The people you surround yourself with can be crucial to your success as an athlete. What they whisper into your ear will impact you. In truth, it can be crucial to your success as a human too. How many stories have you heard of someone who hung out with the wrong crowd and decided to try something once only to find themselves addicted? That addiction then led to dropping out of school or selling items in their home to have the money to get another fix?
Performing at a high level for athletes is like getting a fix. We’re addicted to exercise and endorphins and when our training plan isn’t going down as expected it can feel devastating. A good support network around you can make all the difference between success and giving up.
Here are a few things to look for in your personal network
- A coach: You can’t do better than having a good coach who can guide you through your struggles or injuries and inspire you to become better and stronger. They should know plenty of progressions and regressions in all your training and have a facility that can incorporate different modes of exercise for hitting different thresholds. Your coach doesn’t have to be in better shape than you or necessarily capable of doing what you do (how many coaches training Olympic Athletes have gold medals or are capable of them?) but they should be in good physical condition and have good strength, mobility, and flexibility. They should have some experience or certifications in the field you are looking to train in (eg. If you are trying to be a better hockey player, it doesn’t hurt to have a coach that has played at least some hockey and understands personally the physical requirements).
- Significant other: Who you spend the most time with will greatly impact how you feel about yourself and how motivated you are to train. Yes, love is a strong emotion but if you aren’t with someone who supports you and encourages you, openly talk to them about how you feel because it shouldn’t be that way. Your significant other should be trying to help you reach your goals by following you on your journey, by not eating poorly in front of you, or buying food you shouldn’t eat (in the case of weight loss goals). If you are with someone who has poor eating habits and flaunts them in front of you, it’s not going to help you reach your goals. When you don’t want to go for a run because you don’t feel like it (we’re talking outside of overtraining and injury) they should be encouraging you to get out, even if it means joining you for a couple of kilometers or miles if they aren’t runners. In the case of sport specific goals, when you don’t want to go they can easily grab the keys to the car and offer to watch your game and cheer for you. This isn’t realistic all the time, but I hope you aren’t always hating your sport or there’s something else going on.
- Family and friends: You can’t change your family but you can choose how often you interact with them and how big a part of your life they are. This will be a controversial statement, but I believe it’s no different than a significant other. If they can’t hold themselves back from their own bad habits long enough to support you, you may want to cut back the amount of time you spend together. If they think what you’re doing is stupid and unrealistic, you don’t need that kind of bad energy. Off the top of my head I can’t think of too many incredible discoveries that didn’t involve someone saying, “That’s a stupid idea. You can’t do that. It’s impossible.” In the case of your friends, if they aren’t adding to your life by being the kind of friends you need in your life, cut them loose. Friends should be happy for each other and supportive. It’s far easier to stay motivated to train if you have friends that are training for the same goals or have the same types of interests in mind. They’ll know what you’re going through and can offer advice or encouragement when things aren’t going well.