“Tough times never last, only tough people.” 5 SunGod Ambassadors share how sport has saved their mental health…
January is a month full of promise for a new year and a fresh start. And while we're all in support of setting goals and taking things up a notch in 2022, we know January can also be a hard time for many. That's why at this time of year - when it's easy to turn off the alarm and roll over - it’s more important than ever to be good to ourselves and keep those endorphins flowing!
So, as we band together as a community to combat the fresh mornings and short days, we asked 5 of our Ambassadors to share their stories about how sport, exercise and adventure have helped them through the tough times...
1. "Cycling lets you openly and honestly talk with the people you are riding with - it’s really quite beautiful." - Chris Hall, cyclIST
“I used to work as an architect in London, until the stress became unbearable. In the end it was very simple: I quit this job, or I quit being me. I began cycling to work as a bit of escapism, and then started doing some charity challenges on the bike, starting small and gradually getting bigger and bigger - until one day, I walked into my office and quit on the spot. I left London and chose to focus on looking after myself - both physically and mentally - and on creating cycling challenges to raise awareness and funds for causes close to my heart.
I think cycling gives you the ability to openly and honestly talk with the people you are riding with. I'm not quite sure why, but it's really quite beautiful. My biggest piece of advice to anyone struggling is just to talk. I know it’s often easier said than done, but being open and honest about how you're feeling will help you to break down barriers and stop things from getting too much. The more we talk, share and open up about our struggles, the more normalised it will become, and the easier it will be to help people who really do need that support.” @chrishallrides
2. "Tough times never last, only tough people." - Andre Coggins, rUNNER & COACH
“From a young age I was bullied, and I had a pretty hard time suffering from anxiety. Since then, I’ve used sports, exercise and adventure to shape my life. I’ve crafted a career out of them, and they’ve given me long-standing friendships and life-changing experiences. Sport is powerful - it’s given me all these amazing opportunities, and has also helped me to engage with and empower communities to get involved in sport and exercise too. The joy that sport and exercise bring to my life is hard to explain, but I do know one thing - it's highly infectious! Once you find a sport, community or adventure that you relate to and can feel comfortable in, you will become able to express yourself through something you love.
Being involved in sport and exercise has taught me discipline, dedication and resilience, and through this I’ve learned that tough times never last, only tough people. Don’t despair if your mental health suffers from time to time - reach out to people, take the time to work through it, and show your mind some love. It’s all about surrounding yourself with positivity, and believing that there will be brighter days. After every storm comes a rainbow - it may be clichéd, but it’s true.” @coggnitooo
3. "Running lets me shut down my mind, find freedom in movement and escape." - Hailey Van Dyk, trail runner
“This year, I went through a huge life change, getting a divorce and having to learn to navigate my new life on my own. Although I was at rock bottom, sport and amazing friends helped me through by teaching me that I am so much stronger than I ever thought. The truth is, our bodies will want to give up way before our minds and I learned that through running. Discovering how to tap into that mental strength not only gets me through the physical challenges I take on, but also reminds me how strong I can be.
Running is a time where I can shut down my mind, find freedom in movement and escape. Sometimes just an hour in nature is enough to fill my cup back up and recharge me, ready to face whatever comes next. On top of sport - reach out, reach out, reach out. Don’t ever be afraid to share your struggles. Let's change the stigma around mental health and take that fear away. Dr Seuss was right: ‘Those that matter don't mind and those that mind don't matter.’” @haileyvandyk
4. "Triathlon fills my heart so much that even when the bad days come, they’re soon filled with sweat, joy, and the motivation to keep going." - Naty Guilherme, Triathlete
“I started triathlon 6 years ago, and since then it’s taught me that I can dream - and achieve my dreams - even if my anxiety or depression want me to think otherwise. It's not easy; I have to work on my mindset. But swimming, cycling and running fill my heart so much that even when the bad days come, they're soon filled with sweat, joy, and the motivation to keep going. Mental illness can steal much of who we are, but when we have a goal to work towards and achieve - like the next big race - it gives us the empowerment we need to learn to have confidence in ourselves again.
One piece of advice to anyone struggling at this time of year is to seek help - mental illness is like any other illness and deserves to be treated! And remember to move your body - look for a sport that works for you, and don't give up at first. It takes a few weeks to create habits, and you deserve to give yourself the chance to start over as many times as it takes.” @natygui_tri
5. "Being vulnerable with your truth is a superpower." - Luke Tyburski, endurance athlete
“Injuries fast-tracked my retirement from professional football, and I became depressed, confused, and lost my identity - who was I if I wasn’t a football player? I tried to literally (and figuratively) run away from my mental health struggles, through ultra-running and endurance sports, but this only made things worse, and my mental health spiralled out of control. I needed to spend some time reflecting on who I really was and how I wanted to live my life.
Over time - and with plenty of therapy and work on my personal development - I began to use sport as a way to clear my mind, and to focus on what’s important in life. The simple repetitive motion of running, cycling or swimming helps me to unwind mental tension and see a clear picture of what truly lies in front of me. If you’re struggling, speak to someone about how you are feeling. Being vulnerable with your truth is a superpower NO ONE can take from you! If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know, speak to a professional. You can share as little or as much as you like - sharing something is a great first step.” @luketyburski
When we're hammering the training rides, chasing the podiums or scheming up the next adventure, having a healthy body always takes pride of place in our preparation. But what about a healthy mind? Often, the two go hand in hand - we all know the wonders that sport and exercise can do to calm the mind after a hectic day and these stories prove that.
However, one key takeaway here is that sometimes this isn't enough. We hope these stories are a reminder that if you’re struggling, don't suffer in silence - talk to someone, whether that's a friend, a colleague or a professional. There's a huge range of free resources out there to help you through, and we've listed a few below. Don't be afraid to reach out!