With the Tokyo Olympics 2020 just around the corner, Paralympian Lauren Steadman chatted to Stylist about the words that motivate her, the changing relationship with her body, and what she wants to explore in Tokyo.
Fresh from her dizzying turn on Strictly Come Dancing, triathlete Lauren Steadman is back training for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Steadman has competed in three summer Paralympics, and she won a silver medal in the women’s paratriathlon at the 2016 games in Rio. The athlete is also a six-time European champion, a three-time world champion, and she has her sights set on gold in Tokyo.
Basically, she’s the right woman to ask for some serious exercise motivation.
Stylist caught up with Steadman to talk about what motivates her and what training for the Paralympics really looks like.
What does being strong mean to you today and how has this changed since you started training?
Being strong as a girl to me right now is having an opinion and making sure you voice it and actually having quality across everything you do in life. If there’s something you want to do: go and do it and be heard, be seen and actually take every opportunity that’s put your way. Not because you feel you have to, but because you want to and it’s something you enjoy.
As a younger girl I probably strived to do things that I thought I should do and not necessarily what I wanted to do. That’s the beauty of the world of sport, you can push yourself. You know there are limitations but you can push through them and transfer that skill set and ability to absolutely everything you do in life. Sport has made me pretty strong minded and some may say stubborn, but that has transferred to absolutely everything I do.
How has that kind of mentality changed your attitude or relationship to your training?
I’m very respectful of myself. You can train as a young athlete and then all of a sudden you get these things called hormones and you have to push through that. Sometimes it would be lovely to stay in bed and be all cosy, but actually my body has changed and I have to deal with that. I wake up each and every day determined that I’m going to achieve what I set out to do. With age, you become more mature and driven towards what actually makes you happy in life.
A lot of people in the New Year sign up to running, cycling and swimming challenges. What words of motivation would you give them to keep going if they’re not feeling that natural strength?
It depends, because what motivates one woman won’t motivate another – we’re all different. I think it’s about looking towards the end goal and striving towards something. But it’s OK to have a day when you don’t feel like going to the gym; just make sure that tomorrow you find a way to get yourself there. Balance is key, so find that balance. Even if you sign up daily to do a walk or go on ParkRuns once a week, it’s got physical health benefits as well as mental.
Is there a specific quote or mantra that you live by?
When it comes to a certain situations, like if I’m in a race situation it would be “control the controllables”. Don’t worry about stuff you cannot control. You can’t control anyone else, or the weather.
On a day-to-day basis I love the one that my coach said: “It’s not practice makes perfect, it’s perfect practice.” Don’t just show up and give a mediocre effort, or a mediocre performance. If you’re going to show up give 100%. If not just chill, relax and come back tomorrow with 100%.
What has been your biggest challenge in terms of your career?
It actually hasn’t been physical; it’s been mindset and belief in myself. I don’t think I had that as a young athlete. I think you learn anyway through life, what you’re capable of, what you can push through, and your limits. As a youngster I beat myself up for what I thought was under performance – when I look back, it was actually pretty phenomenal. I have overcome that by just literally saying ‘as long as I give everything, do the best I can each and every day’, when I turn up to that start line, there is nothing more I can do.
What is the reality of training in the months leading up to the Paralympics?
We have something like 217 days left [on the day of the interview], not that I’m counting. There’s a heightened awareness, as soon as it was one minute past 12 and it was 1 January 2020 I was like ‘we are into the Paralympic year’. Did I feel any pressure? Yes, but actually that’s a welcome pressure. It’s an exciting time, it will be my fourth games if I get selected and actually it’s priceless.
My training before Christmas was probably quite chilled out and quite varied but it’s specific now. It’s got a plan, it’s got a focus, as an athlete it’s great to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and you can see progression. I already feel stronger from where I was a month ago so I can imagine how I will feel in five months’ time.
What do you want to explore in Tokyo?
The Paralympics run over 10 days, and I believe I race on day three or four. Once I’ve finished racing, technically that’s into my own downtime, when other athletes still have the full programme to do. If I could get anywhere near Mount Fuji that would be absolutely amazing just because it is really cool.
But I really just want to watch other sports and embrace it all because I am a Paralympian and I’m inspired by the Paralympics. I’m missing an arm but there’s not many things that I can’t do. To see some of the disabilities and what people overcome is really special.
Lauren Steadman features in the adidas Originals Superstar campaign ‘Change Is A Team Sport’.
Images: Getty, Rebecca Naen
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…
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