Harriet Brown is a World Champion Surf Ironwoman, Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series Champion, Australian Team Captain & Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Champion. Based on the Gold Coast, Australia, Harriet trains for her sport with commitment and intent rarely seen in other professional athletes.
She also balances these training commitments with her work as an Exercise Physiologist, Pilates Instructor, Athlete Mentor & Coach and Public Speaking engagements. Hear more about Harriet and read more blogs like this on her website.
2020 can be your opportunity to do less and learn more.
Four years ago, I was at the checkout of the supermarket and the lady was asking me how my day was. I looked back at her, I couldn’t answer… and I couldn’t even smile. I just paid for my groceries and went straight home feeling rude and deflated. That day I didn’t speak to anyone. That was the day I also forgot to write on my hand to show people; ‘I have a broken jaw, I can’t talk’. That awkward encounter with the check-out lady came at one of my lowest points – two weeks into having my jaw wired shut and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.
COVID and what we are going through now, whilst bleak, can also be an opportunity. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt in my life came from doing less, not from doing more. I was forced to take a step back from my busy life and jump off that life treadmill. Whilst breaking my jaw was the toughest thing I have been through; it was a blessing in disguise. Something I believe COVID can be for all of us. We have an opportunity to do less and actually reflect on how we are spending our time.
Is what we are doing bringing us joy and helping us achieve our goals?
I broke my jaw when I fell off a bike. For six weeks I couldn’t work, train, eat or talk. I could only drink smoothies or soups through a straw. I lost five kilograms, mostly muscle of which I really didn’t need to lose. I felt weak and skinny. However, I was well practiced at making creative soups and smoothies. The hardest part of the whole ordeal was not being able to talk.
My family live in Victoria and I was in a long-distance relationship at the time. I soon realised that I relied so much on conversation to hash things out, make decisions and bring me happiness. Not being able to be social and communicate verbally was really tough. I had a lot of time to myself to think and I hit a pretty low point half-way through when I realised I was getting no joy from watching Netflix anymore.
I was 25. I was yet to win anything major in my sport of Surf Ironwoman racing and I knew I had to change. I thought about how much effort I had been putting into my sport; training up to three times a day, six days a week. I had been going through the motions, day in day out, turning up to training and getting through the sessions. I started asking myself questions. Why wasn’t I winning? Could I do things differently? Was I really doing all I could to be my best? I was alone with my thoughts for so long that for the first time in my life I actually evaluated what I was doing.
Firstly, I realised that I truly loved racing and missed training so much. I also realised that if I was going to take the time-consuming, tiring path of pursuing my sport, I needed to do everything I could to be my best. I figured out a plan that included working smarter in the gym, pushing myself harder when I needed to, resting when my body told me too, eating better and going to bed earlier. Some of this I was able to do while my wires were on. I wasn’t super strict or perfect, but my mindset had changed. I had more purpose at each session. I had something to prove.
Whilst I still had my jaw wired shut, I had a meeting with my coach, Naomi Flood. We sat down and chatted about the upcoming World Championships. Well, she chatted to me and I wrote things back to her. It was a tedious process. She told me that I wouldn’t be ready to race. I was devastated so pleaded with her and wrote; ‘please give me a few weeks after I get my wires off and if I’m fit enough, can we talk again’.
After six weeks, I finally had my wires removed and trained the hardest I have ever trained in the lead up to that world championships. I proved to Floody that I should be in the team to go to the Netherlands – I was so excited. Eight weeks after getting my wires off, I was lucky enough to win the World Ironwoman Title. I then went on to win the World Paddleboard Championships and backed it up by winning the Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series that season. I had achieved dreams I never thought possible, I was over the moon. I knew this would have never happened if I just kept on training like I was. My broken jaw sure was a blessing in disguise.
During this period, it’s okay to take some time for yourself to stop, reset, evaluate and plan. But more importantly explore your purpose. Is what you’re doing making you happy? Are you actually doing your best? Don’t live on auto pilot, figure out if what you’re doing is actually what you want to do, and if it is, are you doing the best you can? For me it helps to write things down, meditate a little, create small goals and habits, and make little changes I know will help me in the long run. Put all these into practice and refer back to them from time to time when life gets busy again. A life with less commitments doesn’t happen often, so embrace it, enjoy it, and figure out what you need to do to reach your goals.