HANNAH IRWIN - “Why I’m training brave”

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Training brave is such an important concept. Learning not to be shy about your journey or your struggles is a powerful thing. We all have struggles, but it is what makes us human, and it is what has shaped me to be the person I am today.

I have struggled trying to find the equilibrium between training and fuelling, and it is only after having made the mistakes and having suffered because of it, that I am able to see what needs to be done. Despite the increase in awareness, it is still generally believed that thinner equals faster. This is NOT TRUE, and people need to be made aware of this.

The only way to be a strong and fast athlete, is to be a healthy athlete. This is something that is only achievable by fuelling sufficiently. Food is our friend and should not be restricted. Unfortunately, this is something I have struggled with in the past.

As soon as I was faced with increased stresses in life and a motivation to train more seriously, I immediately resorted to controlling my calorie intake and increasing my training load with the hope of running faster and relieving the stress I felt. However, this only added to it. Without enough food in my body I was struggling to run fast, in fact, I was struggling to run at all.

After a turbulent battle, I realised the destruction I was causing. But, it was too late. I broke. My bones were not strong enough to withstand the demand I was putting them under and I fractured the tibia of both my legs. I was out of competing for 10 months and am still battling to recover from the damage I caused my health.

We should not have to starve ourselves with the hope of succeeding in order to find out the damage it can have on you. We should not believe that starving ourselves is the way to becoming a better athlete.

One thing I have found so powerful, is the ability to use that determination I showed when controlling my food intake, in a way that is conductive to my running. Learning to control that urge to control my food and release it in a way that does not cause any destruction to my body is vital. I want to be able to help other athletes to realise this.

#TRAINBRAVE is such a powerful campaign as it allows athletes to spot signs of overtraining and under-fueling before they damage themselves. I was oblivious to the severity of the harm I was doing to myself but having battled to come out the other side I want to help others.

I want to be able to raise awareness of how to fuel yourself properly whilst training, and I want to show people that you don’t need to be ashamed to talk about your journey. I am learning everyday how to look after my body as much as possible, whilst trying to push it to the limit. And it is only now that I am learning the importance of rest, recovery, and replenishment.

I want to encourage people to talk about their struggles and their battles. There is no shame in it. I still battle with my mind today, but it’s so important to learn when to tell it you know better.  

Hannah Irwin