My Story

Why are we athletes so bad at giving ourselves grace?

Lately, I’ve had a lot of time to myself. After coming down in a crash at Giro della Toscana, I’ve had a hip injury that at first I thought was ‘just soft tissue, it will heal quickly, I’ll just keep training through it’ – why do we athletes always do that?! For the first 2 weeks, I was gingerly sitting on the saddle, wincing at every bump in the road, and still thinking to myself: ‘Well, 2 hours are better than none!’ At the back of my mind there was also guilt; everyone is off racing, and I’m sitting here on my ass doing nothing.

Today, I was just back from a gravel ride, where I had again been wincing and avoiding certain parts of the track because my muscles were totally seizing as I sat on my saddle. I sat down at home, feeling lazy AF about my pathetic attempt at training, and scrolled through Twitter. One of the first things I saw was a picture of Pogacar, dropped off the peloton in some Italian race, with the understanding caption: ‘Still needs some race rhythm, I guess’.

It got me thinking of all the pressure I had put on myself to perform at my very limited race days this year. I would come off the back of a 4-week block of training and no racing, and then be frustrated and despondent when race day didn’t go my way, as if I was letting people down. Why do I think Pogacar is more worthy of that grace than I am? Why do I only think that it’s understandable to need time to get my race rhythm back if I’ve won the Tour of Flanders, but when I'm struggling in a race it's just because I'm a bad cyclist? Why do I think that it’s only acceptable if someone who wins the Giro takes time off to heal an injury, but when I do it, I’m just lazy?

I know I’m putting my best into what I’m doing. I know I approach every day with dedication and motivation. As I’m getting older, I’m realising cliches are so popular only because they’re SO TRUE. That old nugget of ‘You can only do your best’ is a key example. Some days, my best is smashing out a 10 minute max effort, or bringing bidons to a team-mate mid-race, or helping on a climb. Other days (and paradoxically the harder days) my best is sitting on the couch and not moving my hip for the day, taking a rest, and pulling out of a race because I know I will only do damage to myself in the long-term.

It’s something I struggle with a lot as an athlete. I want so badly to be better, to show everyone the potential that I’m certain I have inside me, that I will just continue pushing. Now, I have this little hip injury and it is teaching me to just slowwwww dowwwwwn. In this case, I’m finally succumbing to it. I’m allowing my body to rest without the expectations of others weighing on me. It feels freeing.

Lots of love,

Imogen x