If you ever need the motivation to get out and get physical, look no further than Lydia O’Donnell. A New Zealand distance runner supported by Nike, Lydia is the current title holder of the National 10,000m and Half Marathon, and is working towards the 2018 Commonwealth Games Marathon, despite having only raced that distance in two events. On top of all this, Lydia manages to organise hundreds of Aucklanders into achieving their personal running goals every week, by leading by example at the Nike Running Club. How does she do all this and still feel inspired to keep on running?
How did your running journey begin? What have been your most significant moments thus far?
I started athletics when I was young, around seven. I joined the school running team throughout high school and had an amazing coach through my teenage years. After school I took a year off running, but slowly realised how much being a sportswomen and having a focus meant to me so built myself back up to full training over a 6-12 month period. I have now been in full training for roughly six years, working with the top running coach in New Zealand and training roughly ten times a week. I initially started competing as track athlete, competing across distances from 1500m to 5000m but eventually started pushing my distance up in the last couple of years to 10,000m and half marathons. In October last year I competed in my first full marathon, in Melbourne, and have recently completed my second in Nagoya, Japan.
What does your typical training week involve?
I train twice a day most days. My training involves mostly running (roughly 10 runs a week) plus a mixture of boxing, HIT and weight workouts. I cover anything from 120-160km a week, and my runs vary every day. Some days will be harder than others and consist of interval, tempo or fartlek work, whereas other days may just be a long, slow run.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far? What are you most proud of and why?
Representing New Zealand is always the pinnacle of any athletes’ career. I am so proud to pull on the silver fern and coming from such a small country, you can feel the support of the entire nation behind you. Winning the 10,000m National Title three years in a row is another major achievement as well as holding the National 10,000m and Half Marathon Titles for NZ.
What is your favourite thing about running? How did you first fall in love with the sport?
Running is my meditation. I love taking time to myself, getting out on the street or trails and just letting my thoughts go. Running is unique in the fact you don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need equipment, you don’t need a team around you, there are no limits to running. It is just you, your legs and your mind.
How do you find motivation to keep training?
I always have a goal in mind. Whether it is a 8 week goal, a 6 month goal or a 3 year goal – there is always something I am working towards. Without this and without direction I definitely find it hard to stay motivated. Every day I wake up with that goal at the front of my head and this helps inspire me to keep training hard.
How do you overcome setbacks? What do you consider to be the greatest challenges of being a professional athlete?
I see setbacks more of a challenge to myself. You always need to stay positive in being a professional athlete. As soon as you start thinking negatively towards yourself and your body, everything seems to start to fall apart. My biggest challenge was when I was diagnosed with ITB syndrome. This took me out of training for 8 months. I could have easily given up during those 8 months, and there were times where I wasn’t sure it was worth trying to come back but I was in the gym every day, doing what I could to keep my fitness up. This 8 months out definitely made me realise how much I love what I do, how lucky I am that I can get up and run every day and to never take the fact of simply being able to run for granted.
What are your goals for the future? How do you plan on achieving them?
I am now working towards the Commonwealth Games in 2018 for the Marathon, which is in Gold Coast and then further onto Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Between now and then I will aim to compete at a few of the other major marathons around the world including New York and London.
Why do you think maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle is important?
No matter what your day to day life is like and how busy you are, you always need to put yourself first. Whether this is by fuelling your body with the right nutrients, or even giving back to your body by actively moving, running or working out, it is so important to get yourself in the best possible position to achieve everything else going on successfully. The way one achieves a balanced lifestyle can be different for everyone, but as long as you put yourself as number 1 and you are physically and mentally stable everything else in your life will seem that much easier.
What advice would you give to people who struggle to find motivation to stay fit and active?
Be organised and have a plan in place. Once you have set a goal, whether this is running related or not, it is much easier to plan ahead to get to this goal and keep you focused the entire time. Look at the small picture. Sometimes it is overwhelming training for something that is so far in the future. Have your 8 week plan sorted but tick it off week by week, day by day. Work daily at the smaller goals you have set and eventually you will see the results over the longer period. Motivation comes from within so ultimately set a goal that actually means a lot to you and that you would be proud to tell people about once you have achieved it.