“At what age do athletes have to retire in your sport?” somebody asked me recently. It’s a question that I refuse to put a number on but I was fully aware the underlying tone was suggesting I should be packing it in and quit while I’m ahead! Recently I turned 33 years old and although I get the odd injury here and there (less than when I was in my twenties), I have never felt better and am enjoying kickboxing more than ever. In fact, I love training so much I decided to start a new sport (Karate); let’s see where that one takes me!
I’m always surprised when people put limitations on almost everything in sport. Age, in my opinion, is no different. You only have to look at the talent identification and transfer programmes across elite sport to be told that you need to be young to be good. Well maybe that’s the rule, but there’s always the exception. Whenever I consider a limitation I think of the story of Roger Bannister and the four minute mile. For years it was believed that nobody could run a mile under four minutes and that it was just simply dangerous and unachievable. In 1954 Roger Bannister changed that by becoming the first man on record to run a mile in under four minutes. Although it took years for anyone to achieve this, his record lasted just 46 days. These days you only have to look at Serena Williams who’s smashing records everywhere in the tennis world at 35 to know that age isn’t an issue! These stories are always inspirational to me because of course there are days where you have a little doubt and wonder if you should just do what society tells you to do and give up on your “notions”. But really we are only limited by what we believe and I will always believe that I can compete in this sport at this age as long as it’s fun and something I want to do.
But, it’s not just believing I can do it, that has allowed me to continue competing. When I say competing I mean actually challenging at the top of the sport and performing at my best. Anyone who knows me well will know that my diet and lifestyle has changed so much over the past couple of years. Getting sick (with Crohns disease) has been a major influence over the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle and in the past six months I’ve made even more massive changes to my diet. A few years ago I was addicted to diet coke and would drink about 6 cans a day! Not exactly what you’d expect an athlete to be consuming but that was the truth. I’m not a believer in anything being very bad for you but anything in extremes certainly is and it took my hair starting to fall out for me to banish the excess fizzy drinks from my diet. I’ve also had to say good bye to Chinese food and that comes down to me wanting to stay out of hospital or spending a day in the bathroom! Now I manage to get a balance in my diet and no longer follow fad diets or go on a “cutting phase” for making weight because ultimately you end up with even more weight piled on when you finish some of these diets. Everything in moderation is key. Nutrition is so important, not just as an athlete but for all of us and getting the right balance is not an easy task. But knowing you have achieved something like maintaining a healthy diet, managing your weight or even waking up with energy gives you a massive sense of accomplishment that is soooo worth it!!
So if you’ve set yourself a goal this year make sure you believe in yourself and you’ll find yourself making the necessary changes or taking the actions needed to achieve it. Never let your age, your size, your gender or anything else get in the way of hitting your targets no matter how far fetched they are. If I was to listen to the those who think I am too old to still be competing in kickboxing never mind starting a new sport, I wouldn’t have achieved so many of the things that I have in sport and would definitely not be having as much fun. After all, there are always people breaking barriers and becoming the first person to achieve something so why can’t it be you…