questions. There are a lot of people around you as an athlete who have input into your performance or routine, whether that be coaches, trainers, managers, nutritionists, team captains, psychologists, parents and partners. I believe you should always question advice if you are not sure or don’t understand the goal of the advice. Just because one person believes one thing it doesn’t make it correct or right for you, Ask questions, do your own research and don’t take anything at face value if it is important to you. Staying curious is also key for me in my pursuit to always keep learning. I used to think I knew a lot and never really accepted or sought help but over the years, particularly during my cycling career, through overcoming injuries and obstacles, I have realised that I indeed don’t know best a lot of the time and asking and accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it can keep you grounded and help you achieve more. 

3. Know you purpose and your mission. Maybe the most important piece of advice I would give myself;  To always come back to your WHY. Your purpose in life is what gets you out of bed in the morning and your values guide you in everything you do if you realise this or not. Your values are generally a result of your upbringing and what hardships or obstacles you have overcome to be where you are today. Everyone has different values for different reasons and that is a good thing, if we were all the same it would be boring. But you have the power to change your values if you choose. I believe your mission is what you decide to do with your purpose. My mission is to explore my potential in every aspect of life while empowering others to reach their goals. I get a lot out of helping others and seeing them succeed. I like logistics, planning and overseeing situations and I believe this skillset can help others to reach their potential and in turn lead me to discover the best version of Lauren.  Knowing what gives you satisfaction in life can be empowering and personally helps to make things clear, every choice or decision I make comes back to this and makes it a lot more simple. Knowing your WHY is important. 

If I had known and more importantly believed these pieces of advice when I was 20 years old and just starting out, my career may have been different but I wouldn’t have changed anything if I had the opportunity to. Everyone’s path is different and is shaped by our experiences. I just hope my path right now is leading back to some bikes races soon! Lauren Kitchen

Leadership

First appeared on Voxwomen

During these challenging times, normal life as we know it has been turned upside down in nearly every aspect with countries being in complete lockdown, shops and businesses closing up or operating under strict rules and regulations and nearly all travel worldwide banned or next to impossible, we are seeing leaders step up, both in a political sense along with business leaders and community leaders. These thoughts made me stop and think about the leaders that have shaped my life and helped make me who I am today. 

Thomas Maheux

Pubali Chakravorty-Campbell (the CEO of Human Resource Partners) highlights the opportunity for potential through challenging times; ‘Unpleasant and harsh life experiences.. leave us with so much knowledge’ I believe  this means that we grow more through hardships and failures then we do when we have success or no setbacks in our path. Personally I have had some key leaders in my life that have had a lasting effect on who I am today and continue to have an impact through the lessons I have learnt overcoming obstacles in my career as a professional cyclist and as a human. 

Some of the key leaders in my life include;

Graham Seers; My first coach, Seersy taught me everything about bike racing, not just how to train, how to read a bike race and how to suffer but also about life, people, food and being accountable. I remember one experience in particular; Mersey Valley Tour 2008. It was a selection race for the U19 Australian Junior World Championships team. I was a favourite for the race and the selection. The race was combined with the Elite women’s category, while separate results were recorded. I remember after the second stage I was leading the U19 category by seven minutes on the GC, essentially I had wrapped up the race with a long breakaway on stage 2 with Carlee Taylor (Elite women). Stage three was another hilly road race and I finished with the main group behind a breakaway of Elite women, winning the U19 GC by seven minutes. Seersy had told me he would wait for me at the finish before going to the feed zone for the U19 men. When I finished the race he was not there. He told me after that he was disappointed that I hadn’t followed the breakaway in the stage as we knew I had the legs to be there, he told me that I showed weakness to my competitors just two weeks before the national title. Even though I won the U19 tour, I don’t remember being proud or happy with this, instead I was disappointed and realised I still had a lot go room to grow, I learnt a lesson and for that I am very thankful to Seersy. Seersy taught me to never give up, don’t show weakness and always race everyone in the race, this applies not just to bike racing but all aspects of life.  Seersy always fights for what he believes in, even if others don’t agree with him. Without lessons like this from Seersy I would not be the bike racer or person I am today. 

Bradley McGee; NSWIS head coach, Personal Coach 2014-2018 and National Coach 2018- Present day. I have always had a huge amount of respect for Brad, I find his personal accomplishments inspiring. His natural leadership is now steering Cycling Australia’s road program to new heights, evident through the success of the last couple of World Championships results. Brad taught me how to believe in myself, and that I should fight for what I believe in right to the end. Brad inspires those around him to be better, he brings people together with his dynamic and exciting  visionary approach to coaching. While these challenging times will indeed requires dynamic approaches, I have no doubt that the women’s road program will come out stronger with Brad taking the lead to support us through this holding pattern. 

Tony Thorne and Geoff Freeman; King and Campbell Consultancy. I have completed a Bachelor’s degree in Town Planning. I completed it over eight years via distance education through the University of New England. As part of my degree I completed two blocks of six weeks of work experiences at the King and Campbell consultancy in Port Macquarie. I thoroughly enjoyed my work at King and Campbell during these blocks of work experience and had the opportunity to be exposed to great leaders in the business world in my home community. Tony has a way with words and a presence that is felt, he taught me about my profession and how important it is to make use of those around you. Geoff taught be about how to read people and the situation, he always offered advise and had time for my questions, Both Tony, Geoff along with others at King and Campbell forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to problem solve and find a solution with decisiveness, clear communication skills and always with integrity. 

Mum, Robbi. My mum has always encouraged me to chase my dreams and always found a way for me to do what I loved. I never realised how many scarifies she made while I was growing up for this mentality to take shape inside me and my brother Nick, a ranking officer of the Australian Army. Mum has taught me that you are in charge of your thoughts and how you react to a situation, but most importantly she taught me that there is always a way if you want something enough. Mum taught me how to work hard and I have learnt how to put in the hard work to achieve a goal from my mum. When I made the Australian Junior Worlds team in 2007 I was required to pay a levy to travel to the World Championships in Mexico. My mum was unable to pay this directly so I sold thousands of Cadbury chocolates over 3-4 months to raise the money, each day at school I would forgo my lunch hour to guilt-trip teachers into buying chocolates so I could follow my dream to represent my country. My mum always found a way, she never gave up when it got hard and this mentality has lead me to a professional cycling career in Europe. 

Thomas Maheux

Stephen Delcourt, Team manager FDJ, Stephen has a vision, he is on a journey to grow his professional team to the top level women’s cycling. He works so hard, puts his heart and soul into the team and has inspired me to join the cause. I believe in our team and feel the emotion behind the team. The team means more than just a business transaction or sponsorship opportunity. It provides empowerment and belief to everyone involved. Stephen leads the team, staff, riders and partners and I feel confident he will lead the team successfully through this challenging time. 

It is time to step up and lead, whether that is lead your organisation, your friendship group, your family or simply your mental and physical health. Life is changing and in order to survive and flourish we must adapt as a humankind. In order to maintain equilibrium under pressure we need everyone to find the leader inside themselves to help others to be better each day and support each other, to inspire others to do what is best for everyone, to be selfless. 

We are facing something that is bigger than just you. Find the leader in you.