It is hard for me to believe that I moved to the US over 9 years ago. It is my home, and my parents said they knew that as soon as I left the first time. Most runners who go to University in the US go for 1-2 years while they complete a masters and use up their eligibility. There are only a few runners I know who came here from the start, and even less of us are still here.
I met Charlotte at a running camp when we were about 14-15. At that time, Charlotte was dominating every race, winning national titles everywhere. I definitely looked up to her, heck, I still do! We have stayed in touch over the years, being there for one another, venting about America when we needed it, and of course supporting one another through the ups and downs that running brings.
I think you are going to love her story. Charlotte has been through a lot of struggles recently, and she has showed her perseverance. I know it is going to pay off for her big time, and I can’t wait to see it happen!
Charlotte graduated from the University of Florida with 2 NCAA track titles and 4 All- American honors. She currently runs professionally for Hoka One One and trains with Team Run Eugene. Here she shares her journey on dealing with set backs and injury post collegiately and ways to deal with stress on and off the track.
Running away from stress
I first started running in elementary school. I realized I was fast when none of the boys could catch me in tag. I was an outdoorsy child and grew up in rural West Sussex on the south coast of England. I would run everywhere, down the lane with my neighbor Alice, around the school field on my lunch break and I would join my dad on a 3 mile loop after school … Running was so care free back then, I didn’t think, I just ran and I absolutely loved it.
As a teen, I joined a running club and won multiple national age group titles. I was selected for various international competitions which everyone made a big hurrah about.
Running was still a lot of fun but it started to feel restricting. I had to miss the yearly school ski trip to prevent injury. I was forced to skip a lot of fun things with friends at the weekend as I was always traveling to meets.
It was disappointing at times, but worth all the sacrifices I made because the feeling of improvement, was like no other. I progressed each season, I was injury free and my performances were giving me lots of exciting opportunities.
I was offered a full ride scholarship to compete at a division one university in the USA. I quickly found that attending college in a new and unfamiliar country was stressful in many different ways. Homesickness, homework, class and relationships became stressors on my mind and body.
Life can become overwhelming at times and responsibilities can mount up. Like many people, running allowed me relieve a lot of stress. My life outside of practice was never dull and the external stressors of college could be pretty draining.
What I loved about training was that I could throw myself into it and forget about everything else. It was about the process rather than running fast; getting out there and doing it, even though I had other things on my mind. Running repaid my hard work with focus, it allowed me to escape and zoom in on the process.
Committing mentally during the two hours of daily practice was benefitting me in lots of different ways. I progressed each season, I was (somewhat) injury free and my performances were giving me even more exciting opportunities.
I signed a professional contract upon graduating with high hopes to make the London 2012 Olympic team. Unfortunately life post collegiately as a runner has been far from smooth. Up until four years ago running was my release… but what happens when running starts causing the stress?
Over coming injuries can be one of the biggest challenges a runner can face. Many individuals will put in weeks or months of hard work and not be rewarded with reaching the goal they deserve.
For me, I was plagued with reoccurring lower leg injuries. My main career the last 5 years has been to train and race…any runner’s dream. Having a major surgery, not being injury free for a single training cycle, with the added pressure of the Olympic year mounted up quickly. The reoccurring injuries kept putting me back to square one. Towards the end of 2012 I stopped training completely.
Running, that I once loved and thrived on, had broken my heart. It had worn me down to the point of no return and I couldn’t recall a pain free run that year, I needed a mental break. I took some time off and let my body and mind fully heal and then got back on the trails when it felt right.
Many elite athletes compete with such confidence and strength that they can seem superhuman, but almost all of them have had to overcome injuries and disappointment along the way, we just don’t always hear about it.
Very rarely does an elite progress every race and we have many running and life stressors that contribute to that. Managing them is what’s important. Whether the issues are directly running related or external, there are ways to take your mind off them and stay focused, confident and still see progression in training.
To take the edge off ‘just running’, I decided to focus on my weakness’s and take confidence in the process. Even as an elite there are lots of aspects of running I could do better. I decided to pick three: Strength, flexibility and cooking.
The weight room used to terrify me, I would just avoid it. I signed up to an S&C class at my local physical therapy clinic and I now work with a great strength coach and look forward to going. I have progressed every month and feel so much stronger when I run.
Yoga is an amazing way to stay flexible, mentally refreshed and challenge yourself. Racing well is still my number one priority over being strong. That being said, if my fitness isn’t back to where I want it to be yet, I can get positive vibes from the headstand that’s taken three weeks to conquer in my yoga class.
I picked cooking as my third aspect of training. Even though it’s not physical I wanted to make one hundred percent commitment to the 2016 Olympic year. I have followed some awesome recipes and enjoy the forty five minutes I give myself in the kitchen. I’ve challenged myself to eat-out less and cook-in more.
Fueling your body the right way so it can handle all of the training load is very important for recovery, injury prevention and adaption to training.
Adding in three enjoyable attributes to my schedule has made me happier and healthier on and off the track. If life or running starts to become overwhelming, add something beneficial you have never done before and you’ll love the confidence it brings you. I currently spend a lot of time focusing on staying healthy and enjoying the process of training and life.
I don’t run away from stress anymore, I face it with new and exciting challenges that benefit my mind and body.
Charlotte is in the process of creating a website for female runners, and I am REALLY excited about her plans with it for the future! The website will be launched in January, but for now you can follow Belle Lap on Instagram and Twitter.[bctt tweet=”What an inspiring and thoughtful post from @CL_Browning on @tinamuir blog. Running away from Stress” via=”no”]
What would you like to ask Charlotte?