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Sophie Christiansen CBE, is a multiple gold-medal winning Paralympic dressage rider. Sophie was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and supports Scope in its work with disabled people and their families. Here Sophie talks about how you can prepare for your event and make the most of your exciting challenge with Scope!
When you’re training for a sporting event, at any level, there are going to be hard times. They’ll be challenges and days when you just want to give up.
However, there are ways to help yourself focus and push through any barriers to achieve your end goal.
Rest: When you’re training for a physical event, rest is vital. Make sure you take time out for yourself in-between training, whether that’s reading a book, watching films or spending time with friends and family.
Distractions: I believe that having something else to focus on, really helps with training. Working takes my mind off being too caught up with my sport. There’s so much pressure all the time, that when I’m at work I can forget about it for a little while. I also know that a sporting career can end at any time, so I think it’s important to have other interests and passions.
Prioritising: The time and intensity you put into your training at certain points is key. In the run up to Rio I was riding four times a week and going to the gym up to three times, as well as working. This isn’t something I could sustain long term, but when you are focusing on a big event you know this kind of intensity is necessary just before you compete. In sport, you ramp up your training just before an event, knowing you will reduce this dramatically afterwards. Don’t feel you have to go flat out forever – prioritise by increasing your training around a certain time period, and then really go for it.
Quality over quantity: I will only ride for 20 minutes a session as my CP means that I expend more energy. If it’s possible with the event you are training for then put your all into short periods of training, rather than going for hours and burning yourself out.
Take care of your mind and body: Look after yourself and don’t let challenges get you down. Everyone encounters difficult periods when training and there will be days when you feel like you can’t be bothered. You just have to push through these times, but make sure you take care of yourself. Don’t jeopardise your health or wellbeing.
Regrets: Don’t look back with regret. I know that if I don’t train, even when things are hard, then I will look back and regret it. Think about completing your end goal. Will you look back and regret not training today, or will resting or doing something else help you to achieve your goal?
Nerves: I think nerves are natural, but they can be helped by being prepared. When I was competing at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012 I didn’t feel nervous, as I was so prepared for my event. However, when I was at the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award, I was so nervous – I was totally out of my comfort zone and unprepared, as I didn’t know what to expect. If you do suffer from nerves, try organising for someone to distract you before an event – they might be able to tell you jokes before it starts just to keep your mind focused on something else (my secret weapon!). This event is meant to be fun.
Planning: Planning the day of your big event can help so much. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time and avoid any chances to get stressed. This is a once in a life time opportunity, so you don’t want anything to ruin your day.
Enjoy yourself: You should enjoy everything you do in life, otherwise there is no point. Don’t pour all this effort into something that isn’t going to give you any pleasure.
Support: Build yourself a great support system of people that want you to succeed. Make sure you always have the right people around you – people who will encourage you and won’t be negative about your training and goals. A positive push from family members can work wonders and spur you on. My boyfriend isn’t involved in sport, but he always gives me really great practical advice. Positive people can help you see things with fresh eyes. This year I won’t be competing, but will be building up my support system for future events.
I have joined forces with Scope to put together my top ten tips for anyone training for a sporting event.
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