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As I lay in bed unable to fall asleep and getting irritated by a stubborn stomachache after consuming feta cheese that I realised really didn’t taste quite right, it occurred to me how lazy and unproductive I’ve been in the past week. It also occurred to me that I have assignments that are due in the coming weeks that I haven’t even started yet. I think the first is due on the 4th of August and yes, I know some of you are probably thinking that I still have ages to go. However, I’m that student that likes to get stuff done early so I do not have to stress later.

Two weeks ago, I was injured and as soon as I got better, I got hit with a cold. Thanks winter. So for those two weeks, I didn’t get much exercise done and I think it has most definitely been detrimental. I have noticed that this week I’ve hardly gotten any uni stuff done. I’ve been procrastinating and just lazing around (well, my idea of lazing around at the very least). Nevertheless, I have come to this realisation and I am taking steps to get back on track.

So here are a couple of ideas and words of wisdom in case you’re stuck in a bit of a rut and either have no idea how to get out of it or you just need a bit of a kick start.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.
You can be a little bit annoyed at yourself that you’re in the position you’re in and haven’t taken precautions to avoid it, but not to the point where you have become a ball of anxiety and stress. When you start being too hard on yourself, you end up worse off. You end up stressing yourself out more and start thinking irrationally. You are human. You have moments where, for whatever reason, you just haven’t done as much as you want. You’ve gotten out of bed at 10am every morning and you’ve been on slack on studying. It’s normal. It happens to everyone. It’s not the end of the world and most importantly, it does not mean you are lazy, useless and a bludger.

Take time out to recollect your thoughts and get yourself back into a routine.
Sit down for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour or however long you need to just take a pause and think about your goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Sometimes when you get used to something too much or if you’re away from something for a while, you unintentionally forget the reason you started or you lose motivation. Personally, I find just laying everything out in front of me and having a systematic approach works wonders and gets me back on track to achieve my goals. This can include writing down a list, organising what you need to do and when you need to do them, or just brainstorming different ideas of what you can or have to do.

Just do it.
Once you’ve done all that and you’re in a more motivated mindset, just get going. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Usually, when you start thinking you end up going off course again and eventually, you’ll end up back to square one. Don’t worry about the what ifs or the do I really have to’s? Just go. If it doesn’t work out the way you plan, so what? If you want it bad enough, you will find another way. If not, then something else will be right around the corner for you. You don’t know if you don’t try.

Hopefully, this post has resonated with some of you and is exactly what you needed to get back into the swing of things. Just remember, you’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to be a bit slack from time to time. Just make sure you don’t make it a habit, be mindful of what you are doing, stay motivated and most of all, don’t stress. It’ll all work out the way it is supposed to in the end.

In the past 14 years, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the wonders of both individual and team sports. I’ve reaped the benefits of both and I would recommend for everyone to have a shot at both. But first, we have to look at the differences between the two- because there are plenty of them and they’re obvious. That being said, don’t be alarmed if you’ve only ever participated in individual sports and vice versa. You can apply your skills from one into the other, whilst also opening yourself up to learning new things.

Individual sports:
Individual sports offer the opportunity to learn about independence and being self-reliant. They also teach you a certain type of focus that can easily be applied to other areas of life like work and academics. Generally when you’re studying you’re usually doing so on your own therefore you need a specific type of focus in order to achieve your goals for that session or that exam or test. Additionally, individual sports help you focus on yourself and only yourself without feeling the pressure of the results of the people on your own team. Your performances affect you and you alone. There’s less pressure to be up to standards with everyone else or praying you don’t make a mistake that could cost the team a game. Sure, sometimes your individual results add up points for the team, however you’re still competing on your own.  You often train together as a team, but you compete as individuals and in that sense, the lines are blurred between team and individual sports. In individual sports, you play for yourself at the end of the day. You don’t have to worry about your teammates around you. You can make decisions on your own and the results primarily only affect you.

