GEARING UP FOR 2023 WITH GRATITUDE
- Annie Bothma, January 2023
This post is not a recap of my 2022 or a prediction of what is to come in 2023. As much as I wish I could turn back the clock and prevent some of the heartache of 2022, or as badly as I want to plan out my whole 2023, I know I simply can't! The past is the past and the future will always be unknown...and maybe that's part of what makes it exciting!
Instead in this post, I share a few of "WHAT" thoughts:
What I learned in 2022.
What were some of my global running highlights of 2022.
What is next for me..
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
A word that really resonate with me going into this new year is GRATITUDE.
Last year, my word of choice was Courage or Bon Courage! You can read more about why I chose this word for 2022 and what it means here: BON COURAGE. But it turned out to be a perfect choice! I ended up needing a lot of courage for what I had to endure in 2022...
I already wrote a long reflective blog post on what happened to me in 2022, so I am not going to bore you by writing about it again in this post. You can go read more about that here: THE MISSING PUZZLE PIECE. But, all I can say is: Last year was hell for me! So, there is literally no better word than GRATITUDE to describe my feelings going into 2023, healthy enough to run and without any injuries!
WHAT I LEARNED IN 2022
You can't change what you are not aware of, so without a bit of reflecting we can't learn, grow or get better. Reflection does not only have to happen on a yearly basis, it is a constant process. I like to reflect daily on where I could improve, but also what I did well that will allow me to move forward.
Here are a few key learnings I took away from 2022 that I believe will benefit me in 2023 and beyond...
1. CROSS-TRAINING & STRENGTH-TRAINING ARE NOT JUST BENEFICIAL FOR WHEN YOU ARE INJURED
In 2022, my chronic medication for my Central Diabetes Insipidus was putting me in a state of hyponatremia. As a result of my inappropriate ADH dosage my body was losing all the important minerals needed to maintain and build strong bones. Being chronically hyponatremic was detrimental to my bone health and as a result I suffered a series of bone stress injuries. Aside from the harmful effects it had on my bone metabolism, it was also life-threatening and greatly impacted my life-quality. I felt like I was living in a fog; I was always feeling tired and battled with chronic headaches every day.
Due to the fact that I was unable to run for the most of the year, I mainly did non-impact or low-impact cross training activities, like aqua jogging, indoor cycling, and ElliptiGo. In the past, unless I was injured or struggled with a niggle, I didn't do any cross training. When I was training in Kenya, the option to cross train wasn't there, but I didn't have any injuries for three years straight, so I didn't need to seek out other cross training methods. Why would I cross train, if I can run, right? However, last year I had no choice but to turn to cross-training.
There were many days when I was unable to cross-train or simply going through the motions because of how bad I felt, but I can say with certainty that the cross training that I was able to do has made me a stronger athlete! In fact, at the moment, I have replaced all my double runs with cross-training sessions because I feel it is a way I can reduce the impact while still reaping all the benefits of developing my cardiovascular system and simultaneously working muscles that may be neglected when I run. If you are someone who doesn't utilize cross-training as part of your running program, I would urge you to give it a try. I have found that it has drastically improved my ability to run up hills!
I also did a lot of strength training and rehab in the gym. I was already doing resistance training, but it was more functional training and core workouts. In 2022, I started lifting heavy and really shifted my focus to getting stronger and more powerful as an athlete. I did heavy compound lifts like squats and deadlifts and slowly worked my way up to being able to lift almost twice my body-weight for 4 sets of 4-8 reps. I also improved my upper-body strength and was even able to work up doing a total of 60 pull-ups consisting of 4 sets of 15 reps with minimal rest between. My biggest motivation to do strength training is not just to improve my performance, but rather build and maintain my bone density and reduce my risk of injuries in the future. I believe strength training should be a key component of any athlete's training program.
2. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY WITHOUT JUDGEMENT
I never ran through pain last year. That is part of what made my injuries so fucking frustrating. There were never any warning signs. The one day I was still able to run and walk without pain, and the next, I would be stopped dead in my tracks with a sharp unbearable pain.
