Emotion into execution: my path to resilience

by Loren Rowney


I’m sitting here trying to study for Uni, not getting far, because all I can think about right now is how much I want to be racing instead of sitting here on my balcony staring into space (more about that later). My teammate advised me to use this time to be productive in other areas…so instead of Uni, I’ll write a blog, way more productive in my mind.

Blogging is an outlet for all my thoughts and ramblings that tend to clog up my mind. The topic du jour: resilience. There’s a few people in my life going through some challenges, and it made me realise that resilience is probably the most important “skill” we can learn.

Resilience. The dictionary defines it as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences”.

If life is a university and resilience is your major, you want to become a straight A student. If we can master the art of resilience, we can pretty much conquer anything life throws at us. And life will throw a whole lot of curve balls that you want to be able to return, and then some!

The last few days I’ve been moping around feeling sorry for myself, then trying to pick myself up, and then feeling sorry for myself again. It’s a vicious cycle and there is nothing worse for me than not being able to go to work every day, work being, riding my bike. I’ve had a few little mishaps the past week. Sickness, crashing, and then some bizarre unrelated injury to my elbow that had me sitting in an Italian emergency ward all day… doing nothing but sitting there. My kindle battery died one hour into the 7 hours of waiting and my phone had no data so it was just me and my thoughts.

As I sat there I thought of my friend Jess Cerra who had a horrible crash in the American Tour of Gila. She was just starting to come good with her form, and now this. She’s someone who just keeps getting knocked down, and then getting back up. “Get knocked down 7 times, stand up 8,” the saying goes and that’s Jess. I could sit here and rattle on about every injury she has had to deal with, but it would take a while. The point here is that Jess is resilient. She will adapt in the face of adversity. I know she won’t go home and sit there and feel sorry for herself. She will reassess her goals and target something new. What she has gained from this crash is yet another lesson in resilience.

“You can’t see these things as a brake working against you. You must see them as challenges that you take with both hands, just to improve. And be thankful they happen to you sometimes, otherwise everything would be too easy”. This is what a wise friend pointed out to me when I was complaining about how just as I start to come good on the bike, something always seems to knock me down…figuratively and literally. And it’s true.

I just received a message this morning from my friend Mike who is a race walker. He just made his first Aussie team, flew over to race a world cup in Rome, which is a potential qualifier for Rio. Two days out he tears his hamstring and can’t compete. Mike is as resilient as they come. He even tried to tape up his hammy and give it a crack on the day. Unfortunately, the will of the body was stronger than the head, and he couldn’t start the race. His message to me afterwards was “What a week hey. We will have to put this one in the memory bank…World champs is in London next year, so I’ll be back”. Resilience.

Growing up my dad would lecture me on the three key words to success. “D.A.D: determination, ability and discipline.” He drilled it in to my head that if I could wrap my head around those three ideas, I would be successful. I was 10 years old at time time and about to run the state cross country championships. Personally, I think he came up with it because it spelt dad, but yes, he had a point. They are characteristics of champions. What he didn’t realise is the most important thing I needed to learn was how to be resilient when the times got tough. Whether that was on the field, being bullied at school or failing a math test, I needed to learn resilience so I could forge on, continue to set those high goals and not be terrified if I didn’t reach them. When we look at champions, we only see their success, not their failures. We don’t see the battles they have had to fight to get where they are.

Forget talent and the “you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it” attitude. The number one lesson is resilience. If I hadn’t learned to be resilient when I failed, I was never going to be successful, because I wouldn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with failure. It’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from the experience, move on and commit to make yourself better.

We need resilience across the board in all aspects of life. For me right now, I’m still in the process of coming back. I’m far more resilient than I was in December last year when I didn’t even know if I wanted to ride my bike anymore. And I’ve come to conclusion that life will never be smooth sailing for anyone. Everything isn’t always going to work out your way, and the odds will not forever be in your favour. So how do we cope with every little thing “life” throws at us? We learn to become resilient.

For me in my professional racing career, that is learning to deal with sickness and injury at home, and disappointment after racing when things don’t go to plan and you feel robbed of an opportunity for success. Sometimes it is as simple as brushing yourself off, putting the chain back on your bike, wiping the tears away, and riding on! And as a wise friend of mine always tells me “emotion into execution”.

Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Orica-AIS. The South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season.

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