Monday, March 30, 2015

Retiring from sport isn't the end says boxer Caley Reece

PIC via Caley Reece Facebook
When is enough? How do you decided it’s time to end the love affair with competitive sport?  One of my favourite MuayThai fighters took that huge decision this weekend.
Australian Caley Reece was one of the most successful and inspiring MuayThai fighters around, male or female. She's retiring with six World titles and the respect of anyone who's watched her dominate the ring.
But even if she wasn't a world beater, retiring is huge. For anyone playing sport competitively (especially fighting) retirement means a 360° in your approach to life. Being a sports woman is all-consuming so you need to be sure of what's coming next.
In Reece’s retirement statement on Saturday she said:
“In 2012 I made a decision to retire and at the time, I based it on emotions that were happening in my life. After 8 months I realised I missed fighting so much that I returned to the ring for another 2 and a half years and had another 10 fights …”
 "I never thought I would really feel the day that I would fall out of love with fighting and it used to worry me I wouldn't be anything else in life. My sports pysc and Daz (her husband/trainer) said, "one day you will wake up and just know". That day happened recently. I woke up and I knew. My love for Muaythai and training is there but the fight in me has died."
An online search for professional athlete + retired + psychology gave 1,130,000 results. American website ‘The Sport in Mind’ has some great resources if you are facing this decision or know someone who is.
PIC via Caley Reece Facebook
Training structures your day in so many ways, even your diet maybe dictated by the demands of your sport. There’s a potential loss of friendship, and changing body shape. Probably a lot of new clothes to buy.

Stopping competition doesn’t mean walking away. 
*dons wise woman hat* Twelve years after my last Muaythat fight I’m still friends with many of the same people and new ones. Still passionate about the best sport in the world*
It also opens the way to new sports - once you’ve been fit and strong you never want to lose that!

Reece’s statement finished like this:  "You can take the girl away from the fight but you will never take the fight away within the girl. 
"This sport will always have my heart because its created the person that I feel proud to be. Muaythai.... will always be my life and I will continue to do my best to inspire with past stories, opinions and advice."
*that may be a biased opinion

Friday, March 27, 2015

Para-cycling and the Road to Rio 2016

Dame Sarah Storey won Women's C-5 500m TT PIC Bryn Lennon Getty
This week the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships take place in Holland with cyclists competing for valuable places in Rio2016.

For me Paralympians are some of the most inspiring sports women you can find. These are women carrying injuries or illnesses which in the past would have relegated them to a life in bed or even locked away in an institution. Today you see them on the roads biking at high speed, running, throwing discus and generally representing themselves to an incredibly high standard.

It's probably fair to say the gap between the Olympics and the Paralympics is closing - people are begining to see past the disabilities and just see athletes striving to succeed. It started with Bejing to a certain extent but it was really the London Games which dragged the Paralympics onto the stage.

Cycling was my first "in" to the world of Paralympics. I interviewed Irish para-cycylist Catherine Walsh in early 2012 and followed her journey to the London Olympics. Walsh raced with partner Fran Meehan on specially designed tandem bikes - gathering a collection of medals including Paralympic Silver that year.

Since then I've met swimmers, discus throwers, runners, footballers. And now with this latest championship it really feels like Rio2016 is getting closer. Over the next few months would-be Paralympians will be competing for those final precious places on the teams.

I'll be updating on this blog. Obviously with a focus on the Irish team but if you know of anyone I should feature who is competing in your area or your country, let me know. I'll also be taking a look at the classification system for each sport as that is central to the principles of the Games.

This video will take you back to the glory days of London2012 - a taster for what we have to look forward to over the next few months.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sport and pregnancy; surfer Bethany Hamilton
Bethany Hamilton PIC via SplashNews

The moral police are out again and I'm not talking global politics here. Surfer Bethany Hamilton has brought wrath down on her head because - wait for it - she's continuing to surf during her pregnancy.

Imagine that. A fit and healthy woman wanting to stay that way while pregnant - so avoiding obesity, gestational diabetes, easing back pain and decreasing the chances of post-natal depression. (that's the Mayo Clinic talking)

You'd think knowing Hamilton survived a shark attack at 13 and went onto become a successful surfer that people would give her some credit for understanding her own body. Mpora's surf editor wrote a guest post for this blog a while back on Hamilton's amazing journey.

But apparently the idea pregnacy is an illness and the only way to survive is by sitting down for nine months is still going strong. Hamilton has been forced to come out defending herself; pointing out she's not exactly taking on big waves,and has modifed her routines. 

One doctor told an American newspaper: "Surfers have a chance of falling in the water, and hitting big waves can cause trauma to the abdomen". 

Some poignant comments on pregnancy websites about the risk of miscarriage clearly came from tragic personal experience, possibly spilling over into judgements I thought. But then I haven't been in their shoes.

PIC VIA Bethany Hamilton Instagram
It's not been all negative coverage to be fair. A poll carried out for one of the UK papers found 75% of respondents agreed with Hamilton's decision with just one in four saying no.  

That's still quite a lot of nay-sayers I think - although it may reflect the level of inactivity in the country. Similarly to Ireland rates of obesity are shooting up in the UK and people who don't exercise are unlikely to understand the benefits of exercising while pregnant. 

Personally I wish I could stay up on a board for longer than 30 seconds even while not pregnant. 

Congratulations to Hamilton and husband Adam Dirks from this blog at least!

What's your thoughts - where's the balance or are there any rules when it comes to exercise and pregnancy?
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