How an Olympic athlete clears mental hurdles
If this athlete looks familiar, it’s probably because you remember her epic stage bomb of Kylie Minogue’s performance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. But there’s way more to the gutsy Genevieve LaCaze than her slick dance moves. After scoring a string of PBs this year, steeplechaser Genevieve, 26, from the Gold Coast, is on track to do us proud at the Rio Olympic Games in August. We asked her to talk us through her (crazy tough) event, and how she keeps her mind as strong as her body.
For the uninitiated, what is steeplechasing?
Steeplechasing isn’t just your average lap around the track. The steeplechase is quite the mix – aerobic running mixed with agility and power over 3000m. The race itself includes 18 barriers and five water jumps along the way that competitors need to clear.
What kind of athletic qualities do you need to ace this event?
It’s a tough event to compete in. Not only do you need to have appropriate aerobic fitness levels in order to keep running over a long distance, but you also need to be agile to take on the various jumps, and you need to have explosive power to make the jumps and land properly. Keep in mind that you’re sharing the track with other competitors as well! It can get quite crowded at the start of the race.
What does your training routine involve?
There’s not really an average day in my training regimen! For instance, on Tuesdays I do a tough track session which is around 16km all up. I’ll also add in a gym session. On Saturdays we do a lot of hill reps. It’s very intense, and we go for 18km! I also use Flexiseq, a topical gel at the end of training to help with stiffness and inflammation with my joints – it really helps after a tough training session and with my demanding schedule.
Sounds like a killer – how do you deal with mental hurdles in training and competition?
Honestly, it’s as simple as trying not to overthink it. In saying that, however, I do like to use visualisation. The few days leading into a big race or the night before a tough session I visualise what I have to do, and go through the motions in my mind. When I get out onto the track the morning of the race or a session, because I’ve visualised exactly what I have to do, I don’t have to stress myself out with nerves. I still get very nervous, especially for huge races like the Olympic Games! However, I can reserve more energy for the race because I can calm myself down knowing I have already gone through the race plan enough times in my mind.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your sporting career so far?
How to listen to my body would be a big one. Back in 2013, when I was competing in my first Diamond League (the Champions League of athletics), with two laps to go I landed badly on my ankle in the water jump and broke it. Training days were far more demanding than when I was healthy because I had to work 10 times harder when coming back from an injury. Not only are you trying to return to full health, you’re also trying to get strong, fit and fast again. Months of cross-training, strength and rehab was so time consuming and monotonous, but I knew that I was heading in the right direction. I learnt a lot during that period about staying on top of my treatments, and listening to my body carefully.
So, we have to ask… Any plans to repeat your stage-bomb at the Olympics closing ceremony?!
Only if there is someone worth dancing with!