Types of individual sports:  Karate and other forms of martial arts, tennis, swimming, athletics, cycling, surfing, snowboarding

Team sports:
In team sports, you learn how to communicate and how to work as a team. Communication is something I didn’t really need to do much of in karate. It was just me on the mat as I competed, so I didn’t exactly need to call out to my teammate asking for them to pass me the ball or that I had a particular player. Naturally, it has become something I need to work on in rugby as I’m not used to yelling around in a game. Another difference is that it’s a much more sociable environment. Usually with karate, you did a lot of things on your own. Unless you were close with other competitors or your coaches, you generally just went to training, trained and then went home. In team sports, you often spend time hanging out with your teammates, catching up on the latest gossip, having a good laugh and then having a bite to eat after training for some team bonding.  Eventually, you’re not just a team, you’re a family.  You have people that have your back and you help each other out.  You also have the opportunity to learn from other people, and not just in the sense of the game.  When you’re playing a team sport, you’re doing something that’s much bigger than yourself. Every decision you make doesn’t just affect you, it affects the whole team. Sometimes it’ll be a good result, other times it’ll be costly. But that’s just the beauty of sport, you win some, you lose some and you learn. It’s one big learning experience that can help shape the person you can become.

Types of team sports: Rugby, basketball, AFL, football, cricket, baseball, netball, hockey



I survived my first rugby union match last week. Five months after deciding that I wanted to go to the Olympics and three months after starting pre-season training, it was finally game day. Now some people might expect me to say I slayed, that I scored a try, that I threw girls double my size on the ground and that out-stepped the opposition. No. No, I didn’t. I did none of that. It was more of a comedic debut and it came as no surprise. What else would I expect? I had never played a rugby union game in my life so of course I would look like a baby giraffe trying to walk. It’ll be a hilarious story in a couple of years when I look back. My first touch was the ball quite literally bouncing off my shoulder. My dad laughed. I shook my head and kept going. What else was I going to do? Let’s just say that overall, give me a couple of games and just watch the decision making improve. Within three months of playing, I have to say I’ve learnt a lot from rugby already and cannot wait to see what I learn in the future.

For now, this is what I have learnt:

-You’re not going to be a superstar in your first game…or even in the first few games or longer
→ when you’re starting a new sport, you’re basically learning how to walk all over again. In a sense, it’s easier to start a new sport younger as a kid than when you’re in your late teens or as an adult. In my case at least, I’ve always been on top or close to the top in whatever endeavour I take part it- whether academic or karate related. Coming to rugby, I’m far from the top at the moment. I mean, I’ve never played rugby union, I’ve always been a huge league fan and I’ve only dabbled in a bit of touch in year 8 at high school. It takes time to become equipped with the skills and it’s important to remember that you’re going to make mistakes Also, training is one thing, game day is another. It’s going to take a couple of games to get into the motion of things and to learn the ropes of the sport and the tricks of the trade. With experience, comes knowledge.

-Team sports are different to individual sports
I’m probably going to end up writing a post about this, but I’ve already picked up on the big differences between team sports and individual sports. When it comes to individual sports, you just focus on yourself and your mistakes and your own. For team sports, your mistakes are the team’s mistakes and what you do wrong impacts everyone and not just you.

-With confidence, comes a good outcome
One thing that comes with a lot of contact sports is that when you go in hard and confident, you won’t get hurt. If you hesitate and think too much, that’s when things start going haywire and when you’re more likely to get hurt. When you’re confident and you persist, you’re more likely to get the outcome you’re after. That can be applied to daily life too- tackle things head on and don’t hesitate. When you hesitate, you could miss out or struggle. The important thing is to persist and keep on going. 


-It feels good to be sore and I didn’t realise I missed it so much
Alright this might be an odd one for some, but weirdly a shared sentiment for others. I genuinely miss the feeling of being sore. Firstly, as someone with health anxiety it actually gives me an explanation for the bodily sensations I feel. Secondly, it reminds me that I’ve actually exercised and gotten a good training session/game in. It’s a fab feeling to have and a reminder that I’m doing something I love.

-You’re a part of something bigger than yourself
Going along with the differences between team and individual sports, realising that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself is probably another one of them. You’re there with your team, it’s like a sisterhood. Whinging about a bit of a sore ankle? Seeing your teammate with bruises covering her shins still going hard at it and the other one whose ankle is swollen will soon shut your mouth. Moreover, rugby is a rising sport- particularly for women. You realise how important what you’re doing is and you see that through the support you get from your teammates, your coaches and friends and family who support the club and the sport in general.

