Today marks 10 days out before I compete in my first national-level Olympic Weightlifting competition (cue the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone face). I'm a bit terrified, but I'm also excited, and I feel as prepared as I could be for this event. I started weightlifting just about a year and a half ago, and going from not knowing the movements at all to competing at the American Open within that timeframe is--insane.
The short version of my journey to becoming an athlete is: 3 years ago I switched to a Ketogenic lifestyle & lost a bunch of weight, 2 years ago I decided to start strength training to continue to improve my health, 6 months in I saw the folks in my gym having lots of fun doing Oly & decided to give it a whirl--I got addicted immediately, competed in local meets held by my gym, and a couple of months ago I decided to give the AO a shot, since it'll be held in Las Vegas and I just barely squeaked out a qualifying total to enter the meet.
Weightlifting has become a surprisingly necessary outlet for me in the very short time I've been doing it. The reasons I love it are plentiful: It takes thousands upon thousands of repetitions and long, long, LONG periods of training to improve significantly in both technique and strength, I'm constantly battling myself mentally & physically, as well as battling gravity & physics (fun!), my only competition is myself, and it demands utter focus and concentration (lifting literally drives out all other thought--turning my brain off is one of the best outcomes of training for me). It also doesn't hurt that the gym I train at is filled with wonderful, supportive, kind, funny, smart, wickedly cool people with whom it is a pleasure to spend many hours a week training.
For me, weightlifting provides some essential self-care: it allows me to set goals for myself and then put the work in towards achieving them, it forces all of the noise and frustration of the day out of my head each time I train, it consistently reminds me that perfection is unattainable but I should strive for improvement, it teaches me to work through small problems like minor twinges and address bigger ones like injuries, and it helps me prove to myself again and again that I possess more grit and determination than I ever realized before.
I have other self-care practices that facilitate balance, growth, and sanity in my life, but I have never been an athlete--by any stretch of the imagination--before finding weightlifting. This sport has helped me to grow personally, and it has also provided an outlet for me overall--I can channel my energy and frustration in ways I couldn't before.
My point is: find yourself a hobby. It's cliche, but it's true. I firmly believe that we each need to find the activities or practices that allow us to keep going in the face of difficult circumstances and challenges, manage our stress, and help us to keep showing up to do the important work we do. There's a mindset in the nonprofit sector that self-care is self-indulgent, or that the importance of the work we're doing should outweigh our own needs, which is damaging and untrue. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way many times throughout my career: I need to be actively doing things for myself in all areas of my life to help avoid burnout, bolster my resources, and recommit to the work I deeply believe in. Find your thing! Do your thing!