I would go see my Physio and Chiropractor and they never suspected it to be a fracture. I even passed all the clinical tests, but when I went for a scan it showed up as a bone-stress injury. I don't blame them for not thinking something was wrong, they don't have x-ray vision. I have also been told this is not typically how stress fractures present, however, due to the fact that my fractures were not related to my training-load or a biomechanics issue, but rather due to an inappropriate medication dose, it didn't show-up like one would expect.
I would urge all athletes to listen to their body without judgement. Don't simply push through pain. Don't simply accept a diagnosis either if you feel something is wrong. Investigate it and make sure you get the proper testing done to get an accurate diagnosis.
3. MORE THAN AN ATHLETE
I am more than just a runner. I am a daughter, sister and friend. I am also a running coach and sports nutritionist. In May 2022, I also became a student again. I decided to continue my education and enrolled in a post-graduate program in sports nutrition through the Instituted Of Performance Nutrition (IOPN).
My goal is to equip myself with the tools and knowledge to best help the athletes I work with. I decided to use the time I was unable to train like usual and compete, to read a lot of books on sport nutrition, coaching, running, sport science and psychology. I watched lectures and listened to some of the top researchers explaining complex topics on muscle physiology and fuel utilization. I listened to podcasts with some of the leading experts in the field; all in an attempt to learn as much as I can about running and sport nutrition.
I rebranded and reopened my coaching business. I closed my Fired Fitness personal training business at the end of 2019, and temporarily stopped my running coaching, when I chose to chase my own running dreams. I packed my bags and went to train at 3000m altitude in a training camp in the mountains, located in a small township in Kenya, called Kipsiat. I didn't have any access to wi-fi, and was thus no longer able to continue coaching my athletes online.
However, I always knew I would return to coaching, since it’s such a big passion of mine, and I see it as my way to give back to the sport which has given me so much. I am back in South Africa for the foreseeable future and I was able to restart my business. Over the past two years, during the global pandemic when racing opportunities were scarce and races were being cancelled, a lot of runners also didn't feel the need to seek out coaching services, since they didn’t have any specific races to prepare for. However, the race calendar is finally filled-up with races again, and the running world is back to normal after the negative effects of the pandemic. To learn more, read my post: MERGING MY PASSIONS: ANNIE'S ATHLETES
Fired Fitness is back, but under a new name, a new look, with more services and with a new mission! ANNIE'S ATHLETES now offer personalized coaching services for runners, and sport nutrition services for everyone, including elite athletes, weekend warriors, recreational exercisers, or anyone who wants to improve their health and life quality through fitness and nutrition.
Coaching helped me stay connected to the sport in 2022, when I was unable to line-up and compete myself, I was able to get excited and celebrate the performances of my athletes. It gave me purpose and bought me so much joy to see them achieve their goals and improve their personal best times. I am very proud of every athlete on my program and look forward to continue seeing their progress in 2023!
LEARN MORE ABOUT ANNIE'S ATHLETES HERE: https://www.anniesathletes.org
SOME OF MY GLOBAL RUNNING HIGHLIGHTS IN 2022
I am not just a runner, I am a big fan of the sport! I breathe and live it! It is part of me and I can't and don't want to imagine my life without it. So, when it was threatened to be taken away from me in 2022, I grabbed onto what I could and became an even bigger fan! I completely immersed myself into every opportunity I got to be closer to the sport!
I watched every single diamond league meet; every single day of the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and most of the European Championships. I watched every single major marathon from gun to tape! I streamed races on youtube and watched post-race interviews of athletes. I listened to running podcasts and got to know the stories behind the athletes.
I now know with certainty, if for some reason, I am not able to run one day, I will always be a fan of the sport. Nobody can ever take that away from me!
1. WORLD CHAMPS 2022 IN EUGENE, USA
Watching my Kenyan teammate, Judith Korir, earn a silver in the marathon at the World championship in Eugene was so special. Judith was one of the athletes who worked the hardest in the camp. She was extremely committed and dedicated. I observed how some athletes often lost focus and just skip training sessions or move in and out of the camp. Not Judith. She was one of the most consistent athletes in our group. I feel privileged to call this amazing athlete my friend and it was so exciting seeing her deliver this breakthrough performance at Worlds!