-People have got your back regardless
You’re there with your teammates. You’re basically a family. You support each other, you help each other out. Again, it’s like a sisterhood. Both on the field and off the field, your team’s got your back. I don’t know, maybe I picked the right club and was lucky with the group of girls I now call my teammates. But I know for a fact that once you’re on the same team, you’ve got each other’s bags.

I played my second game the other day and I have to admit it was a pretty big improvement from my first game. With experience, comes the skill. I mean, I did duck and swerve away from a girl twice my size so I guess that’s a teeny tiny personal victory for now.  Sure, I still made mistakes but after all it was just my second game. The fact I’m sore now and have a couple of bruises and a sore neck just points out that I did a lot more yesterday than I did last week. It’s only up from here.

 

It was a Sunday in May, 2014. I was competing in the finals of a local tournament against a girl I had fought and beaten before. The first 90 seconds of the fight were dominated by her. For some reason, I just couldn’t get any techniques to work. Whatever I threw at her, fell short. Whatever I tried, was countered successfully. Eventually, I scored a point but I was still 3-1 down. Four seconds to go and in very Monique fashion, I thought it would be a fabulous time to chuck in a spaghetti head kick. It was a bit of a classic manoeuvre on my behalf, usually done when I had put myself in a position that I would rather not be in. It landed perfectly and I was 4-3 up. I was pretty content and it left me feeling quite happy with myself.

One second to go and a punch flies past my head.

4-4.

It came down to the referee’s decision.

She won.

Of the hundreds of fights I’ve had, that one specific fight has stuck with me like no other. Being so close, yet so far. It’s a feeling that many athletes resonate with and as bad as it is, I think every athlete should have to go through it for their own benefit. There’s something almost torturous and cruel about having to work your butt off for something, come so close to finally getting to where you want to be and yet, in a split second, it gets taken away from you. Whether it be unlucky or via your own mistake, it’s unfair. That’s for sure.

It’s most certainly a test of character. It’s a lesson that teaches you resilience, strength and humility. From that fight, I began looking at my losses as lessons. Not that I didn’t before, but I did so more consciously and applied it in every area of my life.

It seems weird that of all the state, national and international fights that I’ve had, it was to be a local one that has taught me the most. Of course, a combination of all my past losses has built me up into the person I am, but this one was the icing on the cake. I think it was the mixture of having not won a tournament in over a year, being riddled with injuries and thinking a few seconds too far ahead that made it as painful as it was. I was so close, yet again, so far and honestly, it was frustrating.

I learnt a lot about myself though and I use the memory of that fight as a reminder.

Firstly, it reminds me to not see a loss as something negative. Instead of wallowing in my sorrows, trying to make excuses and almost giving up thinking there wasn’t much point in continuing, I look at what I did right and what I did wrong. I think of what I can do to prevent the same mistakes. Usually, the more painful the mistake, the more likely you won’t repeat it again. Well, the key word being ‘usually’. It could take you a couple of times to get that part sorted. Instead of thinking, “ugh, why?” I think “okay, now where do I start? What do I do? How do I fix this? What do I need to fix up?”. It’s taught me that I have the potential to go all the way, but it reminds me that I’m still susceptible to mistakes.

Secondly, it was an incredible test of character. It most certainly tested my resilience and my ability to learn from my mistakes. I could have easily just given a million excuses for why I lost. The punch wasn’t even a score- it went straight past my head. I stepped out of the ring so the fight should have been stopped. She threw no clean punches. I could go on, but I won’t. What’s the point of excuses? Yeah sure, they provide a bit of solace for a while but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. You didn’t win. You will forever have come second in that moment. The test of character comes when you decide whether you want to be that person that will just complain about why they lost without admitting their mistakes, or whether you want to grow from the experience.

When you’re in a high stakes environment, it’s essential that you learn how to deal with losing. Are you going to just whinge and complain? Or are you going to continue working towards your goal, ensuring you don’t make the same mistakes again? Are you going to stay negative, or are you going to tackle it with open arms, excited to be able to learn something and be a step closer towards your goal? It’s your choice. It’s up to you whether you’re just going to leave your loss as a loss, or whether you’re going to turn it into a lesson.


That’s all on you.

