Finding balance and staying motivated are key attributes of a successful athlete. However, for some of us women we can find sport a little intimidating, especially a team sport such as football, netball, hockey or rugby. That’s why I’m delighted to be joining Vitality on a new project called #WomenInSport. The project is all about inspiring women to join a team sport and enjoy all the surprising benefits it can give you.
Finding a sport which you love can do wonders for your self-esteem, your self-confidence as well as your well-being. If you become part of a team sport you will find yourself in an amazing community of like-minded and inspiring women, as well as making new and lasting friendships. To kick start the #WomenInSport project I was given a once in a life time opportunity to interview the Arsenal Women’s team *pinches self*.
My first interview was with the incredibly inspiring, Alex Scott MBE, Arsenal Captain
- How do you stay motivated to exercise and eat healthy during winter?
Scott: I’ve found that you can always talk yourself out of training, that’s why I try to change the way I look at things and think about the end result. If I look ahead I know that I’ll feel great afterwards and I’ll be energised for the rest of the day. Yet if I miss a training session I know that I won’t feel great, in fact it has a knock-on effect because if I don’t do what I need to do today then I’ll be playing catch up tomorrow.
- Do you have any advice on how to stay healthy while travelling?
Scott: When we’re on long coach journeys it can be difficult to eat healthily, as it’s easy to pick up the wrong choices when you stop off at the services. That’s why I’ve got myself into a routine of eating my main meals so I’m not looking for a quick fix. Your body gets into a routine and once you’re used to eating healthily your body craves that and no longer wants to eat bad food.
- Do you have any suggestions on how to balance work, life, and a wellness routine?
Scott: Finding balance in your life is a huge thing and it’s something that I’ve worked on over the years. Football is my life and my passion but I always know that when I have my friends and family around me and I’m enjoying myself in my downtime I can bring that into my football. I talk about my home life with my team mates and by sharing those experiences we have something else to talk about other than football, that sometimes helps the camaraderie in the team. I have a dog as well who I love taking for walks, this helps me to step back from football and clear my mind, especially when a game doesn’t go as planned.
- What is your proudest achievement?
Scott: I’ve been really fortunate with football and it has given me countless opportunities. I signed up for Arsenal when I was eight, the dream was to play for the first team and to go on and represent my country, which I managed to do. I retired from international duty this year and now when I look back and think that I represented my country 140 times, I just remember being that eight-year-old girl on the football pitch in the east-end of London. I’m proud that I’ve seen my dream through and I can now look back on my career and think to myself “wow I did it”.
- How do you learn and move on from a loss or a setback?
Scott: I believe that you need to get straight back into training because otherwise you will over analyse the situation. You need to look ahead and think about the next game, if something didn’t go your way then you need to do everything you can now so that next time it does. I’m a strong believer that you should never point a finger at anyone, you should self-reflect and understand how you can do better and what else you can bring to the team.
I then had a brilliant interview and kick about with Heather O’Reilly (Midfield), Beth Mead (Forward) and Leah Williamson (Defender).
- How do you stay motivated to exercise and eat healthy during winter?
Williamson: The difference is we’re doing something which we absolutely love and if you’re trying something new then those barriers such as the cold weather can get in your way. But the way we see it is that you must embrace those obstacles otherwise it will overcome you.
O’Reilly: The first step is just getting yourself out the door, once you’ve stepped out the door half the battle is already won.
How do you find the right balance between work and home life?
O’Reilly: Finding the right balance in life is a hard thing to do but also a necessary thing to do. In our profession, we believe that finding the right balance and being able to disconnect helps you become a better athlete. It’s all about trying to disconnect when the time’s right, such as when you’re at home and with your family.
Mead: We don’t often get two days off in a row, which can be hard when your family live far away. That’s why as a team we’re all very close, we understand each other’s circumstances and all support each other.
- How do you stay healthy when you’re travelling?
Mead: It can be difficult to eat healthily when travelling, especially if we’re on our way home from a game which didn’t go our way, it can be tempting to snack on a bag on sweets. But we know to prepare our meals before a long journey and we’re lucky enough to have more than a microwave on the coach.
Williamson: Football can be emotional and sometimes we find ourselves eating unhealthily because we’re comfort eating. Yet we’re athletes and we would never let ourselves go too far, we may joke about having a cheat day but that would only be a packet of sweets or allowing ourselves to have a treat when it’s someone’s birthday. Apart from that, staying fit and healthy is part of our job and one of the reasons why we’re good at what we do is because we keep ourselves in shape. When we’re travelling we simply need to be more mindful and prepare our meals in advance. Airport and service food isn’t the best for healthy eating but if you plan ahead then you can work around this, you just need to be more thoughtful about each meal.
- What is your favourite way to practice self-care?
O’Reilly: I’ve tried different techniques to practice self-care and one way which I found works best for me is journaling. I got myself into a daily habit of writing down my best play of the day or the best thing I achieved that day. I found this to be really powerful as it helps me to remember the positive things I’ve done instead of focusing on the negatives.
- Do you find it more motivating to train when you’re in a team environment?
O’Reilly: Yes absolutely, none of us would be where we are today without being part of a team. If you’re not in a team environment then you can always find other women to support you such as a friend or a local workout group. I know that post football I’ll need a team environment to workout in because I’ve grown up with it. I’m a very self-motivated person but there’s something different about being part of a team as you push each other forward and hold each other accountable.
- Do you do much solo training?
Williamson: Yes, mainly in the off season. It’s very difficult once you move from a team environment to solo training because you don’t have anyone holding you accountable, it becomes a mental battle with yourself. Yet we know that we’re coming back into a team environment and therefore need to maintain a level of training that our team expects.
Mead: Training solo can be tough, especially as we’re used to being in a team environment. However, even when we’re training solo we know that we’re still part of a team and need to keep to a high level of fitness.
- Do you think being part of a team has boosted your confidence?
Mead: Yes definitely, I think being part of a team can develop you as a person, it can improve the way you react to things and how you act around others.
Williamson: When we’re on the pitch we all respect each other, and have confidence in each other’s abilities and we bring that confidence off the pitch too.
O’Reilly: As a team, we go through adversity and tough times together such as recovering from injuries and taking on different roles in the team. There are so many benefits which you gain from being part of a team and self-confidence is definitely one of them.
My Thoughts and Lessons Learned
I’m still pinching myself that I not only met but interviewed these four wonderful and inspiring women from Arsenal. I learned some valuable lessons from each of them, one which stuck in my mind was to “never let the highs get too high or the lows get too low”. I think this phrase clung to me the most as I was feeling pretty ‘high’ during the entire day. Yet we must remember to be grateful during the highs and strong during the lows. Doing so will help us to remain grounded and focused.
There is a very strong bond within the Arsenal team, which makes it easy to see the benefits of being part of a team. They push each other forward, build up each other’s confidence and have respect for one another on and off the pitch. They have developed lasting friendships which plays a key role in their career and in their well-being.
Staying motivated is a key attribute of a successful athlete and being part of a team helps to keep the momentum going. The Arsenal players love what they do therefore embrace any obstacles that come their way. Remember, the first step is just getting yourself out of the door, once you’ve stepped out the door half the battle is already won.
I will be teaming up with Vitality to help promote the #WomenInSport project, stay tuned for updates!
Meet the women in sport team here.