Shortly after her breakthrough performance at Worlds, Judith also went onto place 4th at the London Marathon. She would have been a pacemaker for Brigid, but when Brigid sadly withdrew with injury, Judith was instructed to finish the race! She accepted the challenge and still managed to improve her personal best time on the day and nearly finished on the podium!
2. COMMONWEALTH 2022
Watching Eilish McColgan winning gold in the women's 10,000m title at the Commonwealth Games - 36 years after her mother. She ran this race with so much grit and determination. The way she finished that race showed she wanted it more than anyone else on the day! Well deserved after all the hard work she has put in over the years and the adversity she had to overcome in her career.
I have always resonated with Eilish. She is an athlete who has been very vocal about body shaming due to her long slender build. She would often get trolled online and receive inappropriate comments after races about the way she looks.
READ MORE: https://athleticsweekly.com/interviews/eilish-mccolgan-i-will-get-trolled-but-i-dont-care-im-here-to-run-1039957990/
Eilish McColgan made the comment on Twitter recently:
“Nothing pisses me off more than someone making a comment that I’m ‘too skinny’. I’m naturally small – always have been. Some people are just slim! I doubt they would comment on someone slightly larger than ‘average’. I’m a healthy athlete and human. Go body shame elsewhere!”
All my life I have been judged and criticized for the way I look. I do not have an eating disorder! I don't judge others who struggle with this, since I acknowledge that it is a serious mental illness that is unfortunately very prevalent in our sport. But, it is simply not part of my story. I have always been skinny due to my medical condition. I have Hypopituitarism, Celiac disease. and Diabetes Insipidus. My body does not produce the hormones of a normal individual and does not function the way a normal individual's body would. I have never liked being skinny or small, and often wish I looked different, but I had to learn to accept my body for what it is and appreciate it for what it can do, instead of focus on what it is not.
Over the years I have received so many hurtful and negative comments both online and in-person, so it is nice when athletes like Eilish stand-up and speak-up about body-shaming! Don't just judge or criticize people based on how they look, there is more beneath the skin than just the way someone looks!
3. BERLIN 2022
Eliud Kipchoge did it again! The GOAT made history once again in the 2022 Berlin Marathon when he ran 02:01:09 to smash his own marathon world record by 30 seconds!
I was glued to the screen for the entire duration of the marathon! I couldn't believe it when he went through the half-way mark under 60:00 minutes and had a projected finishing time of under 2-hours. Are we about to see the first sub-hour marathon in real race conditions?! Unfortunately, he did end up slowing in the second half, but was still managed to break his own world-record by a substantial margin!
Kipchoge is just amazing to watch! He moves with so much ease and fluidity, making running a marathon look comfortable! The way he carries himself with so much confidence, yet so much humility! He is truly an inspiration figure to all runners and someone who has had a very positive impact on the sport. I can't wait to see him take on the Boston Marathon in 2023!
WHAT IS NEXT FOR ME?
I am hoping to open up my 2023 season in February with some shorter road races. One of my biggest goals this year is to improve my times over the shorter distances. I have smashed every single personal best time from 3K up 30K during tempo runs and time trials during the Covid-pandemic. Now, that the races are back and my body is finally healthy enough to compete, it is definitely time to erase those old outdated personal-best times. I am extremely excited and grateful to be able to race again after everything that has happened over the past three years.
I will also be going back to my roots and replacing the roads with grass and dirt from time to time to take part in cross country races. Cross-country was my first introduction to the sport and I will grab the opportunity to compete in a cross country race whenever it presents itself.
However, my main focus moving into 2023 will be the marathon. The marathon has won my heart and I feel I have a lot of untapped potential left over the 42.2km to discover! You can definitely expect to see me on the start-list of a marathon in the near future!
Watch this space!
Thank you for following along on my journey, I appreciate your support.
May 2023 be a great year for you!