 

I’m just going to say it- the gym is most definitely not for everyone. To a lot of people, it seems big, it seems intimidating and it seems like it’s filled to the brim with protein shake filled men with bulging muscles and those super lean women with the media’s idea of an ideal body. It’s like every genetically gifted human decided to congregate in that one place, attempting to see how far they can push themselves. Then there’s the fact that there are so many different types of machines that could potentially kill you if you didn’t use them right or if you move the slightest bit in the wrong direction. It’s easy to be deterred by these metal clad dens, wreaking of a mixture of deodorant and BO.

I never really went to the gym much when I was doing karate. A lot of my friends did but I was always like nah, I don’t need it. In 2011, I signed up and went to a couple of PT sessions but that was that. One of the reasons I probably didn’t go as much was because I was 13 and when I come to think of it, that’s actually quite intense. Anyway, not the point. Fast forward a couple of years and here I am, planning on going to the Olympics for rugby. This time round, I couldn’t skip out on the whole gym thing so I signed up. I’m no fitness expert, but someone that (I think at least) has learnt a lot about the whole gym process in a short amount of time. I’ve decided to write down a bit of a guide for you guys who are thinking of joining a gym and need a bit of a push/need some guidance, and for those of you who have already joined but have a couple of worries regarding it.

Location:
This one’s huge. It was probably the biggest reason I didn’t go much back in 2011 and I think it will play a massive part in whether you’re actually going to go as much as you really should be. When looking for gyms, look for ones that are the most conveniently situated. Check for ones in areas that you spend a lot of time in- whether it be near your house, work or university. For me, I have a gym down the road from university and then another a quick train ride away. Now you’re probably sitting there like what? Two gyms? Well actually, it’s the same company but different locations. If you can, maybe find a gym that has multiple franchises around your city so you have access everywhere. I’m lucky with mine because not only are there plenty of gyms around Melbourne, but there are heaps around the world. Location is important because when you know that the gym’s close by, you don’t have much of an excuse when it comes to it being ages away. It’s closeby, it’s easy access and travel time isn’t too long.

Cost:
Another reason a number of people hesitate to go to the gym is because of the price. Gyms can be expensive, so it’s more of a matter of prioritising whether going to the gym is super important to you. A number of gyms have pretty good deals, especially for university students. If going to the gym isn’t as much of a priority or you don’t have a dollar to spare, then there are plenty of alternatives to staying fit and healthy. For those of you on the fence, think of the gym as an investment. How many times a week are you planning to go? Is health and fitness a major priority of yours? If you answer multiple time and yes, well then there’s your answer. It’s more about a bit of trial and error and seeing which deal best suits you. Going to the gym is an investment- a worthwhile one when you put the effort in.

General vibes:
When you walk into a gym, you’ll probably suss out the general vibes of the place. How it looks. How it smells. What sort of people go there. The people who work there. Again, I was lucky with my gym when I signed up. The manager was super nice and helpful and made me feel welcomed and at ease. Every time I go and train, I feel comfortable and don’t feel awkward or out of place. People mind their own business and go there to train, not for anything else. It really comes down to you and whether you’ll be able to focus on your own goals without being distracted. This point is really just down to personal choice and is quite subjective. What I might find good, someone else might hate. It’s really just about looking around and see what’s right for you.

Goals:
Once you set up your gym membership, it’s a good idea to set out what you want to achieve. Usually, someone at the gym will likely help you set up your training regime after discussing what it is you want to get out of the gym. Whether you want to make a sports team, lose weight or be able to push yourself- they’ll help you out with the right exercises to boost your fitness and attain the results you are after.

What you need:
You’ve sorted your membership. You’ve got your training regime. You’ve decided when you’re going to go to the gym. Now you just need to figure out what you need to take with you. Generally, comfortable gym clothes, a towel and some form of hydration are the bare necessities. When it comes to me though, you should probably already be aware I don’t really stick to the bare necessities. Aside from the clothes and towel, I take a bottle of water and usually a Gatorade. I also grab a protein bar and take some other light snacks to keep the energy up. A lot of gyms usually have a key pass so don’t forget that either! There’s nothing worse than going to the gym and realising that you didn’t bring the key pass. Like anything else, organisation is key.